I've been writing about the remarkable number of events that happened in the Naperville area in 1966, including the inception of the Park District, Summer Place Theatre and the new municipal band shell. With the start of the fall television season, I got to wondering what shows folks watched on their console television sets 50 years ago.
The 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek” series, which first aired on September 8, 1966, has been getting a lot of media attention, but there were plenty of other shows that debuted during that same season. Many of them you may remember watching, but there are a few that have completely fallen out our collective memory.
“The Monkees” and “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.” were both new that year. The spin-off “Girl” only lasted one season. While they certainly stayed popular, “The Monkees” TV show was only on the air until 1968. Two other shows that debuted in 1966 were “That Girl” and “Family Affair,” both of which stayed on the schedule until 1971.
This was the era of goofy comedies. The creators of “Gilligan’s Island” reused props, sets and music for a new show in 1966 that was called “It’s About Time.” It starred Imogene Coca as a cavewoman named Shag who welcomed a couple of astronauts who accidentally went back in time. A second time-travel show, “The Time Tunnel,” also started that fall, although it wasn't a comedy. Neither one made it past the first season.
“Mission: Impossible” was also a new 1966 show, long before it was rebooted as a movie. It wound up self-destructing messages until 1973.
Other TV shows you may remember from that season were:
- The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
- The Rat Patrol
- The Green Hornet
- The Phyllis Diller Show
In addition to goofy comedies, time travel and space fantasy, westerns were still popular. “Pistols ’n’ Petticoats” is a show most people won’t remember. “Rango,” about an inept sheriff, starred Tim Conway. It sounds like it should have been fun, but it was once ranked among the 50 Worst Shows of All Time by TV Guide.
1966 was the first season to show nearly all the prime time programs in "living" color. Earlier in the year, “Dark Shadows” began, but since “Shadows” was a daytime soap opera, it was filmed in black and white for another year.
Since there was no way to record TV shows, folks would have to miss their favorite to go out at night and many of us never saw these shows the first time around. Instead, we became familiar with them through endless reruns. It's kind of fun to think of what Naperville folks were watching during this extraordinary time in our history.