I was thinking about the television I watched as a kid and which shows seem to have had an impact on me. By ‘youth’ I mean up to around puberty — I’m not going to go into the teen years. That can be another list, another time.
(The Many Loves of) Dobie Gillis — okay, Dwayne Hickman was basically channeling Jack Benny in this comedy, doing much of the same shtick Benny had on radio. I didn’t recognize that at the time, of course. After all, I was only nine when it came on the air. But I did recognize that it was something quite different from most of what was on the tube. Dobie turning and talking to the camera (and me), a la Richard III, was quite unlike anything else I’d seen — the original breaching of the ‘fourth wall’ on television. Performance could be both a story and a conversation. And, of course, let us not forget Bob Denver’s delightfully absurd turn as Maynard G. Krebs the beatnik.
Rocky and Bullwinkle — in the wasteland of children’s cartoon programming, this was an oasis. It was a show that dared to be dopey and smart at the same time. I wouldn’t mind getting in Mr Peabody’s Wayback Machine and experiencing it all over again.
That Was the Week That Was — the American version of the British news/comedy show was a hit in my home. I know it didn’t last very long — obviously a little too smart for broadcast television of the time — but it made an impression. A great introduction to the world of satire.
The Outer Limits — unlike The Twilight Zone, which I often thought predictable and dull (yes, even as a kid), TOL could scare me AND make me think. There was an occasional touch of cynicism to it that one did not see much of on the tube back then and the characters were developed more than in most shows of a similar genre. No wonder it didn’t last very long.
Hootenanny — the folk music surge in popularity was almost over by the time it came on the air — the Beatles were right around the corner, ready to change everything. This was really the show that first made me pay attention to music (and musicians) on television. Those folk singers actually looked like they were having fun! Moreover, it introduced me to the Smothers Brothers...now that’s one of those influences that would return in the teen years.