A Golden Era of live-action sitcoms for six-year-olds

Monday, August 27th, 2018

If you are a mid-Baby Boomer born in the late 1950s, Steve Sailer suggests, you probably have a memory of the mid-1960s as a Golden Era of live-action sitcoms for six-year-olds, such as Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, Adams Family, Munsters, Green Acres, I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched:

It’s not clear if it really was a halcyon era or if all six-year-olds look back fondly on the TV shows when they were six. In the defense of the former view, I don’t recall that many animated shows from the same era. (I was a big fan of Johnny Quest, though.)

I think it’s plausible that a lot of money and talent poured into sitcoms in 1964-65, creating a brief period of shows that appealed both to grown-ups and kids. Bewitched, for instance, started out as a relatively straightforward study of the sociological stresses of a mixed marriage. (Marrying a shiksa was a huge theme looming just below the surface in 1960s TV, although in Bewitched the allegory is kept ambiguous. Elizabeth Montgomery, for example, was the daughter of Hollywood Republican stalwart Robert Montgomery.) But the network kept demanding more goofy magic For the Kids.

The latter two shows involved ladies in mixed (magical/human) relationships who use magic to get their housekeeping chores done (a concept that greatly appealed to my future wife at the time), while the man of the house disapproves of the woman taking unfair advantage of her powers to make his life better, but the woman knows best what he really needs.

Also, both magical ladies have relatives who disapprove of the man of the house, such as Darren’s mother-in-law Endora (Agnes Moorhead), brunette evil twin Serena (Elizabeth Montgomery in a dual role), and Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde — I was surprised to see the memorable Lynde only appeared in 10 of the 254 episodes).

If you’re a bit younger than Sailer, you probably remember all the shows from that Golden Era of live-action sitcoms for six-year-olds as childhood favorites, only in reruns.

Anyway, Sailer was spurred to write about this after reading about a potential Bewitched remake from Black-ish creator Kenya Barris:

In Bewitched, written by Barris and Taylor, Samantha, a hardworking black single mom who happens to be a witch, marries Darren, a white mortal who happens to be a bit of a slacker. They struggle to navigate their differences as she discovers that even when a black girl is literally magic, she’s still not as powerful as a decently tall white man with a full head of hair in America.



  1. Wang Wei Lin says:

    To me entertainment should do two things: (1) entertain and (2) reinforce the culture in some manner. Concerning point one, today I find entertainment to be mostly a drag. I can’t remember the last time I saw something that made me laugh on television…maybe because I don’t watch it much. As to point two, what I have seen of television is disheartening. Family, marriage, faith and country are regularly derided. Seems to me without these there’s no point in having a nation.

  2. Albion says:

    We are all guilty, to a greater or lesser degree, of watching television. It’s there in our homes, easily available and we are sure occasionally has interesting programmes/programs.

    But increasingly it isn’t actually worth watching. Years ago, people sat down — as families — to watch TV shows. Now either there aren’t as many families, or the family unit is split up by social mis-function or other attractions (video games spring to mind) or, simply, there is less and less to watch and even less to enjoy. The role models in many shows are either deliberately characterised as shallow and/or easily duped, crude and vengeful, or more likely the ‘message’ of the character is unappealing to anyone but the writer who nurses an agenda and a vague desire to ‘change the world.’ The supposedly entertaining output of modern television has become singularly unentertaining: it would rather hector and posture and pretend all people are equal when clearly they don’t behave in that way. Between and during these shows too we are subjected to a welter of advertising messages that merely bring on both a sense of nausea and a feeling of disaffection for the advertiser’s skewed view of a society we can clearly see is struggling.

    We know much of TV (even the ‘factual’ and ‘reality’ programming) isn’t meant to be real but even the make believe is becoming alienating. More and more shows show me things I don’t like, I don’t believe in, and would rather not have in my home. More, it increasingly cannot make me smile or feel good and long ago gave up on trying to inform me in a balanced and thoughtful way.

    In a way, this may be the best thing as television’s once relentless grip on life is being weakened. It may even signal the end of a sixty-year era we believed was dominated with low cost, easy-to-digest entertainment direct to our home. It is, therefore, just another mindless distraction and as such, best ignored. The off switch has never been more welcome.

  3. Graham says:

    Ummm. How could a being with actual magic powers not be more powerful than any mortal? Sure the powers might be limited in some ways, but still. Even original Samantha’s demonstrated powers would allow a person unprecedented capacity to shape their own life, evade restrictions, and manipulate the lives of others. Of what else could power consist?

  4. Kirk says:

    Graham, it is the intersection of television, Hollywood, and that strangeness that is black America. They are never going to forgive whites for freeing them from slavery.

    I got the treat of getting to listen to one of the more racist types a few years ago, and it was… Enlightening.

    Gist of it was that she forgave the slaveowners; they knew no better, and were just doing what predators do, like lions. But, the abolitionists and Northern whites who fought slavery? They were, of course, a special kind of evil, because the gift of their effort, money, and lives to end slavery denied agency to the slaves. It was better to be a slave forever, than that you might be freed from slavery by a white man…

    Similar dynamic with Jeong. A lot of Koreans resent the US, because they had to be freed from the Japanese by us. Same mentality as American blacks.

  5. Harry Jones says:

    Graham: A person could easily have a unique talent in one area while at the same time being far below average in another area. He may not be superior overall – it could be apples and oranges, and he needs to find his niche.

    It’s easy to imagine an evil witch who can only prey on the weak. There are plenty of real life people like that. Drug dealers, child abusers, grifters. They’re easy to beat but only if you gang upon them. Their powers simply don’t apply to the problem of defending themselves.

    Kirk: The only true freedom is the freedom you earn. But the South had worked out an effective system to prevent effective slave rebellions.

    There’s a middle ground. If the Union had encouraged blacks to fight in the Union Army en masse and afterwards encouraged gun ownership among blacks, then Reconstruction might have gone differently and Jim Crow would have been killed early.

    And Affirmative Action might never have happened.

    The only status lower than slave is to be a beggar. A slave earns his keep and then some. A beggar does not, and knows it. Better to be exploited than pitied.

    But if you help people to help themselves… that might work. Just choose carefully. Look for signs of ability.

  6. Kirk says:

    Harry Jones,

    Fully agree with your first paragraph to me. Resentment is a significant factor in modern race relations, and a lot of that stems from the way we “gave” blacks their freedom. It could not have been done in a more condescending and emasculating manner if we had set out to do it that way intentionally.

    In a sense, your second-to-last paragraph succinctly explains the roots of another aspect. We “freed” a bunch of blacks from chattel slavery, where at least you could put a dollar value on yourself, and then turned them into beggars subsisting off the scraps that white society gifted them. Not a recipe for healing wounds of involuntary servitude, that…

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