October 25, 2006


Going Down the Tube (WARREN KOZAK, October 25, 2006, NY Sun)

A television executive is walking on the beach when the devil appears with an offer. "I will give you the number one show that will blow out the competition for five, no make that ten seasons in a row," the devil tells him, "but in payment I want your soul, your children's souls and the souls of your children's children." The television fellow sizes up the devil with a curious look and asks, "What's the catch?"

It's an old joke, but it may need updating. Last week, NBC announced that it would substantially cut spending both in its prime-time entertainment division, where it would look for lower-cost programming, and in its news division. Expect a lot more game shows — which may or may not be an improvement. NBC is simply acknowledging the truth about today's network economics. Instead of walking around like the zombies in "Night of the Living Dead," NBC is the first of the big three to admit that the old world is over. CBS and ABC will, no doubt, follow its lead.

Call it the ultimate in reality TV. Gone are the days when the three networks competed among themselves for the entire national audience. Over the past 25 years, they have watched their shares of that audience melt away as cable, movies on demand, and the Internet have drawn the public's fancy. In turn, we have watched a downward spiral of quality coming into our living rooms.

These networks have been broadcasting for fifty years now--they have entire libraries full of quality programming that no one has seen in decades. Not only that, but they could buy or trade with the BBC and other foreign networks for their libraries full. Instead of making a conscious effort to produce cheap crap, why not try putting on cheap quality? Heck, I bet you could just make one night of the week your NFL night and show old games, which just happen to be three hours and would fill primetime. You'd get more young men watching that than any of this new junk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2006 10:11 AM

Ohhh, Uncle Milty, Your Show of Shows and Jack Benny.

Of course, they could start moving their newscasts to the middle, maybe they'd get viewers like me.

Posted by: Sandy P at October 25, 2006 10:48 AM

Nice idea, but don't they already do just that on ESPN Classic and Nick and Night?

How many people read the backlogs of a blog?

Posted by: Mike Beversluis at October 25, 2006 10:56 AM

The joke is more true than most know.

The goal isn't to make money, it is to undermine and eventually destroy civilization.

If the goal was to make money, the programming would be better.

Posted by: Bruno at October 25, 2006 10:56 AM


But the point is no pays attention to what's on the tv screen nightly. Why not put on quality instead of crap?

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2006 11:07 AM

Obviously, you think highly of the business plan of ESPN Classic. Which is why I suggest that MSNBC should be scrapped altogether and replaced by the Classic Talk Channel. This would be where old shows (Crossfire, Situation Room, any old Tucker Carlson show) could be recycled, with certain theme nights (Monica Lewinsky Nite!).

Posted by: Brad S at October 25, 2006 11:24 AM

I'm voting for Hogan's Heroes and Murder, She Wrote. Maybe even a little Law & Order for good measure. (Funny how "classic" can be such a relative term...)

Posted by: Jay at October 25, 2006 11:32 AM


No, I think ESPN makes a mistake by not showing the Classic stuff on its regular channel instead of the junk they have on.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2006 11:33 AM

The other thing is NBC has had some success with their annual showing of It's a Wonderful Life and ABC with Ten Commandments. Why not do the same with Gettysburg, Groundhog Day, etc.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2006 11:36 AM

Every time ESPN Classic puts on Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, I watch the whole thing.

Posted by: Brandon at October 25, 2006 11:41 AM

The minds of sports fans are unfathomable.

Posted by: erp at October 25, 2006 11:47 AM

This past year or so the Fox sports channel that shows the Mariners replayed the '95 final playoff game against the Damnyankees. Was a great time-killer to have on while doing other work, and actually got interested in the end. Because while I knew they'd win, I'd forgotten how they won, and that Randy Johnson gave up the lead run in extra innings.

(Ain't it wonderful how many times the Sultans of October seem to end their season by losing not a single tight game, but by three or four in a row?)

Think of all the "classic" games from feetball, baseball or even, heaven forbid, Euro-futbol, which people have heard about, but never actually seen the whole thing. A good, well written book is still fun to reread. Because you know the ending, you can watch for all the little things that made it good.

One of the problems with the idea of having the networks do it is that they don't own the rights to those shows anymore, which is why they appear on various obscure cable channels. (And often channels that seem inaccessible, or almost embarrassed that they are doing nothing but "reruns.")

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 25, 2006 12:18 PM

I could go for a 1980 Olympic ice hockey week.

Hill Street Blues

Naked City

Frank's Place

WKRP in Cincinnati

The first two or three seasons of Lou Grant, before the writers came down with incurable political correctness

The first year of St. Elsewhere, same notation

Season one of Tour of Duty, before they moved production to Northern California and tried to be like China Beach

Legend (sigh!)


EZ Streets

Jonny Quest, original 1964 incarnation, uncut

Northern Exposure, except for the ones after Rob Morrow left

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 25, 2006 12:21 PM

The Versus cable network has been showing classic boxing. I recently watched the Ali-Norton and Ali-Frazier I and II fights. It was great entertainment and informative. I hadn't realized that the titans of my youth were only 209lb (Frazier) and 212lb (Ali).

Posted by: Patrick H at October 25, 2006 12:34 PM

"Evening Shade"

I second "Northern Exposure" (w/Rob Morrow)



Posted by: Bartman at October 25, 2006 12:34 PM

How could I forget the best half-hour comedy ever filmed? The Dick Van Dyke Show

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 25, 2006 12:58 PM

Penn State-Miami, Villanova-Georgetown and Paraguay-France at the '98 Cup. Some matches you watch again and again.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 25, 2006 2:21 PM

I would love to see them rebroadcast stuff like the original Requiem for a Heavyweight - or even the remake - one with Ed Wynn and Anthony Quinn and the other with Jack Palance and Jackie Gleason. The old Studio 90 and the Hallmark and the Rod Serling shows and the Alfred Hitchcock and I would love to see some of the variety shows. I am amazed to see that the actors and writers and musicians all love to watch the old Judy Garland and the Dean Martin shows. They just can't get enough of them. They buy the whole series from Amazon and watch them over and over.

I would also love to see Leonard Bernstein and his shows explaining classical music. Great stuff.

Posted by: dick at October 25, 2006 5:44 PM

Two of the funniest things I ever saw on TV: the Odd Couple episode when Felix replaced Oscar's desk with a tiny little one and the easy chair with a huge leather hand and the episode of WKRP when the Lonnie Anderson character went to the hospital to visit someone and was told to follow the line on the floor to find the room.

Posted by: erp at October 25, 2006 7:26 PM


That's a great idea. It would be even better if most of their broadcasting were of fantastic finishes and monumental upset wins. You could even regionalize it with certain areas of greater emphasis: Baseball in the Northeast, college basketball in Kentucky and North Carolina, NFL in major cities, college football in the Midwest and South, hockey in the northern areas and Colorado. Astonishing NCAA tournament basketball games every March. The Miracle on Ice every July 4th.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 25, 2006 7:45 PM

For most of you, just fire up the DVR and go to TVLand.
for the rest of you:

Posted by: Mike Daley at October 25, 2006 9:54 PM

Two words.



As for the miracle on ice, the US/USSR game shares a permanent spot on my dvr with the 1999 Champions' League Final and the 1999 Arsenal/ManUtd FA Cup semi-final replay that Ryan Giggs won.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 25, 2006 10:43 PM