The 1960’s are remembered as part of the golden age of television. They also marked a subtle shift in American society, reflecting the larger change that would come in later decades.
In this Flashback Friday post, I am going to examine four different shows from the era and see how they represented the change that was coming to America.
The Munsters (1964-1966)
Before the Munsters, audiences were used to seeing creatures such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Werewolf in a horror movie. What they saw was these former movie monsters as their on-screen neighbors. Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) is the bumbling, sometimes idiotic Frankenstein’s monster. His wife, Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) and her father, Grandpa (Al Lewis) are vampires. Lily had to sometimes play peacekeeper between her husband and her mad scientist wannabe father. Herman and Lily’s son, Eddie (Butch Patrick) is a werewolf. The “normal” one in the family is Marilyn (played first by Pat Priest and then by Beverley Owen), Lily and Herman’s blonde hair, blue-eyed, all American looking niece. The Munsters think they are a normal family, but cannot comprehend why they get certain reactions from the people around them.
Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery) is a witch. Her husband, Darrin (First played by Dick York and then by Dick Sargent) is a mortal man. Darrin would like a normal wife. But he married a witch. Samantha tries to subvert her powers to please her husband, but those powers somehow always come back to the surface. Add in the most meddling of meddling mother in-laws, Endora (Agnes Moorehead) and a nosy neighbor with too much time on her hands and too much imagination, Mrs. Kravitz (First played by Alice Pearce and then played by Sandra Gould) and you have a sitcom with just enough subversiveness to rock the boat without being obvious.
I Dream Of Jeannie (1965-1970)
Major Anthony Nelson (Larry Hagman) is an astronaut. While on a mission, he finds a mysterious bottle. Rubbing the bottle, Anthony releases Jeannie (Barbara Eden), who promises to serve Anthony. The only problem is that due to Anthony’s highly classified work, he is always being watched. Having Jeannie around would certainly bring about unwanted questions, especially considering her non mortal abilities.
Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967)
A small boat goes on what is supposed to be on a three-hour tour. Instead a typhoon derails the small ship’s itinerary and send its inhabitants to a deserted island. The boat’s captain, The Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) and his bumbling assistant Gilligan (Bob Denver) do their best to take care of their guests. Mr. and Mrs. Howell (Jim Backus and Natalie Schafter), are the millionaire couple who thinks the world revolves around them. The Professor (Russell Johnson) comes up with fantastic gadgets that no one would ever think of creating on a deserted island. Ginger (Tina Louise) is the Marilyn Monroe-ish movie star. Maryann (Dawn Wells) is the farm girl next door.
While Gilligan’s Island is utterly ridiculous, it is very funny. Reflecting the shifting culture in the 1960’s The Munsters reflects the idea that it’s okay to be different. Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeannie, reflected the then burgeoning second generation of the feminist movement. Both Samantha and Jeannie try to subvert their powers to keep their men happy, but the audience knows who really holds the cards in those relationships.
Do I recommend them? Yes.