If we need proof that the TV shows we grew up with were great, look no further than the fact that they’re still popular today.
We consume Leave It To Beaver, Perry Mason, The Rockford Files, Happy Days, and many others, at a rate much higher than we ever could when they originally aired.
Until fairly recently, we had to wait until a new episode aired. Most shows were a weekly series, but shows such as Columbo, McCloud, and McMillan and Wife only aired a few times a year.
Today, you could binge-watch all 69 Columbo episodes in a weekend on a streaming service. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
There’s a comfort that comes from viewing 50-year-old episodes, but It’s more than that. At the risk of sounding like my father: Things were better back then.
During the rare time when I’m not doing something that I have to do, or during the wee hours of the morning when sleep eludes, I watch television. My wife says too much.
I’m not alone.
A.C. Nielsen Company has measured TV viewing for decades. Their published data says the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. That’s 28 hours a week, or two months a year.
During a 65-year life, 9 of those years will be spent watching TV.
Some will be horrified to read that last sentence, but I believe that used correctly, television is as beneficial as reading, exercise, and Blue Bell.
The intellectuals would say that if you aren’t watching NOVA on PBS, you’re wasting your time.
I bet the folks who make this claim take off their ascots and smoking jackets and watch Hogan’s Heroes when they’re alone.
The numbers don’t lie.
MeTV, a cable network that’s also available on local broadcast channels, shows programming from the 1950s through the 2000s.
Almost 30 million Americans a week watch MeTV. To give you an idea how big of an audience that is, MeTV is right up there behind networks such as FOX News and HGTV.
Of course MeTV didn’t stumble upon the idea of showing our favorite TV shows from yesteryear. That idea is nothing new.
In the 1970s, Ted Turner took the low-powered WTCG in Atlanta (later WTBS and now TBS) and began showing old shows. He struck a deal to share most of the programming on a national level via satellite and cable.
Other channels also used the idea with success, including TV Land.
But MeTV seems to be the current top dog when it comes to providing the old shows we love. For me, the reason is it’s free.
I can watch it on an antenna. With an antenna DVR, I can record my favorites and watch them during bouts of insomnia.
It’s nice to have the cast of Andy Griffith join me during sleepless nights.
Maybe that’s why watching the old shows is big business for TV networks. There’s a comfort we all feel from viewing these vintage videos that we can’t get from life.
They solve a simple problem in a half hour. Who Wally should take to the dance, or how Andy and Barney can pretend to like Aunt Bea’s pickles without eating them, is a level of crisis with which we’re comfortable. Much more digestible than the real world problems that are just outside our doors.
I never tire of watching the old programs, especially The Andy Griffith Show. Mayberry is a town I’d sell everything to move to.
But I don’t have to do that. With the click of a button, I can sit on the front porch after supper with Andy and Barney. Or at 2 in the morning.
And in the process, I’ll be working towards my 9 years of TV viewing I have to get in before age 65.
©2021 John Moore
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast