I was pretty much raised by the telly. Sure, I went outside and had things to do, but somehow I managed to cram an awful lot of television into my childhood. Since there was so much telly watching, this post will focus on the shows prior to 1980 that I absorbed and adored.
Also, I have had quite a number of people tell me that there’s no way I could know or have watched these shows. Just in case someone out there reading this might think the same… it’s called re-runs, or syndication, people. They’ve been a thing since at least the mid 1950s.
OK, so without further ado, all the telly shows made before I was born.
Tales of Tomorrow: I didn’t watch as much of this as The Twilight Zone, but if I was switching through the channels and it was on, I’d always watch it.
Leave It To Beaver: This show was always on the telly, you couldn’t escape it. The same with The Andy Griffith Show, but this one I enjoyed more, so it’s made the list on this post. Even though it was as far away from everyday life as one could get, I still rather enjoyed it. Mainly I liked June and Ward Cleaver as parents and though that Wally was pretty cute.
Hazel: This is one that my mom would watch in the mornings, along with a few others. I might not have watched this, or them, without it being a constant in our home. Hazel was pretty darn good though. Instead of a sitcom focusing on the “perfect” 1950s TV family and there just happens to be a maid, the show was pretty much all about the maid.
Zorro: Disney’s 1950s telly show, Zorro, was probably my all-time favourite show as a kid. Guy Williams will always be the perfect Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro to me. Later, when Disney decided to bring back all of their vintage shows via the segment Vault Disney which they ran late nights, I would cancel plans and move things around on my schedule just to watch this show again.
Dennis the Menace: I really enjoyed this show. That kid was bad, but his parents and Mr. Wilson the neighbour were cool. Though my mom hated that I liked watching this.
Life With Elizabeth: This was Betty White’s first television sitcom show. It was mainly just her and her husband and she never talked. They would just have an announcer talk about her, like, “Wasn’t that fun Elizabeth?” and she’d be excited. I actually liked that about it, it wasn’t something I’d ever seen before and really I think this might be the only show that ever did that. It was like part silent film. Very cool. Also actually pretty funny.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: I liked that a live action fifties family could be a “The Adventures of”, plus I liked their names. And they were funny. The parents. Plus Ricky Nelson was pretty cute.
I Love Lucy: Ah, I Love Lucy. Who doesn’t love Lucy? I didn’t mind her other shows after this, but they just weren’t as great because Fred and Ethel weren’t that big of a deal in them, and they were my favourite characters!
Perry Mason: This was another one that mom would watch in the mornings. I probably wouldn’t have gotten into it other-wise, but it was on and now it’s comforting childhood television. They’ve started playing it again on the telly and The Sister said that the intro theme sounds like stripper music. I can’t stop laughing about it because it’s true. Mom pouts because we’ve said something against one of her favourite shows. But it’s true! It’s even funnier if you suddenly imagine Perry deciding to do a really bad strip tease to that music in a full courtroom!
The Twilight Zone: This was also a go to show for TV channels when I was a kid, but I’m glad it was because it was awesome. Though my family did watch the newer version from time to time when I was a kid, none of us liked it nearly as much as the original. And it wasn’t just Rod Serling and his intro bit, the show overall just seemed better in the original version.
The Mickey Mouse Club: Though I did watch the newer version that started in the late 80s, this is the one I watched in my early childhood and the one which I preferred. Plus it had some of the same people who were featured in older Disney films that were playing on the Disney Channel as well. The new Mickey Mouse club, well I didn’t know any of those kids.
The Beverly Hillbillies: It’s an amusing idea for a TV show, plus it’s one that The Sister and I both enjoyed, though we wouldn’t find that out until years later. Granny was super awesome, plus I liked the wacky dynamic between the Clampetts and Mr. Drysdale. Plus, Jane Hathaway, Drysdale’s assistant, I already knew from The Parent Trap, so I enjoyed that.
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: Sure that’s Bob Denver of Gilligan’s Island fame. But this show I saw first, so that when I did finally start watching Gilligan’s Island, I already knew Gilligan as the beatnik sidekick to Dobie Gillis. I haven’t seen it in so long, so I can barely remember why I liked the show, but as a kid I loved it.
