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Monday, January 02, 2006

THE CAVALCADE OF TELEVISION COMEDY (Part Two): THE 1960's

TELEVISION COMEDY IN THE 1960's TRANSFORMED FROM YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE TO RELEVANCE TO IMPORTANT BREAKTHROUGHS. AS THE DECADE WANED, MORE CHANGES WERE IN STORE.

As the 1950's faded into memory, the 1960's emerged with a plethora of sitcoms aimed at the younger generation. I refer to this time as the era of "screwball sitcoms" but please do not confuse that term with the "screwball" movie comedies of the period between 1934-1941. The "screwball" movie genre contained classics like "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) and "His Girl Friday" (1940) and involved "A list" stars like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Rosalind Russell. The sitcoms of the sixties were not in the same league as these silver screen entries although there were two that stand out as quality productions that have stood the test of time and still can be viewed today in reruns: "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-1966), and "The Andy Griffith Show" (1960-1968). Meanwhile, the comedy-variety format barely held its own through the decade.
A lot of the 1960's stuff relied heavily on "shtick" or gimmicks to gain an audience. "The Beverly Hillbillies", which somehow ran from 1962-1971 on CBS, was a huge hit for almost its entire run and drew 60,000,000 viewers per week during its first few seasons. The plot in this case was the oxymoronic idea of hillbillies from the Ozarks invading the luxury of Hollywood with the result being the funny interaction of the two cultures. When it finally went off the air, it was because CBS wanted to shed rural mentality programming, not because of bad ratings.

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