When Friday night arrives, my seven-year-old son and his 11-year-old sister, both passionate fans of fast-paced, vividly colored computer games and TV shows, rush to the set for their precious weekend TV time.
They find the remote and speed through the channels with a squeal - their show is about to start. The first time this happened, I watched in expectation of the latest, coolest show starring young, hip (or animated) stars. But to my astonishment, the show that consistently settles them in front of the set is none other than "I Love Lucy," in all its black, gray, and white glory. They have since added "Happy Days," "Bewitched," and "I Dream of Jeannie" to their list of must-see TV, all shows that are included in what is no longer called rerun syndication, but "classic TV."
The rising popularity of these decades-old shows is manifested in the expanding outlets for the classic material. Now there are entire cable channels devoted to ensuring that future generations don't miss out on poodle skirts, Eddie Haskell, and Mr. Grant. There's Nickelodeon's Nick at Nite and TV Land, not to mention the Game Show network, which is devoted to preserving "The Newlywed Game," "The Dating Game," and enough golden game shows to fill a 24-hour schedule.
All this post-prime-time afterlife is creating an intergenerational bonding around TV for the first time in the medium's history: As of July 6, courtesy of TV Land, parents who grew up watching the Beav with their siblings can settle in with their children and do it all over again.
Robert Batscha, president of the Museum of Television and Radio, says this was to be expected. "This is the development of the literature of TV," he observes. He notes that in order for an art form to progress, it must build on its past, and says, "TV has a history. Now, that past is becoming part of our culture just like classic books."