A really refreshing thing about the always growing library of streaming services is that it makes it easy to revisit some classic TV shows. We live in a time where there are groundbreaking, smart, and cinematically gorgeous shows being made and released daily. New TV shows are great. However, sometimes watching classic TV brings a sense of nostalgia, a necessary lesson, and a new appreciation for the TV art form.
Classic TV shows remind us of the evolution of the nation and of the television world. These TV programs are also just a fun trip down memory lane. Everyone’s definition of classic TV varies, but for me, I think of series that premiered before the 1980s. However, to account for others who may view classic TV as anything pre-2000s, I included a couple choices from the 1980s and 1990s.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (Hulu)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show follows thirty-something Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) as she takes a big leap by moving to Minneapolis to start a new life after a breakup. Lou Grant (Ed Asner) hires Mary to be an associate producer of the evening news at WJM-TV. The Mary Tyler Moore Show aired from 1970 to 1977. The cast also included Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, and Betty White.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was revolutionary in the 1970s for its empowering message about a single woman more career-focused than family-oriented. Even modern series rarely have a female character that puts career before love and family. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the ideal classic TV show: it was funny, trailblazing, and had a dynamic cast of characters. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was truly one of a kind.
Stream It Here: All seven season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show are available to stream on Hulu (opens in new tab).
The Andy Griffith Show (Netflix)
The Andy Griffith Show is about Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) is a widowed sheriff of the quiet town of Mayberry. The Andy Griffith Show cast also includes Don Knotts, Ron Howard, and Frances Bavier. The series highlights the hilarity that can come from a small town and its colorful townsfolk.
The Andy Griffith Show aired from 1960 to 1967 and had eight seasons. The show has a very nostalgic feel, even for the 60s; it feels even older--reminiscent of the 1930s. The Andy Griffith Show is a show with wholesome comedy and values. It may appeal to those who want a simpler brand of comedy. Also Barney Fife (Don Knotts) is just one of the funniest characters of all-time.
Stream It Here: All eight seasons of The Andy Griffith Show are available to stream on Netflix (opens in new tab).
The Carol Burnett Show (Amazon Prime)
Comedian Carol Burnett displays her many talents in The Carol Burnett Show, a one-hour variety show. The Carol Burnett Show team included Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, and Dick Van Dyke. It originally ran from 1967 to 1978 with 279 episodes.
Some of The Carol Burnett Show’s most popular skits include “As the Stomach Turns,” a soap opera parody, “Carol and Sis,” a skit loosely based on Carol’s life growing up in New York raising her sister, “ and “The Family,” a married couple named Eunice and Ed have to deal with Eunice’s very difficult mother. “The Family” sketch led to a made-for-TV movie called Eunice and the 1983 sitcom Mama’s Family. The Carol Burnett Show is a must-see for anyone who enjoys sketch comedy and appreciates the comedic legend that is Carol Burnett.
Stream It Here: All six seasons of The Carol Burnett Show are available to stream on Amazon Prime. (opens in new tab)
Star Trek: The Original Series (Netflix)
Star Trek followed the adventures of the Starship Enterprise crew as they explored strange new worlds with different species. The series main cast featured William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, and DeForest Kelley as Leonard “Bones” McCoy. The original series aired for three seasons from 1966 to 1969, but spun six series and 13 feature films, including the 2009 reboot Star Trek movie and the recent Star Trek Picard.
Star Trek was one of the earliest space westerns and it helped make science fiction stories popular among the masses. Set far in the future, Star Trek’s stories and issues reflected the major problems that faced the nation at the time (and still do), like racism, sexism, and war. Star Trek became a global phenomenon that continues to find new audiences with the introduction of streaming platforms and with its various reincarnations. Star Trek is one of the most popular and influential series of all-time.
Stream it Here: All three seasons of the original Star Trek are available to stream on Netflix. (opens in new tab)
I Love Lucy (Hulu)
Lucile Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley star in I Love Lucy. The series follows Lucy as she gets involved in various schemes to the detriment of husband Ricky (Desi Arnaz). I Love Lucy ran from 1951 to 1957 for six seasons.
I Love Lucy has had a major impact on pop culture, with many modern television series parodying or drawing influence from the spirited sitcom. Lucile ball is a highly skilled physical comedian who often showed this talent throughout the series. I Love Lucy is a rare series that breaks time barriers by being funny in any decade.
Stream It Here: All six seasons of I Love Lucy are available to stream on Hulu (opens in new tab).
