The 1960–61 United States network television schedule was for the period that began in September 1960 and ran through March 1961. On May 9, 1961, at the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters new Federal Communications Commission 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. Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its rank and rating as determined by Nielsen Media Research.
Yellow indicates the programs in the top 10 for the season. Cyan indicates the programs in the top 20 for the season. Magenta indicates the programs in the top 30 for the season.