The 7 most unbelievable shows of the 1960s

There were talking cars, flying nuns and a genie in a bottle.

Television shows started out mostly as a way to reflect reality. Everyone could relate to the struggles of Ralph and Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners, and everyone knew a family like the Nelsons on Ozzie and Harriet. 

But starting in the 1960s, things began to get a bit unusual on primetime television. All of the sudden, cars were talking and witchcraft was front and center. 

These series weren't complete fantasies like Star Trek or Lost in Space. Rather, they had elements of magical realism and ranged from the completely absurd to the semi-plausible. 

Did you think any of these shows could happen in real life? Which ones were your favorites? 

1. My Mother the Car

Why it was unbelievable: Jerry Van Dyke buys a 40-year-old car because his deceased mother talks to him through the car radio. Van Dyke also has to thwart off a ruthless car collector who’s after his mother, ahem, the car.

Did audiences believe it? Not at all. The plot was too far-fetched, even for the 1960s. The show only lasted one season, and TV Guide ranked it as the second-worst program of all time. It’s not all bad, though. My Mother the Car's creator, Allan Burns, went on to create The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its subsequent spinoffs. 

Image: MGM Television

2. My Favorite Martian

Why it was unbelievable: A human-looking alien from Mars crashes near Los Angeles and becomes the roommate of a young newspaper reporter. The two become friends, and the alien even builds a time machine and an object that can rearrange molecules.

Did audiences believe it? Initially. Despite ranking in the top 10 the first season, audiences grew weary of the out-of-this-world storylines on My Favorite Martian, and the series was canceled as ratings continued to dive in season three.

Image: Warner Bros. Television

3. The Flying Nun

Why it was unbelievable: The name says it all. Sally Field played a nun in Puerto Rico who flies around and solves problems. This was all possible thanks to her small stature, and the ridiculously large cornette on top of her habit that looked like the wings of an airplane. As you could imagine, the flying nun created as many problems and she helped solve.

Did audiences believe it? Kind of. The series has gone on to become a cult classic, but it was never a ratings juggernaut during its original run in the late '60s. It was canceled after three seasons.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

4. Mister Ed

Why it was unbelievable: Mister Ed was a horse that could talk. But he didn’t talk to just anyone, only his owner Wilbur Post. This lead to a running gag when people would question who was talking when they heard Ed speak. The series never explained why the horse could talk, he just did.

Did audience believe it? Yep. Audiences love talking animals, and this was no exception. The series was one of few that started in syndication but was picked up by a major network. In total, over 140 episodes were made.

Image: MGM Television

5. Bewitched

Why it was unbelievable: A witch named Samantha falls in love with a mortal named Darrin and promises to give up her powers. Nothing too outrageous there, except when the magic from her family starts to meddle in everyone's business. Poor Darrin constantly falls under a spell, but only his love for his wife is stronger.

Did audience believe it? Oh yeah. Audiences loved the relationship between Samantha and Darrin, and the show became one of the biggest hits of the 1960s. The show’s legacy even spawned a big-budget film in 2005.

Image: Sony Pictures Television


6. I Dream of Jeannie

Why it was unbelievable: Astronaut Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) crash lands on a deserted island only to find a genie in a bottle, who is borderline obsessed with him.

Did audiences believe it? Yes and no. The show has always been seen as a take on the more popular Bewitched. It was never a ratings hit, but the show remained popular enough to last five seasons. In some respects, Barbara Eden’s portrayal of Jeannie has become even more famous than the show itself.

Image: Sony Pictures Television


7. Gilligan's Island

Why it was unbelievable: Seven castaways end up stranded on a deserted island after a storm throws their three-hour tour off course. Let’s forget about the fact the Professor never fixed the ship during the three seasons the show was broadcast. The show is unbelievable because the castaways never got off the island, despite numerous people showing up on the island and then leaving without them.

Did audiences believe it? Yes, and so do we! This show knew how to play each ridiculous element to the fullest, making it fun and exciting to watch. Gilligan and the castaways were a hit with audiences, and they’re still beloved more than fifty years later.

There's more: 7 forgotten sitcoms from 1966

Do you remember any of these shows from the 1966-1967 television season that only lasted one season? There are some classics in this list! Check it out. 

Image: Everett Collection

 
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VaughnBaskin 5 months ago
Don't forget Sid and Marty Krofft's 1st series "H.R. Pufnstuf", in which where "Alice In Wonderland", "The Wizoard Of Oz", "Gilligan's Island", and "The Andy Griffith Show", meets "Puff The Magic Dragon".
GregV 16 months ago
When I first heard of The Flying Nun, about a nun in the Caribbean, I thought it would be about a nun flying her own plane to tend to the spiritual needs of remote islands. Kind of a religious flying doctor.
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