The Addams Family: I watched both The Munsters and The Addams Family, and while I did enjoy both, The Addams Family was the clear-cut winner in my book. The only thing I could never get on board with was Grandma’s fondness for trying to catch cats for the family dinner. Not funny. But I loved all of the characters in this one and they were way more awesome than the more hokey Munster family.
Gumby: This was one of my all-time favourite shows when I was a kid. They brought back and updated version in my later childhood, but I didn’t enjoy watching that one at all. Nope, the original sixties version has my heart to this day. Goo and Prickle were, and still are, my favourite characters.
Bewitched: This is another show that was my mothers favourite, so was always on in the house. It’s one that I think I would have found and enjoyed on my own, though. I loved Samantha’s house and all of her kooky relatives, but I could never understand how she would ever want to be a mortal! But, I still loved the show.
My Three Sons: I can still hear the theme music in my mind and see the intro of tapping cartoon feet with cartoon hands changing out the names. Great intro. Already liked Fred MacMurray from various Disney films I’d already seen, so of course I would like this. I also liked that they had a male “house keeper”, who wasn’t afraid to don an apron. Very cool.
F Troop: Couldn’t tell you anything about this based on my childhood recollections except that I thought it was funny and they were men at a fort. Looking at it now, while it’s on par for the sixties, it’s pretty uncool with all the Hollywood style “Indian” depictions. Yikes.
I Dream of Jeannie: What another interesting concept for a TV sitcom. I thought Jeannie was fabulous and her home as well. I was forever folding my arms and blinking my eyes with my head to try to see if I had magic. I also twitched my nose like Samantha, but alas, nothing ever happened.
Green Acres: I liked the main two characters and how she was a fancy gal living on a farm. It was a weird show, but it was funny to kids, or at least to The Sister and I. What I didn’t like was forever hearing that Tom Lester had lived in Laurel (where my parents grew up) and that my maternal grandmother changed his diapers. I have no idea if this is really true, but the fact that the story focused more on changing the mans diapers and not just actual baby sitting made me roll my eyes.
Gilligan’s Island: Though they decided to name their little castaway island after Gilligan, he was my least favourite character. I know it was his show, but it’s like the Harry Potter Books. It’s all about Harry Potter, but he’s my least favourite character. I absolutely adored the older, fancy couple, The Howells. I also thought the Skipper was cool and that Ginger’s dresses were pretty. Also that The Professor was really hot.
Star Trek: While I did watch the 1970s Animated Series and also watched the 1980s Next Generation, this was the Star Trek of my early childhood and is the one that won my heart, so to speak. It’s my absolute favourite and the only one that I care about. This is one of very few older shows that I share with my dad, as this was his absolute favourite when it first came on the air. Mom was forced to watch it because dad would cancel date nights to watch this show, so mom just went over to his house to be with him.
The Monkees: We can thank Nickelodeon for having barely any original content when I was a kid, thus showing me The Monkees, as well as Star Trek, both live action and animated. This show is why I was one of the only few kids to be super excited when Marsha got Davy Jones to play at her school dance on that one episode of The Brady Bunch. Hardly anyone I knew watched The Monkees, but because of this show, I liked their music and knew who they were by the time the TV stations started showing old re-runs of The Brady Bunch. Mom didn’t know I was watching this show, so now that we’re older and I’ve mentioned it to her, it was one of her favourite shows when she was a kid. Awesome.
Adam-12: I had seen cop shows before this, like Dragnet and Car 54 Where Are you?, but this one was really cool. I liked Officers Reed and Malloy and late sixties L.A. Got to watch this again in my early twenties and was super happy about it. Wish I could watch it now.
The Avengers: I loved secret agent things when I was a kid, (which is why I have a soft spot in my heart for the early James Bonds’ with Sean Connery), and this show was no exception. I liked that it wasn’t American and Miss Emma Peel and James Steed were super awesome, in and of themselves, but also as a team. I mean Steed had other side-kicks and was once himself one, but Miss Emma Peel was my absolute favourite. Every time I see Diana Rigg in something I say, “Oooh! It’s Miss Emma Peel!” and sadly no one knows what I’m talking about. Guess spy things were never very popular with most kids my age.
