10 classic television shows celebrating a 60th birthday in 2018

Lucas McCain, Yogi Bear, Kookie, Donna Stone and more made their TV debut in 1958.

Image: The Everett Collection

Fewer channels does not always mean fewer options. Just look at the television schedule in 1958. There were just a few channels from which to choose, but they were stuffed with brilliant shows. With Perry Mason, Lucille Ball, Matt Dillon, the Beaver, Ed Sullivan, Alfred Hitchcock, Phil Silvers and Jackie Gleason on offer, nobody was particularly aching for the invention of cable.

It was also a banner year for debuts. Loads of beloved TV series began their runs in 1958. Here are 10 of note. Six decades later, they remain just as gripping. Celebrate their birthday and revisit them.

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1. The Rifleman



Gunsmoke and Bonanza may have had astounding staying power, but perhaps no western was as beloved as The Rifleman, and no cowboy as revered as Lucas McCain. It was the first primetime series to depict a widowed parent raising a child, and its message of fatherhood was just as profound as its action. Plus, star Chuck Connors was the ultimate man's man, a former pro athlete of the MLB, NBA and NFL.

You can watch The Rifleman six days a week on MeTV or stream it right here on our Videos page.

2. The Donna Reed Show



There is no dirt on Donna Reed. If you are digging for juicy gossip, you will not find it. The actress is as bright and clean as the kitchen floor on The Donna Reed Show, set in the quaint, fictional town of Hilldale, which some speculate was located in Iowa. Reed remains a fascinating role model. From girl next door to pinup to all-American mom, she remained a cultural icon. She nabbed an Academy Award in 1953 for her role in From Here to Eternity, and a decade later earned a Golden Globe for Best TV Star. Of course, from 1958 to 1966 she headlined as Donna Stone on The Donna Reed Show. The beauty taught lessons to and solved problems for her picture-perfect family.

3. 77 Sunset Strip



Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., son of a renowned Russian violin master, starred as Stuart Bailey, a sharp P.I. with his shop set up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Helping Bailey in his capers was Gerald "Kookie" Kookson III, a neighboring parking lot attendant with a penchant for running a comb through his slick hair. Thanks to Kookie, hep slang riddled the scripts. The rock 'n' roller tossed off terms like "ginchy," "smog in the noggin" and "long green." Yet 77 Sunset Strip offered more than fashion and hipster speech. The series was the creation of Roy Huggins, the novelist behind the character-driven TV classics Maverick, The Fugitive and The Rockford Files. Watch 77 Sunset Strip weeknights on MeTV.

4. Wanted: Dead or Alive



Steve McQueen was, is and shall remain the coolest. The foundation of his iconic cool was laid on the Western television show Wanted: Dead or Alive. The series ran from 1958 to 1961 and made the actor a household name. With his trusty, nifty weapon and cowboy swagger, McQueen's bounty hunter Josh Randall made a great hard-boiled hero. The series joined an incredible Saturday evening lineup on CBS that included Perry Mason, Have Gun - Will Travel and Gunsmoke. Catch Wanted: Dead or Alive each Saturday on MeTV.

5. Peter Gunn



On September 22, 1958, private eye Peter Gunn first stepped out of the dim and smokey confines of Mother's jazz club and onto screens across America. Well, the hip and hard boiled noir series technically began with a car chase. Few television series have so perfectly nailed cool in their first few minutes. And who could forget that incredible theme song? Over the course of three seasons (not to mention a feature film in 1967), Peter Gunn kept up its cool. Gunn was the bridge between the film noir detectives of the 1940s and the dapper spies that soon followed in his footsteps. Creator Blake Edwards would later do similar feats on the big screen with his Pink Panther series.

6. The Invisible Man



While trying to unlock the secrets to invisibility, British scientist Peter Brady (Tim Turner) suffers a tragic accident that leaves him permanently invisible. With no antidote in sight, Brady becomes an accidental superhero, protecting the British government from spies and saving ordinary citizens from danger. Loosely based on the classic 1897 H.G. Wells novella of the same name, the television series introduces espionage and heroism to Wells' tragic science fiction. Stream it right here on our Videos page.

7. The Huckleberry Hound Show



Hanna-Barbera introduced several now-iconic characters with its second animated TV series. The animation duo's first, The Ruff and Reddy Show, had premiered a year earlier in 1957. But the laid-back, southern-accented dog proved to be far more popular. And the blue pooch eventually became overshadowed by Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, who appeared in shorts in this series. In many ways, the modern Saturday morning cartoon begins here.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Naked City



Some shows are meant to be seen in the middle of the night. With its shadowy hues of gray and its brassy jazz scores, Naked City brought film noir to the small screen from 1958 to 1963. It's no wonder it nailed that postwar crime-story tone so well — the series was based on the gritty 1948 flick The Naked City. The anthology series was the creation of Stirling Silliphant, who had won a screenwriting Oscar for In the Heat of the Night. The juicy, pulpy results were rather cinematic for household viewing. Shot on location around New York City, it was a little underappreciated at the time, as the 30-minute iteration was canceled in 1959, before being revived as a hour-long affair in 1960.

Image: The Everett Collection

9. Concentration



Those who grew up watching this classic game show, perhaps on sick days at home on the couch, likely remember a certain sound, a click-SNAP that was made whenever panels flipped around on the mechanical game board. In its original iteration, Concentration ran for 14 years on NBC, and was revived again and again over the following decades. Hugh Downs (pictured here) hosted in its first decade, while famous faces like Ed McMahon and Alex Trebek took their turn in later years.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. Bat Masterson



Gene Barry starred as the titular dandy of the Wild West. Bat had the dashing charisma and gambling nature of Maverick and the slick fashion sense of Paladin. He preferred his cane over a gun — hence his first name. Barry would go on to star as another suave hero in Burke's Law.

Image: The Everett Collection

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