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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I Want My 'M' TV: A Cry for Return of 'Must-See' TV

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Reading the March 2013 "Reality Stinks" manifesto on this site in preparation for this essay that laments the television industry abandoning "kinder and gentler" sitcoms shows both that that year seems to be the early stage of this decline and that the future does not require shielding your eyes, let alone wearing shades. They not only do not make 'em like they used to but are not even trying.

This theme will continue in a series of posts that are expected to end with a (not-so-surprising) announcement in May 2015. One spoiler is that nothing that is unreal can be expected to last forever or to beat the odds. Happier ways of thinking of such things are that they are unreal while they last and that reviewing/collecting TV and movie DVD releases for nine years allows amassing enough sets for two lifetimes.

Another way of evaluating this is "Warner? I don't see why I must."

The title of the current post refers to NBC recently fully abandoning its 30-year history of airing sitcoms in the Thursday night 8:00 - 10:00 p.m. slot. Watching particularly strong series (such as "The Cosby Show" (yeah, I know), "Family Ties," "Cheers," and "Friends") in the 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. slots and sandwiching lesser-known offerings (such as "The Single Guy") in the others was always a treat.

Further, those were the days in which we cared about the characters. An amusing memory from college relates to watching "Cheers" at a very low volume on a 12-inch black-and-white set with rabbit ears while the best roommate ever studied for a final.

An involuntary remark regarding the Sam and Diane related build up to the "Cheers" second-season cliffhanger prompted said roomie to say "turn it (the television) around" and to watch the episode with me. Of course, we watched the show that followed as well. (Yeah, he failed the final. Sorry Jay from Copagoppie (a.k.a. Copiague), NY.)

As an aside, the aforementioned fictional bartender and reluctant waitress introduced the "will they or won't they" concept to the television viewing public. Other pop culture contributions from these series include the "Rachel" hairstyle and the concept of "a break" from "Friends" and numerous "Seinfeld" sayings that include "yada yada" and "you gotta see the baby."

A more recent memory involves going to numerous stores to find enough Tweety Bird pez dispensers to serve at a "Seinfeld" finale party that also featured Junior Mints.

NBC breaking with tradition come on the heels of former "Tiffany" network CBS long ago abandoning a similar strategy regarding its Monday night lineup; an example of this is placing the unduly maligned "The Popcorn Kid" in the 8:30 slot on one schedule.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Kid" pilot allows checking out the '80stastic fun for yourself. One warning is that the theme song is uber-catchy.

Although maintaining the two-hour comedy block, CBS placing the raunchy "How I Met Your Mother" in the "family hour" 8:00 p.m. slot in the early 2000s clearly signaled the end of an era on that network.

This is not to mention ABC not maintaining its '70s and '80s tradition of mostly strong sitcoms through 9:30 and capping them off with often unwatchable failedcoms. Anyone else remember the 1985 series "Hail to the Chief," which IMDb indicates still has a chance of coming back?

One point to all this is that (despite any extreme threats to the physical or fiscal integrity of the homeland) the national mood seemed higher when we had "unreal" TV to which we could look forward to watching and the level of divisiveness and overall adversarial hostility was much lower. It is difficult to imagine anyone reminiscing about the winner of the current round of "American Idol" 20 years from now or even remembering much about the recent finale of "Two and A Half Men."

Anyone with any thoughts regarding the thoughts expressed here (or who is looking to either a hire a veteran critic or to purchase 600 DVD reviews) is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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