Batman: Though I did watch the animated series and the films by Tim Burton in the eighties, this is the version that I love and adore and is why I even know who Adam West is! Sure most of the things that I liked as a kid are hokey out of their time or out of a certain age group, but I still really dig the hokey that you find in Star Trek TOS, Gumby, and of course Batman.
Get Smart: The memory surrounding this show should be a huge tip-off to me that kids my age weren’t into spy stuff, whether serious like James Bond or The Avengers, or hokey and funny like Get Smart. Only one other person that I knew watched this show when I was a kid. We’d constantly talk about the previous nights episode the next day. Just the one girl. I was practically alone in a sea of people not enjoying spy-related shows or films.
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: This show was awesome. It was one of my most favourite telly shows when I was growing up, though thankfully I did know a few other people my age who also enjoyed it. It’s how I also knew who people were when they were in more current things (or things I happened to be viewing in the current time of the eighties or nineties). Like Goldie Hawn in Overboard or Bird on a Wire; Lily Tomlin in 9-5, All of Me, or Big Business; Henry Gibson in The ‘Burbs; or Ruth Buzzi on That Girl!, Saved By The Bell or Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
The Carol Burnett Show: This was obviously not current to my childhood, but my entire family would watch the re-runs together, which isn’t something that happened a whole lot. Dad mainly felt that he’d watched something before, so wouldn’t really watch it again. Mom had her few things that she loved, and if were in syndication, would absolutely watch them again and again. She was so awesome. I adored this show. Always couldn’t wait to see which new outfit she’d be wearing on that days episode and she was so funny, along with Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Tim Conway. Super funny!
Good Times: This is another show that I absolute enjoyed watching, and it probably has the most awesome theme music from any other seventies show. Jay-Jay could be a bit scary when he was overly excited, which my parents tell stories of when they were watching it brand new and The Sister would run out of the room if he did his DY-NO-MITE! bit too enthusiastically at the audience. Also, The Sister and I were always scared of the dad because he always seemed so angry, though I’ve been able to watch this show in my adult hood and he’s never really angry. When he is, it’s not scary.
As sad as it is to say, I think it was because of his flared nose. No one I knew, not even the black people I knew, had such flared noses, so as a really young kid I associated that with when people got really, really, really angry, as that’s all I’d seen. I adored the mom, thought she was fabulous!
CHiPs: As I’ve previously mentioned, a lot of these show were one’s that my parents watched when they were first new, or that The Sister watched in syndication prior to me being born. But now we’re entering territory where The Sister would have seen these things when they were brand new. CHiPs was one of those. We both watched this in our childhoods and both really enjoyed it. We had absolutely no idea that Ponch and Baker were constantly schmoozing on the ladies or were actually not very good at their jobs. It was the groovy theme music and that they were on motorcycles that made this show kid-awesome!
Alice: Here’s another one that the family watched before I was born, to which both The Sister and I enjoyed watching when we were kids. It’s also another incidence of flared nose = we think this man is super angry and therefore a little scary. He was really fussy, but was nice. It was just the nose, man. Angry men in our childhood lives ruined that for us. Anyways, obviously Flo was awesome with her southern twang and “Kiss My Grits” catch phrase, which we’d both imitate.
My parents often had to repeat times in their lives like this, which The Sister being six years older than me would ask questions or like things or do things, as in constantly walking around saying, “Kiss my grits!” with a southern twang. Then about ten years later, their second daughter would start doing what he older sister had previously done, only I didn’t know it had all been done before. Too amusing.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: This is a show that my mother did watch, but didn’t care for. I don’t know why she watched it, except she adored Rhoda and preferred the spin-off show. But when I was a kid I always heard how mom couldn’t stand Mary Tyler Moore, preferred her friend Rhoda, and really her favourite girl in the city show was That Girl!, which I didn’t get a chance to see until my early twenties. It’s good, but I prefer this one.
