Oh my gosh — “Will & Grace” and “Murphy Brown” returned! It’s “Must-See TV” all over again!
Uh, well, not really.
Funny how the phrase Must-See TV is thrown around so easily these days. The last time I can recall a major TV network offering a block of essential prime-time viewing was back in the day when shows like “Hill Street Blues,” “Cheers” and “Seinfeld” filled TV Guide.
But go back several decades and now you’re talking Must-See TV.
Just recall the days when your CBS prime-time lineup was filled with powerhouse shows like “All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” All in one night!
Or how about ABC’s solid prime-time block featuring “Happy Days, “Laverne & Shirley,” “Three’s Company,” and “Taxi.”
Heck, I’m guessing just hearing the opening theme from any one of these shows can immediately take you back to that era. That’s the kind of lasting impact these shows have made.
Where did the days of must-see TV programming go?
Nothing against the “Will & Grace” or “Murphy Brown” revivals (aka unnecessary reboots) – though I must admit, I was never a big fan of the shows in their original run – but must-see TV they’re not. Not when you put them up against any one of the prime-time offerings like the ones I mentioned.
These days it’s difficult to find someone under 30 who’s even seen some of TV’s most classic series. I was once discussing memorable TV Christmas episodes with someone and brought up the unforgettable and uncomfortably tense “All in the Family” episode – the one about Mike’s draft dodger friend (“The Draft Dodger”) – only to realize a few minutes into our discussion that the person not only had never heard of the episode, they didn’t know what “All in the Family” was! What?!?
“It was before my time”
That’s usually the response I get from people who’ve never seen a single episode of a particular classic show, and that’s assuming they’ve even heard of the show. (By the way, just to clarify, it’s not like I’m going around randomly asking people about this topic; my recollections are based on previous jobs I had that actually involved classic TV content.)
Many classic series began airing “before my time” as well, but I’m still well aware of them. Shows like “I Love Lucy,” “The Honeymooners” and “The Twilight Zone” were WAY before my time, but I guarantee they’d make my list of Greatest TV Shows. And I’m sure many would agree.
In other words: Must-See TV.
It shocked me at first when I realized so many “younger folks” hadn’t seen a single episode of some of these great shows, but I’ve come to realize it’s now pretty much the norm. It’s sad, but I get it. We’re talking about a different generation, one that has a lot more content to consume which is coming at them in all sorts of ways. Toss in other things like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, texting, selfies and any other content they’re creating and sharing among themselves, and who would have the time to watch and appreciate the intensity of an episode like “The Draft Dodger”; talk about what they found so funny about a clown named “Chuckles”; attempt to pronounce “Moo Goo Gai Pan” in their drunken way; or be shocked, saddened and left breathless when Henry Blake’s fate is revealed in one short, powerful scene?
They’re missing out on unforgettable TV moments that still hold their own.
When I catch an episode of “All in the Family” these days, I’m still amazed how some of the show’s dialogue made it on-air back then and believe a good chunk of it wouldn’t be allowed on network TV today.
Sure, for better or worse, there’s a bit of a nostalgic resurgence happening with TV favorites of the past: we’ve had “Fuller House,” the return of “Twin Peaks,” “Murphy Brown” is back soon as well as a new “Magnum P.I.,” and we can’t forget the “Roseanne” revival. (Well, we know how that turned out.) To each their own. And I have no doubt some genuinely welcomed a “Will & Grace” revival and feel it’s needed. But do these shows – or the majority of network programming these days – hold a candle to the classic shows of the past? There’s just no comparison.
The number of TV channels we have access to can no longer be counted on two hands. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some really good series that have come and gone since then. But phrases like “quality, not quantity” and “bigger doesn’t mean better” definitely ring true.
The same applies to the good ole days of late-night television. I much prefer it when you could turn on your TV to watch “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” so you can tune out the news of the day and simply have a laugh. Unfortunately, late-night TV these days doesn’t compare. TV networks also need to stop focusing on rebooting classic TV shows — they’ve “jumped the shark” and need to give reboots the boot!
So if given a choice – TV shows from the current era vs. from decades past – I know which option my nostalgic mind would choose. I think Archie and Edith sang it best: “Those were the days….”
If you’d love to revisit some of these classic, iconic series or share them with someone else who might never have seen them (hard to believe, I know), it’s never too late to discover – or rediscover! – them!