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What Were Americans Watching On TV In 1968?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now, you may have noticed for the past year, we have been looking back at 1968. We've considered the politics, riots, marches and music of that pivotal moment in American history.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And since we were just talking with Eric Deggans about television in 2018, we thought we would take a look back at what people were watching in 1968, 50 years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Goldie, when you were in school, did you have a tough time with questions?

GOLDIE HAWN: No, but the answers were murder.

KELLY: Actress Goldie Hawn made a name for herself on NBC's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." A frenetic whirlwind of slapstick comedy sketches, it helped make comedian Lily Tomlin a star, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN")

LILY TOMLIN: (As Ernestine) One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy - oh, gracious, good afternoon.

SHAPIRO: NBC also had another top-10 program in 1968.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW")

DEAN MARTIN: (Singing) Everybody loves somebody sometime.

SHAPIRO: If you liked jokes about excessive social drinking, "The Dean Martin Show" was for you. It was something that's scarcely seen these days on TV - a variety program with a singing host, skits and celebrity guests. Fifty years ago, it was a tried and true formula, as were sitcoms.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HERE'S LUCY")

LUCILLE BALL: (As Lucy Carter) May the bird of paradise reward you with a drumstick.

KELLY: "Here's Lucy" - it was Lucille Ball's third sitcom for CBS. She was still a ditzy redhead who got herself into predicaments.

SHAPIRO: CBS also had three shows with a country flavor - this mountain-family-out-of-water sitcom with a memorable theme song...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BALLAD OF JED CLAMPETT")

LESTER FLATT: (Singing) Come, and listen to a story about a man named Jed, a poor mountaineer...

SHAPIRO: "...The Beverly Hillbillies."

KELLY: And then this, "Mayberry R.F.D."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MAYBERRY R.F.D.")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) We're from Mayberry.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) This is Goober Pyle.

KELLY: That would be Goober Pyle, Gomer's cousin, because Jim Nabors was starring in the other "Andy Griffith Show" spinoff - in the other "Andy Griffith" spinoff, "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C.")

JIM NABORS: (As Gomer Pyle) Me hobnobbing with colonels...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Gomer, you're not going to be a guest. You'll be a busboy.

NABORS: (As Gomer Pyle) Still, the folks back home will be real proud of me.

SHAPIRO: In 1968, TV Westerns from the previous decade remained popular. Americans dropped by the Cartwright ranch for "Bonanza"...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BONANZA")

SHAPIRO: ...Travelled to Dodge City to catch up with U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GUNSMOKE")

KELLY: Hearing this list, you might think 1968's television had nothing innovative to offer. You'd be wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JULIA")

DIAHANN CARROLL: (As Julia Baker) Mr. Colton told you.

LLOYD NOLAN: (As Dr. Chegley) Tell me what?

CARROLL: (As Julia Baker) I'm colored.

NOLAN: (As Dr. Chegley) What color are you?

CARROLL: (As Julia Baker) I'm a Negro.

NOLAN: (As Dr. Chegley) Have you always been a Negro, or are you just trying to be fashionable?

KELLY: The show "Julia" - it starred Diahann Carroll as a widowed mother and nurse.

SHAPIRO: She was the first African-American woman to star in a sitcom 50 years ago this year back when TV choices were few and most families had to settle on the program they all wanted to see and only at the time it was broadcast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.