The Seventies

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.


There are two kinds of people in the world. The kind that can name, or at least picture, the two Darrens on Bewitched, and everybody else.

As it happens, there's a generational component to this, too. But what I really mean here is that there's a pretty fat slice of the American demographic that not only can picture the two Darrens, but for whom the whole question conjures up after-school reruns, peanut butter by the spoon, doing homework in front of Samantha and Ginger and Sergeant Schultz.

Either those names mean something to you or they don't. If they do, welcome to your forties.

If they don't, hey, nice tattoo.

(However: If you can name the two Darrens and you're old enough to remember the character Tattoo from Fantasy Island, and you also have a real tattoo, then maybe you need to come to grips with your age-inappropriate behavior.)

But for those of us who remember, even dimly, something called Battle of the Network Stars and the Regal Beagle, there's interesting news. It's all coming back.

Somewhere in the life cycle of the human mammal, somewhere between everyone in charge looking too old and everyone in charge looking too young, there's an alarming span of time when everyone in charge looks about your age.

In television, for me, anyway, that time is now. The big age-cohort that remembers a thing called afternoon reruns, anthology cop shows, brassy sitcoms, and miniseries, is, for the first time, programming television networks, buying pilots and series and if you pay attention, trying to recreate the network television business that they – I mean, we – grew up with.

It's never good news to discover that your generation, broadly speaking, is in charge of things. Especially if that generation spent its formative years watching Manimal and Just the Ten of Us and can name, if you give them enough time and a hint or two, the entire cast of a TV show called Fridays.

Writers, of course, have always been devoted watchers of all reruns, mostly for professional reasons: I've seen every brilliant episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show because in my artistic opinion, whenever you're stuck on a story or an episode, you can always steal something that works from the Dick Van Dyke Show.

So get ready for The A-Team, and Knight Rider, and anything else that the guys running the networks remember watching with a bowl of ice cream and a copy of Scholastic magazine's Dynamite around. Because people in the network television business – and I'm included in that group, I'm pretty sure, at least as of this morning – want to recreate what was on the box when we fell in love with it, when we watched Kotter or Richie Cunningham or Rockford or (I'm dating myself) Harvey Korman and thought to ourselves – that. I want that.

Nostalgia is almost always a bad sign – you can't recreate the past. Bringing TV shows from the 1970' and 1980's back to the prime-time schedule won't act like a crude time machine and restore the dwindling network television audience or, frankly, bring back the concept of "prime-time" at all.

But it's nice, sort of, that the people tasked with putting stuff on TV at least remember what it was like to love it, to love Bosley, to love Squiggy, to love Les Nessman, to know who Skippy and Mallory are.

If you're going to fix something, it helps to love it first. And that's a good thing. So maybe, as the network executives from my generation sit down to revive broadcast television, they'll, I don't know, set a course for adventure, their minds on a new romance. Maybe they'll come and knock on my door.

And that's it for this week. Next week, we'll play drunk. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long