Unusual Sixties TV Shows — #AtoZChallenge 2023

Sepia Saturday 673. U is for Unusual Sixties TV Shows. Twenty-first of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

The 1960s was a transitional period in my teen TV watching, as shows moved away from staid tropes of the 1950s – which pretty much portrayed our parents — and toward modern, camp programming that appealed to younger viewers.

Meanwhile, the Cold War was on then, and some TV programming also seemed designed to rope teen viewers into supporting western spy craft and (subliminally) the Vietnam War.

Did they succeed? I think not, judging by the shows I watched and the reasons I liked them. Here’s a sampling of some of those unusual shows.

The Avengers

My favorite show from the Sixties was The Avengers – which paired youthful, athletic Emma Peel with staid, gentlemanly John Steed in weekly battles against a series of oddball enemies.

Binghamton Press, March 26, 1966.

But never mind the plots. For me the show was all about Mrs. Peel, played by Diana Rigg, who I saw as a vibrant, exciting female role model. Gone were the shirtwaist house dresses and aprons of the Fifties – replaced by Emma Peel’s body suits and haute couture outfits.

There were vague mentions of her husband whose plane had gone missing, but he never featured in the show — so Mrs. Peel led her own, independent life. She was a martial arts expert, skilled fencer and certified chemist/scientist who excelled at disguise and sped around in a Lotus Elan sports car.

Even better, she rarely lost a physical fight (see video above) and often rescued her straight-laced partner, John Steed. Honestly, could a young woman have a better role model than that?

Secret Agent

Another favorite show was Secret Agent (called Danger Man in the UK). The program starred Patrick McGoohan as “Drake, John Drake,” a globetrotting spy.

As a female teen, I particularly liked the fact that John Drake was all business at work – none of the over-the-top sexist seductions that went on in James Bond films.

Drake also employed gadgets and quick thinking to outwit opponents, rather than a gun – and the show’s catchy theme song (see video above) became a hit during my teens. For me, Secret Agent was shenanigans-free entertainment quite apart from whatever political message it sought to convey.

The Prisoner

When Secret Agent went off the air, Patrick McGoohan went on to become Number 6, the lead character in a mysterious British TV show called The Prisoner that debuted in 1967.

In the show, Number 6, a former British agent, is kidnapped the day he resigns his spy job and is held prisoner in a strange seaside Village — where Number 2 and other captors try to discover why he quit. The show was truly bizarre — like a surrealist painting come to life.

Every week Number 6 would try to escape only to be chased down and encapsulated inside a large white Rover balloon. This weirdly captivating program is hard to explain, so there’s a video above of the first episode. It just gets stranger from there, and I never missed it as a teen.

Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible about the CIA’s dirty tricks was not one of my favorites. But after my brothers Mark noticed that Willy (lower left) said very few words, my brothers and I made a game of counting each week.

Mission Impossible was a thinly disguised commercial for the United States CIA’s dirty tricks around the world – and not one of my favorite shows as a teen. But I watched it with my younger brothers anyway.

One week my brother Mark said, “Have you noticed that the big guy hardly says any words?” – the big guy being Willy Armitage, played by Peter Lupus. Huh, no I hadn’t.

So that week we counted the words – five – and a new game was born. After that our entire focus was on guessing how many words Willy would utter then counting them up during the show – pretty much missing the plot and also feeling sorry for the actor, who got so little dialogue.

Saturday Night Movie

To supplement these shows, I watched the Saturday Night Movie at 11pm. There was no cable back then, so some surprisingly good films appeared on the regular channels.

Black Orpheus was a film I first saw on the Saturday Night Movie as a teen. Filmed in Brazil, the award-winning movie stars Breno Mello (Orpheus) and Marpessa Dawn (Eurydice) in a retelling of the classic tale.

On the Saturday Night Movie during my teens I saw the Beatles’ movie Help, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and, one of my favorite films, Marcel Camus’ award-winning Black Orpheus – among others.

And thus, around and between my other high school activities, I got a regular dose of pop culture watching unusual Sixties TV programming — absorbing the most entertaining aspects of each show and leaving aside the rest.

Up next, V is for Vietnam: A heartbreaking casualty. Please stop back. Meanwhile, please visit the other bloggers participating in Music Moves Me — then pop over to visit the intrepid bloggers at Sepia Saturday.

© 2023 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

22 thoughts on “Unusual Sixties TV Shows — #AtoZChallenge 2023”

  1. I enjoyed watching those same shows too! Many years ago my wife and I visited Portmeirion in North Wales, the location for this odd series. It’s actually a resort hotel which still retains that Italianate village architecture as tourist accommodations. I came away with a few souvenir bummer stickers of #6’s quote, “I am not a number. I am a free man!” which I proudly display on my truck. Sadly there is much about that story line that still haunts the world today.

  2. Mission Impossible and The Avengers were two of our favorite shows back then! 🙂

  3. TV for me didn’t start until the end of the 70s/early 80s – but I loved watching older shows when Nick at Nite would air them. 🙂

  4. “Secret Agent Man” is a great oldie! I remember watching “Mission Impossible” as a kid. I loved the opening scene with the taped self-destructing assignment. I suspect I watched either reruns of the program or early on in the 70s since I was old enough to enjoy spy thrillers. Although, I don’t remember The Avengers from 1966. That was the year my brother was born. I turned 5 at the end of that year. Over the years I have seen snippets of it, though. Those poor male villains didn’t stand a chance against Emma Peel, stunning good looks, sexy tight fitting clothes, and her deadly karate chop. 😀 Thanks for joining the 4M dance floor this week, Molly. I hope you have a boogietastic week. Oh yes, congratulations on finishing another year of A2Z!

  5. I remember The Prisoner and Mission Impossible in syndication.

    I would never have been allowed to stay up for a movie at 11pm, but one of our local stations ran old movies on Saturday afternoons and I got a pretty good education in classic movies from that source.

  6. I have never been much of a TV watcher but it’s still strange that the only one I even recognise is the Avengers but my husband says he does. Can’t even recall what I did watch at the time…The Fugitive.

  7. I can envy you your Saturday night movie nights on local TV. My TV movie memories revolve around World War II movies on New York City’s The Early Show (channel 2) which my Mom loved. We also had Million Dollar Movie (channel 9) and I remember seeing Tarzan and Shirley Temple movies, among others. Re TV, loved Mission Impossible and The Avengers. I think I may have watched one The Prisoner – it was so weird I never saw another one.

    1. Sorry The Prisoner wasn’t to your liking. Rod Serling was from the Binghamton area, so most of us kids were Twilight Zone veterans — making The Prisoner not too far of a stretch.

  8. I loved all these shows. I was born in 1951 so I remember these great shows. What a fun post.

    Thank you for joining the Happy Tuesday Blog Hop.

    Have a fabulous Happy Tuesday. ♥

    1. Thanks, Sandee. I have to say it was fun watching that first episode of The Prisoner again — brought back memories, and the wardrobes were fun, too!

  9. Black Orpheus is one of my favorites too. I didn’t see it until later as a dvd though. I didn’t watch any of the shows you mention. I’ll have to try and remember what I did watch! We had Canadian radio and TV, living in Detroit and I know we watched some of those programs. What, I can’t remember.

    1. Looking back, I am surprised by the variety and quality of movies that were shown on my local TV station on Saturday nights.

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