It’s fun to reminisce about happy times, and as we get older, it seems that we do it more and more. If you care for an older adult, you might find that they like thinking back to joyful past times. In fact, while sufferers of dementia might have trouble with short-term memories, their long-term memories are often quite good! Sharing those memories can help an older adult feel more like themselves again.
One topic that they might enjoy recalling are the old black and white TV shows of the 20th century. During its Golden Age, television provided a new and exciting media. Suddenly, entertainment that used to be only heard by voice on radio or on a screen in movie theaters was right inside our living rooms. Let’s take a look back to remember some of the most favorite and beloved TV shows through the ages!
I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy was a groundbreaking sitcom of mid-century television, for a number of reasons. First, it featured an ethnically mixed couple — a white woman married to a Latin man — something that, at that time, was rare to see broadcasted so outwardly on TV. Second, the show’s stars — Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who were married in real life — insisted on filming the episodes, rather than using kinescope, a technique that was commonly used in television back then. Because of that decision, we can still enjoy a high-quality version of the show’s reruns today. The show ran on CBS from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957. Take a look at this hysterical scene, as character Ricky Ricardo is trying to decipher the finer points of the English language with his wife, Lucy.
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Dick Van Dyke Show ran on CBS from October 3, 1961, to June 1, 1966 and was a production of Desilu Studios, the TV production company that was started and owned by the stars of I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The show was created by comedy writer and producer Carl Reiner, who is the father of another great actor of TV comedy and a movie producer in his own right, Rob Reiner. The program starred a young Dick Van Dyke — known for for his comedic and musical entertainment skills — as comedy writer Rob Petrie, and an even younger Mary Tyler Moore — a newcomer best known at that time for dancing in a commercial for home appliances — as his wife, Laura. Rounding out the cast included long-time entertainers Rose Marie (who started her career as a child singer) and comedian Morey Amsterdam (who had his start in vaudeville). The show revolved around the production and writing of a fictional TV variety show — The Alan Brady Show (with Alan Brady being played by Carl Reiner). The episode below is “Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth,” which ranked at number 8 on TV Guide’s list of the top 100 greatest TV episodes of all time.
The Andy Griffith Show
Yet another classic sitcom produced by Desilu was The Andy Griffith Show. Running on CBS from October 3, 1960, to April 1, 1968, the show featured the sleepy, fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry and its inhabitants, with an emphasis on its local sheriff (widower Andy Taylor played by Andy Griffith)— his son (Opie, played by Ron Howard, now known for his film direction), their Aunt Bea (Frances, Bavier) who took care of them and their home, and Taylor’s bumbling deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts). Even when it aired, the show depicted a slower time gone by. According to Griffith, many objects in the scenes were deliberately 20 to 30 years older than the time when the show actually takes place, to give it an overall old-fashioned feel. A prime example is the courthouse phone — a candlestick telephone, long out of common use by the 1960s. In the clip below, Barney uses this phone to call his never-to-be-seen love interest, “Juanita,” a waitress at the local Bluebird Diner.
Father Knows Best
During the Golden Age of Television, there were many programs that portrayed wholesome views of family life: Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, and the one featured in the clip below — Father Knows Best. The show actually had its start on radio, and then, enjoyed a run on TV from October 1954 to May 1960 — first on CBS, then on NBC, and then back again on CBS. Robert Young, already an established film actor and the star of the radio version of the show, portrayed Jim Anderson, the patriarch of the show’s family. The show also starred Jayne Wyatt as Jim’s wife, Margaret. Their children were portrayed by Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray, and Lauren Chapin. Donahue went on to play Andy Taylor’s girlfriend in the first season of The Andy Griffith Show. The show presented a light-hearted, warm-and-fuzzy view of middle-class American family life, with episodes often being accompanied by an important life lesson. Below is the show’s very first episode, “Bud Takes Up the Dance.”
One of the most iconic TV sitcoms of all time is The Honeymooners. It originally aired as a series of sketches on two different variety series — Cavalcade of Stars and The Jackie Gleason Show, both hosted by the creator of The Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason. Gleason, who played bus driver Ralph Kramden (the series’ main character), later reformatted the sketches into a true, stand-alone half-hour program. The series first aired as such in October 1955 and continued until September 1956. The show also featured Audrey Meadows as Ralph’s sharp-tongued wife, Alice and Art Carney as Ed Norton, Ralph’s dimwitted but loyal friend. Unlike TV’s more idyllic portrayals of family life at that time, The Honeymooners uniquely presented a more pessimistic and sarcastic view of blue-collar life in America. Its comedic storylines typically portrayed Ralph in foolish scenarios of his own making: get-rich schemes, misunderstandings, and situations that would reveal his personal shortcomings and challenge his overgrown ego. Despite his often rough and gruff personality, Ralph still comes off as a loveable — albeit buffoonish — character. The episode below is a classic example. Titled “The $99,000.00 Answer,” it first aired on January 28, 1956.
Ask your loved ones which TV programs they have loved to watch over the years! When they share, you’ll know more about them and learn more about their personalities in a deeper, more personal and intimate way.