As the intro above suggests, I've spent most of this extended ramble talking about the music I heard and the comic books I read as a kid. But Batman, The Monkees, and The Green Hornet certainly weren't the only TV shows I watched in the '60s. So, before we launch into the final part of my "Singers, Superheroes, And Songs On The Radio" coverage of the 1960s, we should pause and look at TV.
"Look at TV." That was how our early reading primers referred to the act of soaking up cathode rays, presumably because "watching" was deemed too difficult a word for beginning readers to attempt. We were pretty stupid little kids. That was probably the result of all the TV we watched.
And we watched a lot of TV, in between adult exhortations to go outside and get some fresh air already. (And, to be fair, we also spent a lot of time playing outside, as well. We played soldier, hide-and-seek, freeze tag, duck-duck-goose, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians (sic), Flash Gordon (the huge weeping willow in our back yard served as the neighborhood rocket ship), squat tag, and...um, TV tag. Okay, maybe we did watch too much television. But we were outside running all day, until a parent yelled out the kitchen door to order us home for supper.)
My earliest TV memories are of kid's shows like Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room and the locally-produced classic Magic Toy Shop. If you're my age, and you grew up in Syracuse, you for damn sure grew up watching Magic Toy Shop, a weekday morning staple starring Eddie Flum Num, Merrily, Mr. Trolley, Twinkles the Clown, and The Play Lady; they spent a half hour each day singing songs, telling stories, drawing pictures, and usually showing one cartoon near the end of the show. And each show reminded us that a smile was the magic key that unlocked the magic door to the wonderful Magic Toy Shop.
|Eddie Flum Num, Mr. Trolley, and Merrily|
I also remember Shenanigans, a kids' game show which ran in '64 and '65, hosted by Stubby Kaye. Before product placement was recognized as a sin, Shenanigans was a direct shill for Milton-Bradley, and the TV game itself was a live-action board game. The only thing I clearly remember about this was some goofy prize it offered: an odd piece of plastic headgear, resembling horns, but basically clear tubes with little spheres inside; when the proud wearer tipped his or her head side to side, the spheres looked like they were passing through the cranium, ear to ear, to emerge on the other side. You can snicker, but this is the kind of good ol' American know-how and technology that enabled us to beat the Russkies to the moon, pal.
I've mentioned Baron Daemon in previous posts. Everyone in the neighborhood loved The Baron And His Buddies, as local TV host Mike Price donned fangs and black cape to become the silliest vampire in all the realms. Mike Price was (and is) a true ham--and I mean that as a compliment--so the Baron and his gimble-brained sidekicks engaged in shameless schtick and slapstick, in between airings of cherished Astro Boy cartoons and Flash Gordon serial chapters. As the Baron, Price even recorded and released a 45, "The Transylvania Twist," which remains the biggest-selling local single in Syracuse history. I don't remember hearing it in the '60s, but it's obviously The Greatest Record Ever Made.
We all watched Popeye cartoons, in the afternoon and on Saturdays, on shows hosted by Denny Sullivan or Salty Sam. Reruns gave us older shows, from Car 54, Where Are You? and The Adventures Of Superman to I Love Lucy, The Cisco Kid, The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis, and short films starring The Three Stooges. In prime time, faves in the early-to-mid-'60s included Gilligan's Island, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show, The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies (and its kin, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres), The Jackie Gleason Show (a variety show featuring "The Honeymooners," Crazy Guggenheim, and The June Taylor Dancers), Bewitched, Lost In Space, That Girl, F Troop, The Munsters, The Addams Family, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan's Heroes, and Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color. Ooooo--and Get Smart! Loved Get Smart!
There were also shows I knew about, but didn't necessarily watch at the time. The Twilight Zone scared the livin' chicklets outta me. I saw the occasional episode of The Avengers and Wild, Wild West, but didn't really pay much attention to either until later years. Same story with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek, neither of which I watched much (if at all) in the '60s; I became a dedicated Trekkie via reruns in the '70s.
I enjoyed several short-lived shows, including The Pruitts Of Southampton (which changed its name to The Phyllis Diller Show, and still failed), It's About Time, Mr. Terrific, and Run, Buddy, Run. I never saw an episode of Captain Nice. I must confess that I did watch My Mother, The Car, but I'm not terribly proud to admit that. I don't remember ever seeing Shindig! or Hullabaloo, but we did watch Where The Action Is! and, of course, American Bandstand. And I watched pretty much every TV cartoon I could find.
A bit later in the decade, I dug The Good Guys (a sitcom co-starring Bob Denver of Gilligan's Island), The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Laugh-In, Here Come The Brides (with teen idol Bobby Sherman and the supercute Bridget Hanley) and He & She. My favorite show during a brief period in the late '60s was The Guns Of Will Sonnett, a Western starring Walter Brennan (whom I remembered from an earlier sitcom called The Real McCoys). I haven't seen The Guns Of Will Sonnett since its network days; some day, I might just shell out for the complete DVD collection of The Guns Of Will Sonnett, just to see how it compares to my golden memory of the show.
Oh, and I had a huge crush on both Ginger and Mary Ann. Yeah, as if you didn't.
NEXT: The Last Good Year?