‘A Martian and Cousin Itt: The 1960s TV shows we grew up watching’

Nov 23, 2021
The Addams Family was a favourite of Julie's. Source: MGM / YouTube

Some things started 60 or so years ago, forming the influences that shaped the Baby Boomers. Early in television viewing, it was a world of black, white and grey. Boomer babes and boys were introduced to fantasy.

My first hint of science fiction was being glued to the first episodes of My Favourite Martian. To me, this appeared normal. A Martian had appeared on Earth in the usual way, a crashed spaceship. ‘Uncle Martin’ had special powers, which he disguised from everyday humans, except the man who sheltered him.

Our favourite Martian had travelled a long way to grow his antennae at inconvenient intervals, while he could read minds and levitate any time he chose. His human, ‘Tim’, and the Martian, had lots of unbelievable adventures in his time machine.

But we adored that show of fantasy powers. Just as we favoured I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. Chicks could do magic. My sisters and I thought that was a great idea, blink your eyes, wiggle a bit. The cooking and housework were done in a flash of magic. My mother did resemble Endora, mum to her future witchling daughters, but that might be rose-coloured glasses!

We can see now that these celluloid characters came from an alternate universe. We lived in our little suburb, quite ordinary. So we still do not know why we were hooked on Zorro. There we were, in our adobe haciendas, which were timber or brick sprawling dwellings, fully involved in the adventures of America’s wild west. A Spanish hero, riding his most appealing black stallion. He wielded his trusty sword, a rapier, teaching us what we did not know were lifehacks. Good guys are going to win!

Yabadabba doo! As if this was not life shaping, we were transfixed by the canine fur friends of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, where all of life’s dilemmas were solved in half an hour of learning to talk dog. Somehow, we came to understand what Lassie was on about. Okay, Boomers, we loved those childhood icons.

All this was prepping the Boomers for the special, but parallel, world of Cousin Itt. He was always my particular favourite actor in the kooky Addams Family. Maybe this shaped us to accept that every family has some slightly weird element, we just looked normal (or tried to).

Addams Family is still being replayed for nostalgic memories to new generations of viewers, especially on some cable channels. Cousin Itt was fascinating, living in his own little world, staying sometimes in his tiny attic bedroom.

This character shaped some Baby Boomers, to talk like him. Several times in the past, to amuse rug rats or some older children, I would tip my very long hair over my face, and wear my spectacles atop. I could even sound like Cousin Itt! I looked like someone’s favourite little alien. I was guaranteed to lighten up the afternoon. I guess we all need to laugh at ourselves in daily life.

To us, this type of fantasy did come from an alternate universe. The characters in such shows did shape our sense of the ridiculous. But Cousin Itt is still popular, appearing from an alternate universe, even today. Do we sound old, when we comment, “Ah, they don’t make shows like that any more …”? Well, hello there, we are ageing, and ‘our’ television shows are still replaying.

Did you watch any of these television shows? Did you have a favourite?

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