Family Ties (CBS All Access)
Family Ties reflected the cultural clash of parents and children. Steve (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter)’s political and moral liberal beliefs conflicted with their young Republican son Alex (Michael J. Fox), shallow daughter Mallory (Justine Bateman), and tomboy Jennifer (Tina Yothers). Family Ties aired from 1982 to 1989.
Family Ties mirrored the changing standards and ethics of generations, while taking a critical look at the flaws of consumerism and greed. Alex has very questionable morals and beliefs, but Michael J. Fox’s charm makes it hard not to like this character. Family Ties deals with the typical problems of every day Americans with a keen cleverness.
Stream It Here: All seven seasons of Family Ties are available to stream on CBS: All Access (opens in new tab).
The Twilight Zone (Netflix)
The Twilight Zone is an anthology series that features fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and horror stories. All these stories involve unexpected twists, and make observations or commentary about society.
The Twilight Zone is a genuinely creepy series that’s also very insightful and brilliant. The Twilight Zone may be an anthology created in the 1950s and the 1960s, but the stories still resonate with today’s audience, like the episode “Eye of the Beholder” shows the definition of beauty really depends on the company you keep. The evolving definition of beauty is still an important topic even in 2020.
Stream It Here: All five seasons of the original Twilight Zone are available to stream on Netflix (opens in new tab).
The Brady Bunch (Hulu)
The Brady Bunch is a series that follows a blended family consisting of a man with three sons and a woman with three daughters. Mike Brady (Robert Reed) meets and marries Carol Martin (Florence Henderson) and they become the Brady bunch.
The Brady Bunch is the true definition of a family comedy with the humor and comedic situations mainly coming from the children and their various kid problems, especially pertaining to their new blended family lifestyle. It’s a straightforward show with its own brand of clean comedy.
Stream It Here: All five seasons of the original Brady Bunch are available to stream on Hulu (opens in new tab).
The Mickey Mouse Club (Disney+)
The Mickey Mouse Club aired its original season from 1955 to 1958. It featured kids called Mousekeeters led by Jimmie Dodd. The kids performed various musical and dance numbers while also acting in educational shorts. The Mickey Mouse Club also featured Mickey Mouse animated shorts.
The Mickey Mouse Club is a great series for younger kids for its animated nature and lesson driven programming. The show also appeals to older generations who want to travel back to their childhood.
Stream It Here: The first season of The Mickey Mouse Club is available to stream on Disney+ (opens in new tab).
Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Netflix)
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a sketch comedy show created by the British comedy group Monty Python. The cast consists of John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin. Monty Python’s Flying Circus ran for four seasons.
The clever sketches that involve very absurd situations is what makes Monty Python’s Flying Circus so hilarious. Monty Python and their brand of humor isn’t for everyone, but if you love them, then this is a great series to watch for their unique and witty comedy.
Stream It Here: All four seasons of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is available to stream on Netflix (opens in new tab).
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Hulu)
The original Alfred Hitchcock Presents aired from 1962 to 1965. Alfred Hitchcock introduces each episode of the series and most episodes are under 30 minutes. The episodes revolve around tales of suspense, horror, and mystery.
Alfred Hitchcock proves why he’s the master of suspense with these curated collection of short stories. They satisfy dark drama cravings. Alfred Hitchcock Presents is a must-watch for suspense and Hitchcock fans, because it takes a simple concept and builds tension—something Hitchcock does effortlessly.
Stream It Here: The original four seasons of Alfred Hitchcock Presents are available to stream on Hulu (opens in new tab).
The Dick Van Dyke Show (Amazon Prime)
Dick Van Dyke plays Rob Petrie a television comedy writer. It mainly revolves around his work related problems and his home life with wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and son Riche (Larry Matthews). The Dick Van Dyke Show aired for five seasons from 1961 to 1966.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was a sophisticated comedy that dared to be different. One reason that the series worked so well was due to the exceptional talent and charisma of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. The Dick Van Dyke Show’s blend of physical comedy and smart writing makes it a show that still causes big laughter.
Stream It Here: Four out of five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show are available to stream on Amazon Prime. (opens in new tab)
And for those looking for a more "recent" classic, Roseanne centers on the Conner family led by Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan (John Goodman). The original series ran from 1988 to 1997, and then a continuation series began in 2018. After it was canceled the same year, a spin-off series The Conners began without Roseanne Barr.
The series dealt with the struggles of the Conner family and their blue-collar lifestyle with quick wit and a realistic approach to working class life. While other series created a glamorized version of the lower-middle class, Roseanne strived on its honest portrayals, leading to huge ratings and a devoted fan base.
Stream It Here: Eight of the original nine seasons of Roseanne are available to stream on Crackle.
Hopefully as more streaming services grow, our choices for great classic TV shows expand as well.
Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.
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