Whatever Happened To Classic Network TV?

So here’s what prompted this piece — apparently, there are a lot of Farrah Fawcett fans out there.  I’ve gotten an unusually large number of hits on the blog in the last week, and a great number of them are being drawn here by google-searching images of the former Angel, leading them back to this article and to this image I used in the piece:

Ahhh .... memories

Ahhh .... memories

I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised that people are out there looking for pictures of Fawcett;  thirty years ago, however, it would have been a different story.  If the internet had been around back then, we would have all heard stories about how people searching the web for the image of this iconic pose by the superstar would have caused the net to implode — much like the stories we heard last year about New York Magazine’s website crashing after they ran pictures of their photo shoot with Lindsay Lohan posing topless.

You know you looked, so don't deny it

You know you clicked on the above link and looked, so don't deny it

But clearly, the lesson here is that, apparently, there’s still a lot of Fawcett fans out there, and thinking about her and the show that made her a household name, Charlie’s Angels, also got me to thinking about how much different the television landscape that turned her into a star was back then.

The television network TV Land has made its mark in broadcasting “classic” television shows, a large number of them having been mined from the television schedules from that time during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  But a look at what’s on the airwaves now — at least on the networks — makes me think that, when we look back at this era of TV viewing, there isn’t going to be a whole lot to remember fondly.  If you’re looking for high-quality programming, then you’re better off hitting the cable channels instead;  tomorrow’s classics have been increasingly found there, whether it’s recently ended shows like The Sopranos or Six Feet Under (both found on HBO), current hits like The Closer (TNT), or sleepers like Mad Men and Breaking Bad (AMC).

On the other hand, if you’re one of the small minority living with just network programming but still looking for quality viewing, then I feel for you.  The top-rated offerings from the networks last year seemed to have as many reality-based shows (American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, Survivor) as those that weren’t.  Does that mean there’s nothing to be found on the networks?  No — but the list of enjoyable, compelling programming is small, with some notable shows (House, Lost) as the exceptions to the rule.

The dearth of watchable network TV makes me look back fondly at what was available when I first got hooked on the tube.  A look at the TV schedule from 1976-1977 — the premiere season of Charlie’s Angels and with it, Farrah’s breakout role — reveals a huge number of shows that, thirty years later,  still hold up as classics of the small screen.

Looking for drama back in 1977?  A viewer had The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, or Starsky and Hutch to fill the void.  But those choices paled in comparison to the options available to lovers of comedy.  There was an All-Star lineup of classic comedies available then — The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Carol Burnett Show, All In The Family, M*A*S*H*, Barney Miller, Welcome Back, Kotter, Sanford & Son, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Maude, — and more.  Are there any comedies today that hold a candle to these powerhouses?  Maybe a couple — 30 Rock and The Office come to mind — but these are few and far between.

This is NOT one of those shows

This is NOT one of those shows

Of course, the relaxed standards of cable programming has made it easier for those channels to offer content that the networks won’t touch — but even that excuse seems weak, as the networks aren’t operating under older standards either.  I don’t think it’s a lack of freedom given to the networks that’s causing the problem;  rather, it’s a lack of creativity.  And sadly, if the last few years are any indication, there’s not going to be any change on the horizon — so get used to more “high-quality” programming like The Moment of Truth (and make sure to clear your schedule for the time you’ll need to take a shower to clean up after viewing).

Or, in the meantime, if you’re like me and expect better, then feel reassured that the other cable channels are picking up the slack.  And if that’s not sufficient, then that’s why they invented the DVD, right?

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2 Responses to “Whatever Happened To Classic Network TV?”

  1. sprentiss47 Says:

    Two words about your increased traffic…

    SEX SELLS!

  2. thelasthonestman Says:

    Tell me about it.

    So — does that mean my analysis of “1970’s porn stars vs. today’s porn stars” be that far behind? 😀

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