On the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, we look back at that year’s popular books, music, movies and TV shows. This week, what was on TV in 1962.
Television looked different in 1962. Nine out of ten American households had TV sets, but they were almost all black & white; Zenith produced its first color set that year. Only a few major TV shows such as Bonanza, The Flintstones and The Jetsons were produced in color at this time. TV was undergoing another big transition as the unpredictable TV comedy of Ernie Kovacs and Sid Caesar were being usurped by pre-recorded sit-coms, and relatively highbrow live dramas (soon to be eulogized as the “golden age” of television) were replaced with filmed anthology shows such as The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, both now revered as TV classics themselves. (Of course variety/talk shows were still live: here’s Barbara Streisand on the Gary Moore Show). In 1961, FCC Chairman Newton Minow gave a speech decrying television as a “vast wasteland,” characterized by “a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons.” It was around this time that TV began to be called “the boob tube.”
“Unbelievable families” were very big in 1962, though they hardly seem unwholesome today. The Beverly Hillbillies premiered this year, and was the year’s highest rated show. The new Dick Van Dyke show also did well, while The Andy Griffith Show had been renewed for a second season and was picking up steam; Barney Fife ushered in the new year with the first use of his habitual expression “Nip it in the Bud!” Leave it to Beaver was in it’s fifth season and winding down, as Wally got a driver’s license and a steady girlfriend, and the Beaver joined a Rock ‘n Roll record club. Viewers looking for something a bit more hip could head out on the road with clean cut Tod and vaguely Kerouacish Buz as they tooled around the country in their Corvette convertible along Route 66 and other byways, seeking adventure, finding trouble, making things right, and moving on.
In his speech, Newton Minow also referred to the assault of endless “…commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending.” That, at least, hasn’t changed. To see more of what we were watching in 1962, check out this list in the library catalog.