LB: Old TV Shows are Being Rediscovered by New Viewers – Yikes!

Cannon_William_Conrad_TV_Intro_1971

Well, well, what do you know? According to the New York Post, “older shows are seeing renewed popularity among a new generation of viewers, who learn about the shows via social media, because they feature well-known actors or directors, or are discovered simply by scrolling through Hulu or Netflix.”

According to the Post:

Maria Claudia Sanchez wasn’t even born when “Twin Peaks” originally aired on ABC — but it’s one of her favorite shows.

Even though it was from the ’90s, it doesn’t look dated, because it’s just so interesting,” says Sanchez, 17, of Weehawken, NJ. She says she recently watched the series with her mother on Netflix — where she has also discovered shows like “Freaks and Geeks,” “Undeclared” and “Doctor Who.” “It’s easier to watch [on Netflix] than record something on TV and make the time to watch it.

Now I’ve gotta admit. This really made me smile. A new generation – my grandchildren’s generation – seeing shows I wrote, like CANNON (that’s the star,  Bill Conrad, above), BARNABY JONES, POLICE WOMAN, POLICE STORY, IRONSIDE, MEDICAL CENTER, MEDICAL STORY, THE BOLD ONES, THE FALL GUY, MIKE HAMMER, MAN UNDERCOVER, WALKER TEXAS RANGER, HAWAII FIVE-0, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, and even more.

Now theywould understand what I did all day and night all those years. Now they would appreciate the talent and effort of the Old Brode. Life doesn’t get any better than this, right?

But then I watched a few old episodes…and my happy fantasy started corroding.

After all, those shows, from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and even ’90s are a whole different thing from most episodic shows today. For the most part, instead of featuring the titular heroes, they’re really about the villains, with the guest stars getting as much air time as the recurring stars, and sometimes even more.

And the talk! The characters in 20th Century television have this habit of yakking, yakking, yakking. Confiding their hopes and dreams, planning their diabolical crimes, declaring their love, avowing their principles. No one on TV does that anymore. They just exchange significant looks and we all know what they mean.

Visually everything’s different too. The colors are brighter. A huge majority of the scenes take place during the day. And instead of just popping from place to place, the characters would actually get into their cars and drive there…and we see the drive-aways and the drive-ups as well.

And then there’s the establishing shots, to make sure the audience knew where everyone was…

As I think about all this it strikes me that while I think some of what we did back then was “better” than the way things are done today (all those causes, for example, lost and otherwise), a lot more of it was a hell of a lot worse. Way too much time was spent underestimating the intelligence, attention spans, and equipment of the audience.

And even more time was spent bending over backwards to not offend anyone. About anything. I can’t think of one TV episode I ever wrote – or produced, for that matter – that had anything resembling a sex scene. And it was a huge breakthrough in the early ’70s when POLICE STORY actually showed one of its heroes cohabiting a bed with a woman who wasn’t his wife. And he doesn’t burn in hell for it or anything! (Man, did we have to fight for that one.)

What if my shows can’t pass the tst of time? What if my grandkids don’t like what they see? What if they can’t even bring themselves to sit through more than the credits?

What if I go from being the highly respected and slightly serious Old Crank I am today to just another airhead who’s nowhere near as hot as he thinks?

Curse you, Netflix!

Damn you, Hulu!

What happened to “here today, gone tomorrow?” This stuff wasn’t made to stick around.

I’m more insecure about my old output now than I was back in the day.

See what you all have to look forward to when your careers catch on?

4 thoughts on “LB: Old TV Shows are Being Rediscovered by New Viewers – Yikes!

  1. geraldsanford says:

    Yes, Lawrence, there is a God! gs

  2. geraldsanford says:

    Interesting — including the “YAPPING”. And yet, that was the time of long-winded-beating-around-the-bush-real-life-fantasy! Would you want anything more from Kildaire, Erskin, Massey, Brody and Sanford? However, here’s the difference. And I speak for you as well as myself. “What we wrote then was merely a stepping-stone of what we wanted to write later.” I gave up a very lucrative career at QM to go back to NY to write plays. Of course, upon leaving Quinn gave me 5 episodes to write if things didn’t go the way I wanted. I was also accompanied by a beautiful young lady still in her teens. And had the $$$ to rent an apartment 38 floors up, and overlooking the East River. Brody, my man, we’re writers! Say what you will but we’ve no choice of choosing what we right than what we left in our wake! Damn, life’s great! gs

  3. I think you are being much too hard on yourself. The overriding thing that captures a viewer is the narrative. Is it compelling? Is it set up well between the protagonist and the antagonist? Does the tension keep one engaged? Does it resolve itself in a satisfying way.

    Every era will have superficial influences on how that narrative is shown, but that is just a stylistic frame. Viewers understand this, and it can even prove fun to commune with a story through these different frames. It’s like a suspension of belief — as long as the internal narrative is consistent to its world, we can adopt the sight-lines whether it’s the stagey over-dramatization of a silent film or a wordy melodrama from the 40’s or the fourth wall POV of most television sets in the 50’s and early 60’s or the zoom intensive period of the early 70’s. It is all stylistic and is just part of the frame of the given time period.

    Believe me, one day the shaky, manneristic handheld close-ups and the colorist intensified shots and the endless crush of today’s cliches – tortured abductees, zombies, and mf’ing gangsta drug flicks will soon make themselves visible as belonging to a particular time and place. They will be the 80’s big hair of their generation, but it won’t matter. It won’t matter when some kid calls it up on the holographic display of his brain implant in 2050 because he will jump into the frame and love the story for what it is. The good ones will stand out as metaphors that can still speak to the soul, and the rest will fade into the background. Just as they always have.

  4. geraldsanford says:

    And that’s exactly what I was trying to say, S.D! Only you said it better. Look, it’s simple, “Good writers” write to TELL a story, their story, the way they see it parked in front of their type-machine, the way they want it to be. “Not so Good Writers” write to SELL their story “WHATEVER ROAD IT TAKES”.
    Thou think’est “HAMLET should be’th a TALKING DOG?” Yeah, I could do that. Wm. S.

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