Thursday, 27 December 2007

What is Going on with TV Land?

I have written here before about how I feel cable television has gone down hill. A&E was once the home of arts and entertainment and quality programming from the best of American and British television. These days it is the home of reality shows and reruns of CSI. TLC (once better known as The Learning Channel) was once sort of a cross between the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, then it was overwhelmed by home makeover shows. Through all of this, one cable channel remained untouched, one cable channel remained true to its original vision. That channel was TV Land. Sadly, it seems that could be changing.

TV Land was founded in 1996 as a spinoff of Nickelodeon's Nick at Nite programming block--the night time hours when Nickelodeon shows classic TV series. Quite naturally, then, TV Land has primarily showed classic television shows, from I Love Lucy to Bonanza. Unfortunately, it appears that this has changed. Recently, TV Land has decided to shed the label of "Classic TV" and to target Baby Boomers instead. Now on the surface I would see nothing wrong with that. Indeed, given the series TV Land has shown over the past eleven years, it can be argued that they have been targeting Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers all along. After all, I Love Lucy, Leave It to Beaver, The Adventures of Superman, and Burns and Allen all aired while Baby Boomers were still young. Star Trek, Bonanza, The Addams Family, and M*A*S*H were all shows that older Gen Xers grew up with. Unfortunately, TV Land apparently thinks classic TV shows are not enough to draw in Baby Boomers or older Gen Xers.

Indeed, the first sign of this change I noticed was when TV Land started showing Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Now Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is not the sort of television series I would watch. That having been said, I have nothing against the show and, in fact, I think it is altogether an admirable idea (improving the homes of those who can't afford to improve their homes). But I do not think it should air on TV Land. To me TV Land should remain the home of Classic TV, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has not been around long enough to be considered Classic TV.

I have the same objections to TV Land's acquisitions of Just Shoot Me and Scrubs, both scheduled to air on the channel in 2008. Now I love Scrubs. It is one of the funnier shows on the air right now. That having been said, it has not been around long enough to be considered a classic. In fact, it is only in its sixth season. Although it may achieve classic status one day, it will be several years before that is the case. As to Just Shoot Me, that show is a slightly different case from Scrubs. The show is ten years old. I could see how some people could argue that is sufficient time to determine if a show is a classic or not. Personally, I would say that ten or fifteen years would be a better test of whether a show is a classic or not. This is besides the point, however, as I think fifty years could pass and Just Shoot Me would not ever be considered a classic. When Just Shoot Me debuted, it received a critical lambasting. And while it did well in its ratings for the majority of its run, it was never a water cooler show. I never heard anyone talking about "last night's episode of Just Shoot Me." In fact, the media and viewers alike barely acknowledged that the show was on. I suspect the only reason Just Shoot Me survived was NBC's insistence on scheduling it Tuesday and Thursday nights, alongside such popular shows as Friends and Fraiser. Quite simply, it survived only by riding on the coattails of more popular TV series. Proof that the show was not particularly popular can be seen in the fact that Just Shoot Me had a very bad syndication run. In fact, it seems to me that it pretty much disappeared after NBC cancelled it. This is hardly the sort of show TVLand should be showing.

Ultimately, of course, I suppose that "Classic TV" is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps there are those out there who do believe that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Scrubs, and Just Shoot Me (although I'd find that hard to believe...) are "Classic TV." That argument cannot possibly be made for a reality show that will soon air on TV Land entitled High School Reunion. The show follows a high school class that graduated in 1987. That's right. It is the sort of reality show one would expect to see on A&E, TLC, or the broadcast networks. It is not the sort of thing one would expect to see on TV Land. In fact, speaking for myself, I don't want to see it on TV Land. Beyond the fact that it cannot be considered "Classic TV," I have trouble seeing the rationale for High School Reunion in light of TV Land's shift from "Classic TV" to programming for Baby Boomers. Quite simply, it centres on a high school class that graduated in 1987. Even given the broadest definition of "Baby Boomer," anyone who graduated in 1987 would still belong to Generation X. I can't see Baby Boomers being interested in being interested in what a bunch of "kids" have done since their high school graduation. Heck, I am a Gen Xer and I wouldn't be interested in what other Gen Xers have done since they graduated...

