Gilligan, drop those coconuts!
--Jonas "the Skipper" Grumby
In the 1960s, American tv viewed the rise in a certain type of sitcom, marked by silly, high concept premises, broad humour, and flat, iconic characters. Some media pundits refer to these shows as "idiot-coms." Generally savaged by critics, many were highly successful in their original runs, and some continue to do well in reruns. The exact reason for the widespread popularity of such shows remains unclear. They may have been a reaction to the grimness that dominated the news broadcasts of the era. Or they may have succeeded because they made a virtue out of something television does remarkably well: unadulterated, unapologetic dumbness.
Idiotcoms of note include:
Mister Ed (1961-1966): the adventures of a man and his talking horse.
The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971): a stereotypical Ozark family strikes it plum rich, loads up the truck, and moves to Beverley. Hills, that is.
Petticoat Junction (1963-1970): a widow with three beautiful daughters runs a rural inn still serviced by steam engines.
My Favourite Martian (1963-1966): a martian takes a room.
The Addams Family (1964-1966): a ghoulish family shares their bent perspective on life.
The Munsters (1964-1966): a family resembling Universal Studio's classic monsters live in suburbia.
Gilligan's Island (1964-1967): an impossible lot of castaways survive comfortably on an uncharted desert isle. The Über-idiotcom.
Bewitched (1964-1972): a witch marries a mundane mortal.
My Mother, the Car (1965-1966): a man's late mother is reincarnated as an antique car. Reputedly the worst sitcom in tv history.
I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970): an astronaut finds a female genii.
Green Acres 1965-1971: a man takes his high society wife back to the ol' Hooterville homestead.
The Flying Nun (1967-1970): a novice nun can fly.
Dusty's Trail (1973-1974): a wagon train containing clones of the Gilligan's Island cast gets lost.
The early 1970s saw the success of shows that could almost qualify as idiotcoms-- The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family-- but these had at least some connection with the real world. The 70s worked against such shows, at least in the early part of that decade; edgier fare such as All in the Family and M.A.S.H. set the new trend. Even when high concept resurged, more emphasis was put on round or, rather, rounder characterization than the older idiotcoms cared to deliver, and references were made to social issues.
Boobs remain well-represented on the Boob Tube, but the old idiotcoms have become a memory. We do dumbness differently these days.