On May 9, 1961, at the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters new FCC chairman Newton Minow delivered a scathing speech directed at the "procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western badmen, Western goodmen, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons, and, endlessly, commercials, many screaming, cajoling, and offending, and, most of all, boredom [...] Is there one network president in this room who claims he can't do better?" Minow called TV a "vast wasteland"; the phrase was picked up by the press and resulted in bad publicity for the networks and for the television industry as a whole. According to television historians Castleman and Podrazik (1982), the networks were in a bind, though: they had already purchased their fall 1961 programs and had locked in their 1961-62 schedules. "The best the networks could do was slot a few more public affairs shows, paint rosy pictures for 1962-63, and prepare to endure the barrage of criticism they felt certain would greet the new season."
New fall series are highlighted in bold. All times are Eastern and Pacific. The highest-rated show for the year is colored in gold, the second-highest appears in silver, and the third-highest in bronze. Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its (rank/rating) as determined by Nielsen Media Research.
|ABC||6:30 Walt Disney Presents||Maverick||Lawman (26/22.3)||The Rebel||The Islanders||The Valiant Years|
|CBS||Lassie||Dennis the Menace (11/26.1)||The Ed Sullivan Show (15/25.0)||General Electric Theater (20/23.4)||The Jack Benny Program (10/26.2)||Candid Camera (7/27.3)||What's My Line? (22/23.1)|
|NBC||Shirley Temple's Storybook||National Velvet||The Tab Hunter Show||The Dinah Shore Chevy Show||The Loretta Young Show||This Is Your Life|
Note: ABC aired the interim The Walter Winchell Show at 10:30 p.m. from early October until early November.
|ABC||Local||The Cheyenne Show (28/22.0) / Sugarfoot / Bronco||Surfside 6||Adventures in Paradise||Peter Gunn (29/21.9)|
|CBS||7:00 Local / 7:15 Douglas Edwards with the News||To Tell the Truth||Pete and Gladys||Bringing Up Buddy||The Danny Thomas Show (12/25.9)||The Andy Griffith Show (4/27.8)||Hennesey||Face the Nation|
|NBC||7:00 Local / 7:15 Huntley-Brinkley Report||Riverboat||Tales of Wells Fargo||Klondike||Dante||The Barbara Stanwyck Show||Jackpot Bowling starring Milton Berle|
Note: On CBS, Presidential Countdown aired as an interim series, 10:30–11 p.m. in September and October. In some areas, Douglas Edwards with the News and The Huntley-Brinkley Report aired at 6:45 p.m.
|ABC||Expedition!||The Bugs Bunny Show||The Rifleman (27/22.1)||The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp||Stagecoach West||Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond||Local|
|CBS||7:00 Local / 7:15 Douglas Edwards with the News||Local||Father Knows Best (repeats)||The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (23/23.0)||The Tom Ewell Show||The Red Skelton Show (19/24.0)||The Garry Moore Show (25/22.7)|
|NBC||7:00 Local / 7:15 Huntley-Brinkley Report||Laramie||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Thriller||Specials|
|ABC||Local||Hong Kong||The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet||Hawaiian Eye||Naked City|
|CBS||7:00 Local / 7:15 Douglas Edwards with the News||The Aquanauts||Wanted: Dead or Alive||My Sister Eileen||I've Got a Secret||Armstrong Circle Theatre / The United States Steel Hour|
|NBC||7:00 Local / 7:15 Huntley-Brinkley Report||Wagon Train (2/34.2)||The Price Is Right (8T/27.0)||Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall||Peter Loves Mary||Local|
|ABC||Local||Guestward, Ho!||The Donna Reed Show||The Real McCoys (5/27.7)||My Three Sons (13T/25.8)||The Untouchables (8T/27.0)||Take A Good Look|
|CBS||7:00 Local / 7:15 Douglas Edwards with the News||The Witness||Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater||Angel||The Ann Sothern Show||Person to Person||The DuPont Show with June Allyson|
|NBC||7:00 Local / 7:15 Huntley-Brinkley Report||Outlaws||Bat Masterson||Bachelor Father||The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford (24/22.9)||The Groucho Show*||Local|
* formerly You Bet Your Life
|ABC||Local||Matty's Funday Funnies||Harrigan and Son||The Flintstones (18/24.3)||77 Sunset Strip (13T/25.8)||The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor||The Law and Mr. Jones|
|CBS||7:00 Local / 7:15 Douglas Edwards with the News||Rawhide (6/27.5)||Route 66 (30/21.7)||Mr. Garlund||The Twilight Zone||Eyewitness to History|
|NBC||7:00 Local / 7:15 Huntley-Brinkley Report||Dan Raven||The Westerner||The Bell Telephone Hour / NBC News Specials||Michael Shayne|
|ABC||The Roaring 20s||Leave It to Beaver||The Lawrence Welk Show||10:00 The Fight of the Week / 10:45 Make That Spare|
|CBS||Perry Mason (16/24.9)||Checkmate (21/23.2)||Have Gun – Will Travel (3/30.9)||Gunsmoke (1/37.3)||Local|
|NBC||Bonanza (17/24.8)||The Tall Man||The Deputy||The Nation's Future||Local|
Note: On NBC, The Campaign and the Candidates aired as an interim series, 9:30–10:30 p.m., from mid-September to early November.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Castleman, Harry; Walter J. Podrazik (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 139–146. ISBN 0-07-010269-4.
- ↑ Highest-rated series is based on the annual top-rated programs list compiled by Nielsen Media Research and reported in: Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- ↑ http://www.classictvhits.com/tvratings/1960.htm
- Castleman, H. & Podrazik, W. (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. 314 pp.
- McNeil, Alex. Total Television. Fourth edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
- Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.