In TV Land's defence, it should be pointed out that the vast majority of their programming is still "Classic TV." They are still airing shows such as Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show, The Addams Family, and Star Trek. And for 2008 they have acquired the rights to show The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan's Heroes, and Murphy Brown. Reality shows and TV series of more recent vintage have not overwhelmed TV Land by any stretch of the imagination. That having been said, I do think TV Land's fans have reason to worry. Let's face it, A&E was transformed from an Arts and Entertainment channel into the home of reality shows. MTV was once truly Music Television--now a better name for it would be Reality TV Show Television. It is not wholly inconceivable that TV Land could go down the path that other cable channels have.

Of course, I guess many might ask why it is important for TV Land to remain the home of Classic TV. The reason to me is quite simple. The vast majority of cable channels out there ceased showing older TV shows long ago. With the exception of the ubiquitous Law and Order, most cable channels show no TV shows older than ten or fifteen years old. In fact, the only cable channel that shows any amount of classic television shows besides TV Land is AmericanLife TV, which is not available on many cable systems. There is still a large audience out there for classic television shows. There are still fans out there eager to watch shows such as Gilligan's Island, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Dragnet. And not all of them are old farts like me. My number two best friend is a huge fan of M*A*S*H, among other old shows, even though it went off the air the year she was born. If TV Land were to go the way of A&E and MTV, then it would leave fans of classic television with virtually no outlet for classic shows beyond DVDs (which can get expensive after a while). It is for that reason I believe that TV Land should remain dedicated to classic TV shows. And they should not air any more reality shows, not unless in twenty years Survivor is deemed "Classic TV...."

8 comments:

J. Marquis said...

Maybe as the huge number of Baby Boomers enter retirement there will be enough market space for yet another network of classic tv shows...after all, that will be a lot of folks with a lot of hours to fill.

Toby said...

It's the movies they show that bug me. If they needed to fill a block of time with movies, why not the old Movies of the Week that ABC used to churn out weekly? There were some real classics in there, as well as mindless dreck. But even those might still be good for a nostalgic laugh.

But 'Thelma & Louise'? 'White Men Can't Jump'? What do these films have to do with Classic Tv?

Mercurie said...

j.: It's certainly possible that another classic TV channel could arise. The first batch of Boomers will reach retirement age in 2009. And, as far as I know, the Boomers still compose the majority of the American population.

toby: The movies bug me, too. I don't think I would have a problem if they were old ABC Movies of the Week. For that matter, I wouldn't have a problem if they were the sort of thing you might see on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies or the CBS Friday Night Movie in the Sixties and Seventies--Jason and the Argonauts, Pillow Talk, Planet of the Apes, that sort of thing. But Thelma and Louise and White Men Can't Jump are far too recent for that.

J. Marquis said...

There were some great ABC movies of the week...Duel, Crowhaven Farm, Tribes, The Night Stalker...

Mercurie said...

Yes, they had some really good Movies of the Week. I loved Duel and both Night Stalker and its sequel Night Strangler. Instead of showing the movies they have been showing, they could have a "TV Land Movie of the Week..."

Mercurie said...

Oh, I also forgot some other ABC Movies of the Week that were pretty good--The Over the Hill Gang, Outrage, and Satan's School for Girls (okay, that one wasn't very good, but it worked as prime example of camp).

d. chedwick bryant said...

I noticed the shift to crud too-- I used to be able to depend on these channels for a certain kind of programming.

Toby said...

Here's a couple I always bring up when the TV Movie of the Week topic comes up: "Seven In Darkness", "A Little Game", "Wake Me When The War Is Over", "Carter's Army", "Trilogy of Terror", and "But I Don't Want To Get Married" (fluff, that one, but a fun cast).