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Happy Anniversary to You! And You, And You...
September 29, 2010  | By David Bianculli

As we near the end of 2010, television certainly doesn't seem that interested in remembering its own past, much less celebrating it. But someone should... so here we are. Did you know, for example, that today -- Wednesday, Sept. 29 -- is the golden anniversary of the premiere of My Three Sons?... Or that, this weekend, The Andy Griffith Show also turns 50?...

This disregard for our collective TV past is as foolish as it is frustrating. Last Sunday, for example, marked the 50th anniversary of the first televised presidential debates, the one pitting Richard M. Nixon against John F. Kennedy. But on TV that day, where was it mentioned? Not on 60 Minutes, whose creator, Don Hewitt, had directed those debates. Not on the History Channel, which could have -- and should have -- run at least the first debate in total.

But it's not only political history that gets short shrift. In these days when the only viewers worth chasing seem to be the ones between ages 18 and 34, what's the point of pointing out things that happened before they were born?


Today, My Three Sons turns 50. But where is it? Not anywhere on TV Land, or on Nick at Nite. Not anywhere at all on broadcast or cable TV, so far as I can tell. Yet when this Fred MacMurray family sitcom premiered on ABC in 1960, featuring him as single parent Steve Douglas raising his sons with help from William Frawley's "Bub," the show proved popular enough to run (with several cast additions and changes) for 12 years. If you're young, you may have no idea what I'm talking about -- but if you're not, just the sight of the cartoon feet from the opening credits doubtlessly have you humming the theme song.


Tomorrow (Thursday), The Flintstones turns 50. But at least, in this case, someone's remembering. Boomerang, the cartoon network that ISN'T the Cartoon Network, is presenting the prehistoric animated sitcom's premiere episode at 8:30 p.m. ET -- 50 years to the minute from its original debut.

And Sunday, Oct. 3, marks not one significant anniversary, but two different ones. First is The Andy Griffith Show, which turns 50. TV Land, thank goodness, isn't forgetting about this one, one of the most seminal comedies in TV history.


Episodes of CBS's Andy Griffith Show will be televised in a four-hour block, from 4-8 p.m. ET, in honor of Griffith's TV triumph. But the episodes aren't chosen with that much thought -- they don't even include "Opie the Birdman," the series' inarguable highlight.

Finally, also on Sunday, there's the 60th, NOT 50th, anniversary of another significant sitcom.


It's Beulah, the first prime-time sitcom to star an African-American. From 1950-1953, three different actresses played the loving household maid: Ethel Waters, Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beavers. Surely, this show -- some episodes which still exist on kinescope -- could and should be shown somewhere. But not even BET is bothering.

I'm tempted to say, as did George Santayana, that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

But, in this case, TV programmers who cannot remember the past are condemning US to no repeats.





Eileen said:

Thanks for remembering these shows. I loved Beulah, especially the Ethel Waters "Beulah" which was must see viewing in our home. BET should hang their head in shame as this was truly a groundbreaker.

There is no nicer, sweeter, funnier show than "The Andy Griffith Show". I recently read an interview with Ron Howard where he waxed nostalgic about those days, and how much he loved the entire cast, especially Andy, and how he always attends their own regular reunions as these folks were such an integral part of his childhood. It was so heartwarming to know there was such real affection on the set, but also to see a TRUE child star who turned out to be such an immense talent and all around good guy.

A pity the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon debates wasn't acknowledged; those debates truly tipped the election. I believe there was a mention on CBS "Sunday Morning", but that's all I recall seeing.

If our own nostalgia channels aren't lauding these shows, I'm certainly glad you are.

Comment posted on September 29, 2010 10:30 AM

Phillip R. Crabb said:

Hello Dave,

As a kid I remember The Flintstones on Friday nights in Prime Time of all things. I think Johnny Quest started in Prime Time as well.

Interesting how so much of programming (for kids and adults) from that era still has legs today, and how comparatively few more contemporary (70's and forward)have the same staying power.

And, if I remember right, wasn't there some sort of hub-bub about the Flintstones being the first show on TV showing a Husband/Wife sharing the same bed..?

Oh great, now I have the theme song stuck in my head for the rest of the day...

Franklin, NJ

Comment posted on September 30, 2010 8:51 AM
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