By Brad Reynolds
In the Sixties, the average American household had one TV, the standard screen was 21 inches, and only three channels were available (CBS, NBC, and ABC). Much of the programming was formulaic and schmaltzy and didn’t reflect the issues going on in the country. By the end of the decade, however, television saw a shift.
For one, news broadcasts gained popularity. Footage of riots and war connected people to current events in a way that newspapers never could.
Television also saw more diversity in the Sixties. Women like Carol Burnett proved that comedy wasn’t just for the boys, and programs like That Girl showed that women could be business-minded too. Julia broke barriers in 1968 as the first television series with a black woman lead.
As the Civil Rights Movement gained traction, the complexion of television mirrored the changing attitudes of the country. All in the Family explored bigotry through comedy, while shows like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek examined complex social issues through the lens of science fiction.
The magic of Sixties television wasn’t just that it was entertaining; it began reflecting Americans more honestly. As David Brinkley put it, “Television showed the American people to the American people.”