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Turning Off TVLand
March 10, 2009 - John Whittaker
By the middle of this year, TV Land will spend half of prime time on original programming.
A channel dedicated to AIRING THE BEST OF OLD SHOWS will be showing its own crappy shows instead of classics. And, I should mention it was doing a lousy job of showing all the good classics as it was.
I mean, seriously, when was the last time you found One Day At A Time, Webster, Bosom Buddies, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Head of the Class, Mr. Belvedere, Night Court, My Two Dads, Perfect Strangers, Silver Spoons or Doogie Howser on TV regularly?
If you're in the classic TV business, shouldn't those shows be in your wheelhouse? In addition to showing the same 10 shows continuously, TV Land has missed the boat by not showing these and other classics in regular time slots. There is no rhyme or reason to how a show is on. Hence, viewers can't find their favorite show if it's not the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show.
According to Brian Stelter's blog on www.nytimes.com, TV Land is going to be showing programs like "The Cougar,' a show by the executive producer of "The Bachelor.' In it, TV Land says, "eligible young men vie for the attention of a sexy and accomplished mature woman.'
The channel's pilots include "First Love/Second Chance,' featuring long-lost sweethearts; "What's in the Box,' a 20-questions game show; "Make My Day,' a hidden camera show; and "I've Got Your Number,' based on a British show that "proves the theory that there is a 76 percent chance that you already have the number of the person you're going to marry in your cell phone.'
Other pilots are "How Rich Are You,' about the lives of millionaires; "Now or Never,' about empty nesters; and "Boomerangers,' about young adults who live at home with their parents.
Just what we need - 30 more crappy reality TV shows in place of classic shows that hold up incredibly well.
When I'm running my own TV network, there won't be any crappy reality TV shows. Let's face it. Reality television has jumped the shark. Only three shows ever did it well anyway -- Survivor, American Idol (which I hate, by the way, but to which I give all props for drawing a ton of viewers) and the original few Real Worlds.
Have you ever watched some of the new, crappy, low-budget reality shows? They're horrible and completely unwatchable. They're car wrecks. I'd rather watch the same three Family Guy episodes on an endless loop than most of that mindless drivel -- which is a step up from what TV Land is proposing, by the way.
In a perfect world, here are five shows I'd love to see featured, one at a time, five nights a week, on TV Land, if the people who ran that station were still alive. Please note that this list doesn't include shows that you can find on stations throughout the week, hence no Family Guy, Seinfeld, WKRP in Cincinnati or All in the Family.
1. Head of the Class. I loved this show when it was on, probably for two reasons. You know Howard Hesseman (better known as Dr. Johnny Fever from WKRP) was being paid in either weed or beer; and it launched the career of Robin Givens. The show had a five-year, 114 episode run, which means you could run the entire series, maybe two episodes a night for one night a week, for a year before you had to find another show.
2. Doogie Howser, MD. Another of my childhood favorites. Neil Patrick Harris is hillarious on How I Met Your Mother, but he showed some acting chops on Doogie, the story of a whiz-kid 15-year-old doctor in Los Angeles. Doogie only lasted four years and 97 episodes, but if you started from the beginning of the series and ran it just like its original TV run, you could get four years out of it. This was one of my favorite shows when it was on. Max Casella, who played Doogie's best friend, Vinnie, had a hillariously bad accent that cracks me up to this day.
3. Family Ties. Family Ties had an unbeliveable cast -- can you go wrong with a show featuring Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney as the parents or Michael J. Fox and Justine Bateman as the teen-agers? Even Courtney Cox made a two-year appearance near the end of the show's run. The fact this show isn't on any regular TV station now is abominable. Someone should have their head examined. The best part is, since Family Ties lasted seven seasons and 180 shows, you could throw this one on for years and never worry about programming for one of our time slots.
4. The Muppet Show. How can the Muppet Show never be on TV during the day, when kids are home and otherwise filling their heads with CRAP! Which would you rather your child stumble upon while flipping the remote control during the day - Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, or the jerks who populate the Jerry Springer show? That's what I thought. I know it's 30 years old, but the jokes still hold up. While we're at it, bring back the Muppet Babies and Sesame Street, too. The best part - you have five seasons and 120 episodes to choose from, with incredible guest stars.
5. Charles in Charge. I know, I know. Scott Baio can't act his way our of a paper bag, and his reality TV show on VH1 has pretty much left him a parody of himself by now. Can you imagine Scotty B. as a chick magnet? Really? Does he have the looks to be that big a prick to women and still have women flocking to him? I should have been a child actor. I don't' mean to get off on a rant here, but … I digress. There was enough funny stuff on Charles in Charge to look past Scott Baio's inability to act. Willie Ames was well cast as the well-meaning but stupid best friend, Ellen Travolta was hillarious as Charles' mother, and the kids (Nicole Eggert before she went on Baywatch, Josie Davis and Alexander Polinsky) were pretty good, too. Plus, the show was decently written and had enough laughs not to be boring. I think our lives would be a little better if Charles were in charge, at least one night a week, on TV Land.
Honorable Mention: Cagney and Lacy (my mother would make sure it was on her TV whenever it was on); A Different World (how can you go wrong with Dwayne Wayne, Ron Johnson and Whitlee Gilbert?); Gimme A Break (Nell Carter. 'Nuff said); Hawaii 5-0 (one of the News Dad's favorites. Book'em Dano!); Just the Ten of Us (In addition to his daughters, who include Heather Langenkamp of Nightmare on Elm Street fame, can you go wrong with the rotund Bill Kirchenbauer as a basketball coach at an all-boys school? I think not); Knight Rider (talking cars are always good with me, even if they come with David Haselhoff); Mr. Belvedere (Bob Eucker and a British butler. Need I say more?); My Two Dads (Paul Reiser befor he got really famous); Night Court (Harry Anderson cracked me up as the judge, and you have to love any show with John Larroquette. That guy was great); Perfect Strangers (BALKI BARTOKOMOUS ROCKS); Webster (Another of my favorite shows when I was growing up. Ask the News Mom what happened if I had to miss Webster when I was little. It may have gotten ugly); Welcome Back Kotter (Gabe Kaplan was the man!); The Wonder Years (another of my favorite shows, launched the careers of Fred Savage, Olivia D'Abo Danica McKellar and Jason Hervey, kept Dan Lauria and Alley Mills relevant, and had Josh Saviano, who looked exactly like Millhouse from the Simpsons. Good times, indeed).
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The world needs Howard Hesseman back. The Whitless Wonder will not be deterred.