I adored well, every major character on the show, but mainly Lou Grant. Super fussy and angry, but no flared nose. I’m seeing a pattern here. No men in my life that became angry simply had pudgy noses. Anyways. I already knew Mary Tyler Moore from The Dick Van Dyke show, but much preferred her as Mary Richards to that of the whiny, can’t do anything Laura Petrie.
Also already knew Betty White from Life with Elizabeth and Cloris Leachman from the Disney film, The North Avenue Irregulars. As you might can tell, it made it happy for me in my childhood to see familiar faces in various TV shows.
The Bob Newhart Show: My parents can’t stand Bob Newhart or Suzanne Pleshette, so would constantly groan and repeat their dislike if they found me watching this show. I already knew Suzanne Pleshette from various Disney films and their wacky neighbour from I Dream of Jeannie. This was my first introduction to Bob Newhart and I absolutely adored this show… and him! Still do. One reason I liked the film Elf so much is because Ed Asner and Bob Newhart were in it.
One Day At A Time: I found the fix-it guy, Schneider, to be rather creepy, but I liked the mom and her daughters and enjoyed watching it a lot. Though my mother would always roll her eyes and through gritted teeth say, “Mackenzie Phillips”, though at the time I didn’t understand why. It’s probably because she “ruined” the image everyone’s favourite sixties pop band The Mama’s and The Papa’s. I’ve read her bio, their image should have been ruined. I ❤ MacKenzie Phillips and nothing my mom or anyone else can say will sway me.
Sanford and Son: This show was awesome. Redd Foxx faking heart attacks saying he’s going to join his dead wife in heaven, his bitchy, religious sister-in-law, the dynamic between father and son, all that stuff, and the intro music. What isn’t cool is that this is pretty much our dad and The Sister and I are Lamont. In dad’s older age he has become Fred Sanford to a T. And The Sister and I have to deal with all that mess, not even just the mess, but everything Fred Sanford was, which is not fun in real life. Also, we did have a working, though beat up, red truck and because dad keeps our house and yard messy people wanted to doot-doot the Sanford and Son theme song when seeing us out and about.
Laverne & Shirley: This was a TV staple when I was growing up and most kids watched it. I loved that Laverne was so wacky and all of her shirts had cursive L’s on them. Lenny and Squiggy were funny and I liked that the girls would sing Sinatra songs from time to time. I didn’t much care for it when they all moved out to California (though it was fine) or the versions of their characters when they’d appear on Happy Days. I realize this was a spin-off show to Happy Days, but their characters were way better on Laverne & Shirley, plus I liked this show better than Happy Days. Lots of young girls wanted to be Laverne & Shirley when they grew up.
Happy Days: This makes the list, because I did really enjoy the show. As kids watching this in syndication, none of us realized that Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off to this. We also didn’t realize that they were seventies shows. The Fonze was cool as were Arnold (but then Pat Morita was always cool!) and Al and Mrs. C.
Three’s Company: This show was probably my favourite seventies show ever. I adored The Ropers as well as Mr. Furley. I hated that Suzanne Somers got herself kicked off the show because I didn’t much care for Cindy, though Terri was pretty cool. I even liked Larry. Lucille Ball even adored this show, plus what’s not to love about John Ritter as zaney Jack Tripper. He was awesome.
The Brady Bunch: Practically every kid I knew watched and adored this show. It was hokey and not at all a typical seventies family, but it was still really fun. I always liked the middle kids, Jan and Peter, the best though I’m not even a middle child. The parents and Alice were super cool as well.
What’s Happening!: I couldn’t even really tell you what this show is about now, except that those kids were always at this diner and the fat kid was called Re-run. I really, really liked this show when I was a kid, even though I didn’t know anyone else personally who’d ever watched it.
The Waltons: This is another show that my mother would watch, though she’d already watched it before. I’m not certain if I would have gotten into this one my own, but I think that I would have. I adored the grandparents so, so much! I also adored the parents and the Baldwin Sisters. John Boy was a little too whiny for my tastes, but the show didn’t feel the same when he wasn’t on it anymore. The same from Grandpa. Plus that Jason sure was a cutie. Little British Jason Walton. Aww!!
