Car 54, Where Are You?

I’m cheating this week and using an entry I posted on another blog that I have purely for sharing my favorite videos. Every once in a while I just have to say something about it, though. This was the case last Thursday, when I posted one of my favorite clips from the television show Taxi (1978-1983). You, my dear Creeter Readers, get the revised and unabridged version of my rant. Lucky you!

I used to love watching the show Taxi on Nick at Nite when I was a kid. Looking over the shows Nick at Nite and TV Land play now….I’m very close to shedding a tear for television. It’s even worse than oldies radio nowadays.

I don’t quite understand why these stations assume they have to update their lineup to include shows that aren’t even five years old yet, or (most appallingly) create their own reality shows. The whole concept of the station is that it plays classic television. That means it shouldn’t matter that Taxi was only 16 years old when it first joined the Nick at Nite lineup, and it is 30 years old now. It’s still a classic, is still just as damn funny, and is still missing from regular TV.

The only reason I even know about Taxi is because I watched it on Nick at Nite. My dad still might have told me a joke or two he saw on it when he was younger, but it probably wouldn’t have had the same overall impact on me if I hadn’t ever watched the show for myself. So now there is an entire generation who won’t have that privilege because suddenly it’s too old even for the oldies station. I’m using Taxi as the example throughout all this, but it’s the same concept with any of the truly great shows.

Someone could make the argument that Taxi was to me what Full House is to the younger kids of today. That is, my parents watched Taxi when it first aired and their children watched it in reruns; likewise, there are parents who watched Full House when it first aired and now their children are watching it for the first time in reruns. Leaving difference in quality aside, I can say that I still have a nostalgic attachment to Full House the same way someone who saw Taxi as a kid would. And I can say this because I did see Taxi as a kid, thanks to Nick at Nite. By playing the show in my childhood, they created a fan. When I have children, I will want them to have the same fondness for the shows I grew up on, and Nick at Nite could have been the gateway. In that way, Nick at Nite would be creating and perpetuating their fans for generations to come. It’s a good business investment to get people hooked when they’re young, everyone knows that. So why in the world would they get rid of the great thing they had going and alienate those who remember the wonderful lineup they used to have?

I can understand how they would want to change things up a bit, but that’s what rotation is for. They don’t have to play Taxi nonstop for 30 years, but having it make an appearance every few years wouldn’t hurt. There are so many great classics that the rotation wouldn’t get stale, especially since they would be adding more as the years go by. So I’m not opposed to putting shows that were too new to be classics in the old days but are old enough now. I’m opposed to:

  1. Shortening the time-frame between when shows are first aired and when they become “classics” (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Really?).
  2. Getting rid of the original classics completely in order to make way for the new classics (I’m all for letting a new generation watch The Cosby Show, for instance, but that doesn’t mean the new generation doesn’t also deserve The Monkees).

For the most part the lineup is stuff you don’t even have time to miss from their first run, let alone shows you never knew about because they were from your parents’ childhood. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

I also understand that copyrights are an issue, and they have to keep the rights to them. And I don’t know how the prices differ, but surely it can’t be much more than all the money they’re shelling out for these newer shows. Local stations play Get Smart, Mork & Mindy, and the shows that should be played on Nick at Nite and TV Land, but they’re usually such bad quality it makes me horrified to see the shows have been reduced to that level. Nick is supposed to be the ultimate in classic television authority, presenting more classic shows in better quality. And I’m just not seeing it anymore.

I realize this entry (and quite possibly most of the entries I’ve done so far) make me out to be a couch potato with nothing better to write about than TV, music, and movies. Well, I guess I better own up to the fact that I am deeply entrenched in my love of pop culture. Some of it I merely enjoy out of passive entertainment, but there are certain shows, bands, films that transcend the incessant hum of mediocre media and reach a state of artistic nirvana, if you will. I suppose you could call me a cultural critic (yay for terms I learn in Literary Criticism!), because I think the definitions of “high” and “low” art are structured by society and are not inherent to the artwork itself. In other words, I believe television shows should not be rejected as a whole because of their mainstream status. However, I do believe there is such a thing as objectively good art; I just happen to believe pop culture occasionally makes a contribution to it.

There’s my entry for this Wednesday. I hope you don’t think I’m completely brain-dead because of all the television I watched as a kid. I do read books, too. I swear I’m not numb to reality. I just happen to find certain shows creative, and I like to explore creativity wherever it lurks.

Wishing for a better Nick at Nite,
Rachel D. (the D stands for Dragnet)

P.S. Recently I traced my desire for matJewmony (that’s Jewish matrimony, in case your mind isn’t as retarded as mine and couldn’t make the dumb-pun connection) and discovered it started from early on in my childhood. Basically, I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I’m determined to marry a Jew is because I had a crush on Alex from Taxi when I was little. Yay, Judd Hirsch! The other Jew I fell in love with at an early age was Paul Simon, when he played Simple Simon in Shelly Duvall’s Mother Goose Rock’n’Rhyme. (If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, which is about an hour and a half long, this is the part with Paul Simon….he shows up about halfway through.)

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3 thoughts on “Car 54, Where Are You?

  1. I’m with you 100% on this one. I love Nick at Nite and TVLand. I, too, grew up watching those same shows you did. Because of that, I get this joke:

    “What does yellow mean?”
    “Slow down.”
    “Okay. What-does-yellow-mean?”

    hah. Taxi is a great show. Or Cheers, the original friends. Three’s Company, All in the Family, Sanford and Son…

    So many good things my sister doesn’t get to see. And I make her watch some of it now, and she doesn’t appreciate it the same because she didn’t start loving it when she was young, like I did, and that makes me sad.

    I do agree that The Cosby Show is a worthy exception. Definitely the best show from when we were little.

    But I don’t want to see Family Matters, Step by Step, Full House, and Saved by the Bell on those stations, no matter how much I loved the shows.

    Yay for your rant!

  2. Horrible thought: how long until they put Boy Meets World on there? Or is it too late.

    Disclaimer: Boy Meets World was pretty fun, but it went on for way too long. So long that it ripped off its own plot lines rather than just other shows’ ones. And the fact that only several dozen reruns played again and again and my sisters watched them religiously…ugh!

    And I’m with you on the art thing, Rach! I feel rather the same about graphic novels and video games (and it pains me that so many instances of such powerful media fail to utilize their power).

    Yay, you got two mini-rants in reply!

  3. Hah! I’m such an idiot! So when I first saw that there was a Taxi video, I thought, “I’m gonna write a comment about when he was at the DMV” and then I watched the video and that’s what you chose! But in my haste to write a comment, I forgot you chose that and did it anyway!

    I didn’t realize this till just now as I went to read IdhrendUr of the Chaldeans’ comment and saw mine.

    Oh wow.

    Anyhow…this is what I wanted to include instead of that quote:

    Cause The Cosby Show is always funny

    Sorry for being such a lame-o.

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