July 27, 2013
If Classic TV Shows Were Made For Today’s Premium Cable
It was Newton Norman Minow who, in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in 1961, called commercial TV a vast wasteland.
The truth is that he wasn’t entirely wrong. He was talking about TV — commercial TV — when there were just three networks and only a few independent TV stations. This was actually just five years after the “fourth” or “forgotten network,” known as DuMont, went off the air. By the 1970’s, however, TV improved greatly. Network TV had reached something of a second golden age.
In addition, PBS launched in 1970; but more importantly, the decade saw the arrival of paid TV channels and by the 1980’s there was the beginning of something for everyone. Today there is actually “too much” stuff on to watch, but fortunately the DVR makes it possible to spread out the good stuff throughout the week.
And all this had this TV junkie thinking: what would some classic TV shows be like if they were made for the likes of those paid-TV services. Given free reign for language, adult situations and, dare I suggest, even nudity, it would be interesting to envision how TV of old would look today.
All in the Family was already a game changer for network TV when it debuted on CBS in the early 1970’s. Its setting of a conservative versus liberal values could be seen as contemporary even today, but one major change would be that Archie would likely be able to call Mike far worse than “Meathead.”
Mary Tyler Moore, and its not-quite-a-spinoff Lou Grant actually have would look something a bit like HBO’s The Newsroom, tackling serious and not-quite serious issues.
Cheers was NBC’s smash hit that helped turn things around the network (for a time, anyway), and it would certainly have been something on HBO – for good or bad. It likely would have focused more on Sam’s exploits and one-night stands. While no doubt that might have attracted some eyeballs, whether this would have made the show better is left up to one’s imagination.
Seinfeld is a show that doesn’t really grow better with age. It was unique for what it did in the 1990’s as a “show about nothing,” but frankly FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia does live up to the concept of being “like Seinfeld on crack.” Yes, Always Sunny isn’t exactly on a premium cable channel, but maybe that isn’t a bad thing. This show has already dealt with characters faking cancer for profit, faking their own deaths and a classic episode with a dumpster baby. Taking this one any further would certainly not improve on it.
The Beverly Hillbillies was a hit on CBS in the 1960’s in the days before the edgier fare of All in the Family. And while it was remade as a lackluster movie in the 1990’s, this is one that likely would have been very interesting as a premium cable series on Starz. Then again, mocking those from the sticks is common in reality series, and bankers aren’t exactly thought of fondly today. Perhaps this show was actually ahead of its time!
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