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The Classic Television We Have Grown to Love

Updated on November 10, 2014
This is a cast picture I have a copy of from the third longest running western The Virginian.
This is a cast picture I have a copy of from the third longest running western The Virginian.

Fans are still plentiful for classic television shows.

Classic television shows and movies have been given another chance to shine their stars across the world of eager viewers. With nostalgic channels springing up on cable and satellite packages we can be proud our younger generation has the same opportunity to watch what we did so many years ago. What classic films lack in technology and special effects they make up for in talent and entertainment qualities. The classic television we’ve grown to love is still here. Reruns never got better than this.

It doesn’t matter what the story line is rather it be science fiction, comedy, mysteries, or western drama, the old film makers knew their business well. Entertainment at its best gets even better with age. By watching the classics we have the chance to witness how many young stars made their way up the ladder of success to capture the world over with an audience that stayed devoted through to their last performance. It is no wonder film festivals around the world are still rewarding the classic stars. Fans are as plentiful now as they were when the journey began.

This is a cast picture from another popular western series The High Chaparral.
This is a cast picture from another popular western series The High Chaparral.

It's a different time.

With big studios like Warner Brothers and MGM to promote great pictures many actors and actresses were bound to contract to keep them focused and busy making pictures. In the early days of television you often saw a group of talented people working on several shows at the same time and it likely was not the same series either. It sure is exciting to recognize a co-star on one series who is a regular cast player on another. You just don’t see much of that sort of thing going on with films made for television today. It’s a different time.

Styles change and people change, but one thing will never change and that is the demand for great entertainment. The release from reality for only a moment relieves stress as well as delivers something other than everyday routine for people to think about. Song, dance and skit playing made for a good variety show in the early days as well as today. Today we have gotten stuck on reality shows and talent contest. The variety shows of yesterday were hosted by well known celebrities who titled the show with their own name. Celebrities, like Jack Benny, Lawrence Welk, the Smothers Brothers, Sonnie and Cher, Andy Williams and Ed Sullivan hosted shows that introduced many talented acts for which most turned out to be very successful. Even a comic can rise up to stardom and have his name in lights. Remembering Milton Berle and Red Skelton surely brings on a laugh or two. Back before the fast pace society we now know existed entertainers had a whole different set of rules. The networks had less competition, but because the family viewing platforms were so limited back then it was important quality prevailed. Family values, censored shows and well scheduled time slot were the key to high ratings.

The Rebel starring Nick Adams
The Rebel starring Nick Adams

50s, 60s, 70s, were the best. Let's go back.

The fifties, sixties and seventies produced some of the best shows on television as well as movies. Long before the VCR and the ever ready satellite multiple channel luxury, people could be entertained at the movie theaters, drive-in picture shows and at home with what few channels they had. Reel to reel projectors cast a beam of light delivering a state of the art viewing experience. Let’s go back. Let’s go back and recall the old days so greatly missed by those who lived it. Can you hear the trendy theme song of yesterday stuck in your head? Could it be from an old western drama or is it clearly one from a catchy tune a teenage show about a rock band has to offer? Yes, the Partridge Family and the Monkees have their place among the classics, too.

Black and White television was a treat to an audience use to radio. To actually see the performers for the first time must have left them amazed. The longest running drama in history began on radio. Gunsmoke ran on radio from 1952-1961 and the television version from 1955-1975, it was a western series based on how the west was one through the eyes of a lawman, Marshal Mat Dillon (James Arness). The setting was in Dodge City, Kansas and the surrounding area.

The 50s-70s was a time when the western drama was most popular. Gunsmoke had some pretty stiff competition. There were many good shows like Lawman starring John Russell and Peter Brown, The Rebel starring Nick Adams, Wyatt Earp starring Hugh O’Brian, Laramie starring John Smith and Robert Fuller, Wagon Train starring Ward Bond and Robert Horton, Maverick starring Jack Kelly and James Garner, Rawhide starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood, Have Gun Will Travel starring Richard Boone, and Rifleman starring Chuck Connors just to name some of the early shows.

Later came shows like Bonanza (Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, Pernell Roberts and Michael Landon), The Virginian (James Drury and Doug McClure), The High Chaparral (Leif Ericson and Cameron Mitchell), The Big Valley (Richard Long, Peter Breck, Lee Majors, Linda Evans and Barbara Stanwick), Lancer (Andrew Duggan, James Stacy and Wayne Maunder), The Guns of Will Sonnet (Walter Brennan), and the list of entertaining western dramas goes on and on. With the extra exposure to the American’s western frontier people began to demand other genres for their entertainment.

Comedy shows and sitcoms soon fought for the time slots westerns were now taking. Shows like I Love Lucy (Lucille Ball), Gilligan’s Isle (Bob Denver), Gomer Pyle (Jim Neighbors), Bewitched (Elizabeth Montgomery), I Dream of Jeanie (Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman), The Beverly Hillbillies (Buddy Ebsen) and The Honeymooners (Jackie Gleason). There is an endless list of funny stuff.

Cops and robbers became another likeable genre with shows like It Takes a Thief (Robert Wagner), Adam-12, C.H.I.P.S., Hawaii Five-o (Jack Lord), Miami Vice (Don Johnson), Mod Squad and Dragnet. Excitement was built around secret agents and government funded foundations that sparked the fuse for shows like I Spy (Robert Kulp and Bill Cosby), the Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Robert Vaughn and David McCallum) ), the Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors), Magnum P.I.(Tom Selleck) and the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner).

The Lawman aired on ABC in 1958 starring John Russell and Peter Brown.
The Lawman aired on ABC in 1958 starring John Russell and Peter Brown.

Endless Entertainment

Science fiction and super heroes, the golden days had plenty of that too. The Lone Ranger actually served two genres as it was not just a western, but had a masked hero to ward off villains and his sidekick to help. Cape Crusaders like Superman (Chris Reeves), the man of steel, and Batman (Adam West) with his sidekick Robin (Burt Ward), kept storylines going strong for decades with reruns of the old and the remakes with something new. Lost in Space, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica helped entertain those wanting adventures in outer space and for something a bit far-fetched shows like My Favorite Martian and My Mother, the Car filled that void. The wonderful world of make believe has won an audience over since time began.

We can’t forget the animal shows. Lassie was a female impersonator and a good one at that. Not many knew the talented Collie was actually a male. Adventures carried her through all kinds of chaos and audiences young and old still admire Lassie yet today. She led the way for others to follow like Rin Tin Tin, Gentle Ben, Flipper, Littlest Hobo, and the hysterical Mr. Ed. A talking horse, imagine that.


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    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 2 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      Thanks askformore lm. They just don't make them like they use to. Shows like The Beverly Hillbillies only need one character mentioned and we know what show it is right away.

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 2 years ago

      I enjoyed the read of your hub with a lot of memories about old TV classics. Thumbs up!

      One show I remember very well is: The Beverly Hillbillies, which you do mention.

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 2 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      Thanks, RonElFran. The classic shows bring back memories not only of the entertainment they deliver, but of a time in our lives we want to remember fondly.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Those shows of the 50s and 60s were the backdrop for my childhood. As I looked at the show titles you mention, I found myself humming the theme music for many of them. Good memories!

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 3 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      I'm so glad these shows are still around for the next generation to view. Thanks for stopping by mgeorge1050, it is greatly appreciated.

    • mgeorge1050 profile image

      Alan 3 years ago from West Georgia

      My son and I still watch some of these using the streaming box. He thinks they are cool.