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Mrs. Maisel Enters the 60s: Nine Other Period Series to Set the Mood

TV can’t get enough of the swinging sixties — with this batting average, it’s not hard to see why.
  • Photos: Prime Video, AMC, Netflix, Showtime.
    Photos: Prime Video, AMC, Netflix, Showtime.

    Feisty, quick-witted, and hilarious, our favorite fictional lady comic is beginning a new decade when The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns to Amazon Prime Video for its fourth season on February 18th.

    The critically-acclaimed series has amassed quite the trophy room over its three-season run to date, including an Emmy and two Golden Globes for Rachel Brosnahan, who plays the title character Midge Maisel. Warming hearts and inducing laughter, the story follows the '50s housewife who, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, discovers that she has an incredible knack for stand-up comedy. Her novice manager Susie, played by Alex Borstein (who picked up two Emmys herself for the role) is determined to make Midge a star – at any cost. It proves not to be easy, however, at time when most women of child-bearing age are tending to their families at home, and in an industry that is, by and large, dominated by men.

    Season 4 picks up in 1960, which promises to add a new wrinkle into the show as Midge and crew enter the era of social revolution and pivotal moments like the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the Space Race. It's no surprise so many series have focused on this decade, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will be joining the ranks of some pretty spectacular shows.

    Mad Men

    1960-1970
    Streaming on AMC+ and IMdB TV

    It's unusual for a show to be solid through its entire run, but such was the case with Mad Men, which rewarded its viewers with some of the most memorable characters (and storylines) in TV history. One of the things that made the series so engaging was that it stayed true to its era as it portrayed life in and around the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency, from the changing roles of women in the workplace, to the indulgent drinking and smoking at the office. Print ad campaigns back then relied on catchy hooks and taglines, with imagery that not only drew readers in, but sufficiently explained the concept of products that were completely new, from pantyhose to the Kodak Carousel. From the period costumes to the suave, arrogant businessmen, and the flowing Old Fashioneds, the show is a beautiful representation of a business – and a time - that so different from what it is today.

    Queen's Gambit

    1958-1968
    Streaming on Netflix

    It's impossible not to be mesmerized by Anya Taylor-Joy's performance as fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon. You don't need to like chess (or even know how to play it) to enjoy this series. The coming-of-age drama highlights just how much strategy is involved in the classic game at its highest levels, while also touching on mental illness and drug & alcohol abuse. Throughout, the show stays true to its time period as fashion, attitudes, and world news are interweaved with the story.

    Masters of Sex

    1956-1969
    Available for rental only

    Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan portray researchers of human sexuality in the '50s and '60s while navigating their own complicated relationship. Loosely based on the biography of the same name by Thomas Maier, the show has been lauded for its attention to period detail, including some of the more arcane sexual devices of the era. Portraying a time when talking about sex openly was taboo, Masters of Sex tackles topics like homosexuality, vintage vibrators, and even condoms, in a way that authentically captures the period.

    American Dreams

    1963-1966
    DVD only

    Airing in the early 2000s, American Dreams was set in the mid-'60s and conjures up fond memories for anyone who was a teenager at that time. Meg Pryor (Brittany Snow) auditions to be a dancer on one of the defining shows of the 20th Century: Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Fans were drawn to the way the show used modern-day musicians to play popular ones from that era (many who actually did perform on American Bandstand), like Kelly Clarkson as Brenda Lee and Ashanti as Dionne Warwick. Alongside the main story, the show brings more realism to the time period through the integration of pivotal events from the '60s, like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 1964 Philadelphia race riot, and the Vietnam War.

    Pan Am

    1963
    Streaming AMC+

    Although it only lasted a single season, Pan Am harkened back to the halcyon days of air travel, when aisles were spacious, leg room was the norm, meals were decent, and flying felt like an elite experience. The show’s star-studded cast included Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie, and Michael Mosley as members of the flight crew aboard the Pan American World Airways during the Jet Age, when turbine engines brought significant changes in air travel. For those who traveled by plane back in the '60s, it provides a nostalgic look at not only air travel but also feminist ideals, and political history. One aspect of Pan Am that was not true to life is that while smoking on airplanes was the norm in 1963, passengers are never seen lighting up on the show, a decision made by Disney ABC.

    Godfather of Harlem

    1964
    Streaming on Hulu, Epix

    A dramatic look at the darker side of the '60s, Godfather of Harlem is a re-telling of the story of Black gangster Bumpy Johnson, played by Academy award winner Forest Whitaker. Johnson was released from prison in the early 1960s only to return to a neighborhood in New York City that had completely changed. The Italian mob had taken over, so Johnson teamed up with Muslim minister Malcolm X to regain power.

    An entertaining drama based in historical fact, Godfather of Harlem is packed with references to the mob war and its many real-life players. The strong supporting cast includes Vincent D'Onofrio as Genovese family mobster Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Paul Sorvino as Luciano crime boss Frank Costello, and Giancarlo Esposito as Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the Baptist pastor and politician representing Harlem at the time.

    11.22.63

    1960-1963
    Streaming on Hulu

    The title of this sci-fi thriller miniseries, based on the Stephen King novel 11/23/63 and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, is instantly recognizable to many as the date of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Unlike others on this list, however, the story is technically set in the present, with the main character traveling back in time. Jake Epping (James Franco, who also serves as a producer) is given the opportunity to go back to that fateful day in order to prevent the tragic event from occurring. But while gathering information to change the course of events, he becomes enamored with the time period and his new life, threatening the mission.

    The Astronaut Wives Club

    1959-1963
    rental only

    Before The Handmaid's Tale, Yvonne Strahovski appeared in this period drama about the wives of the first group of astronauts in the U.S., known as the Mercury Seven. Based on the Lily Koppel novel of the same name, the show depicts a different aspect of the '60s, from the perspective of the women behind the scenes, tending to the homes on their own while their husbands were doing dangerous work.

    Crime Story

    1963-1964
    Peacock, PlutoTV

    At the time Crime Story originally aired back in the late '80s, the '60s weren't so far in the distance. Nonetheless, a lot had changed in the two decades between, and this show captured that beautifully. Dennis Farina and Anthony Denison starred as Lieutenant Mike Torello and mobster Ray Luca, respectively, who were obsessed with taking one another down. With the backdrop of Las Vegas and mob crime, it was an interesting look at the darker side of the decade. The theme song, Del Shannon's hit song "Runaway," screams ‘60s, while the list of guest actors who went on to become big stars, like Julia Roberts, David Caruso, and Gary Sinise, makes it a fun re-watch.

    The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returns to Amazon Prime Video for its fourth season on Friday, February 18th.

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    Christine Persaud has been writing for close to two decades and freelancing for the last eight, with her entertainment work featured in Digital Trends, Screen Rant, Reviewed Canada, and others. Follow her on Twitter @christineTechCA.

    TOPICS: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, 11.22.63, American Dreams, The Astronaut Wives Club, Crime Story, Godfather of Harlem, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, Pan Am, The Queen's Gambit