A Musing on 1960’s Television

A Musing on 1960s Television

Bonanza was the one of the most highly rated TV shows for several years in the 1960’s.  Ben Cartwright was an interesting case study.  He had three sons, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe, one son each with three different wives.  Based on their varied appearance each son definitely had a separate DNA strain from at least one side of the family.  Curiously, not one of Ben’s three wives ever made an appearance on the show except via brief flashbacks, so the understanding was none had survived the rugged experience of life on the Ponderosa.  

Now, I’m not casting any aspersions on Ol’ Ben, I just find it interesting in hindsight that the viewing public accepted without question the premise of Ben’s three deceased wives all dying of natural causes after having given birth to a son.  It’s comforting to realize I wasn’t the only naïve person in the 60’s. 

Related: As Seen on TV: The Early Days of Television

The success of Bonanza appeared to spawn a succession of shows featuring widowers with children.  There was Lucas McCain and his son Mark in The Rifleman, and Andy Taylor and his son Opie in the best TV show of the era and maybe of all time, The Andy Griffith Show (the second best TV show of the era involved Secret Agent 86.)  

Another 1960’s TV widower was Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies, who had a daughter Ellie Mae. I recently viewed the pilot of Jed’s show, it’s working title was The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills.  Later in the decade there was widower Tom Corbett in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, with, of course, Eddie. 

Aside from Lucille Ball, Bewitched, and Marlo Thomas in That Girl, I can recall only one other female lead in a TV show in the 1960’s, Jerry Van Dyke’s reincarnated mother.  She came back as a car.  A talking car.  I believe she lasted one model year.  

I guess the network bigwigs figured if the American audience would believe a horse could talk (Mr. Ed), then why wouldn’t they also believe a deceased mom could return as a talking car.  Plus, the viewing public had already bought into Ben Cartwright’s sad tale of having to bury three wives somewhere on the Ponderosa, so it wasn’t really that big of a leap of faith to give My Mother The Car a shot.

About the Author

Steve Carney is just a guy who, when he retired, decided to write down memories and observations of spending his tween and teenage years in the 1960’s. He has no YouTube Channel, no blog nor website, no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tik-Tok. He does, however, keep a pager and a fax machine close by in case of emergencies.  He also welcomes all comments on his attempts at writing at [email protected].


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