Kojak: This is another show that both The Sister and I enjoyed when we were young, and for the same reasons. It was amusing and awesome that he was bald. We loved that he said, “Who loves ya baby!” AND that he was forever sucking away on lollipops! I know it was a detective show, but I really can’t remember anything about it beyond these points. Or that my dad would sigh in a disapproving way, “Kojak! That’s Telly Savalas, why are you watching this?!” We didn’t know who the hell Telly Savalas was or why we shouldn’t like him. I still don’t know why dad doesn’t like him, or this show.
The Jefferson’s: My parents and The Sister watched both this and its original, All In The Family, when they were new. I also watched both, but preferred The Jefferson’s a million times over to All In The Family. I adored Weezy, and Florence, and Helen Willis. And although Hemsley’s character of George was not a very nice man, everything was adorable about him because he was so tiny. So you couldn’t really get mad at the guy when he was being mean. Plus their first and last son Lionel, played by Mike Evans (pictured) was so dreamy. The guy who took the role over in the middle, Damon Evans, was not dreamy, and was kind of whiny. Plus, Billy Dee Williams made a guest appearance on this show and I could get excited along with Florence in that episode because freaking Lando Calrissian was going to show up!
The Muppet Show: This was something the family watched when it was new, but that we all watched in syndication after I was born. It’s a great show and had great people on it. It’s where my fondness for Elton John comes from. Seeing him on The Muppet Show was probably one of the most awesome things I’d ever seen with all his crazy, shiny clothes, platform shoes and large sunglasses. Both The Sister and I were enamoured by him and asked our parents, in awe, who that was. The response both times (and another time my parents had to relive the exact same event) was, “Oh… that’s just Elton John” in a ‘who cares’ kind of way.
Taxi: I really don’t know why I liked watching this when I was kid, but I was excited that Nick-at-Night included it in their line up in the late 90s and I could watch it again. Still liked it. It’s funny, yet calm. I think that was the appeal. My parent’s didn’t like this show at all.
WKRP in Cincinnati: This is another one, where I couldn’t even tell you why I liked it so much when I was a kid, nor can I really remember anything about it. I mean I know it was a sitcom about a radio station, but why did I like it? I have no idea, but I did… a lot!
The Partridge Family: No one in my family liked this show, and I’ve only met one other person who ever watched it. But I really enjoyed the music and hokey antics of the Partridge family and their band manager. I also swooned over David Cassidy, but that’s because he was before my time and before the internet. Once I could search him online, eh… my opinion of him greatly lowered. He does not seem like an OK person to me.
Welcome Back, Kotter: This is a show that only I liked as a kid. My parents and The Sister didn’t much care for it. Was happy when Nick-at-Nite included it in their line-up in the late 90s, because I got to watch it again. However, because of Nick-at-Nite, people my age liked Welcome Back, Kotter in the late 90s.
Mork & Mindy: This show my parents didn’t like at all. But The Sister and our brother really liked it when it was first on. Our brother liked it a lot. I wasn’t born and was too young when they were into it, so didn’t know they’d even liked it until after I’d found it on the telly and got into it. It’s a weird show though. Really weird. I’ve read up on it now that I’m an adult. But as a kid it was just fun, odd, and funny.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: For some reason I either never knew the name of this show or simply disregarded the name and give it a new one. To me it was Fat Albert and the Junkyard Kids, which is what I knew it as until a few years ago. I knew a few people who watched it or had watched it, including The Sister. However, most people who I know didn’t really enjoy watching it. I thought Fat Albert was cool with his weird, “Hey hey hey!” and his friends were cool too. I mean look at that one kid in that fierce pink and purple 70s get-up. And what’s with that one kid who wears his pink knitted hat over his face? Or the one kid that’s always dressed for an Arctic expedition? These things were cool to me as a kid.
The Facts of Life: Though this ran well into my childhood, I only ever watched it in syndication. We all enjoyed watching it, but we always watched it in the day time, syndicated slot, and never the brand-new episode at night. I don’t know why, but we just didn’t. So, I include this because it was never brand new for me. Oh, but I loved this show. One of my all-time favourites!