Here’s a Friday Question that became a full post.
It's from Joe Stevens.
What is the shelf life of a hit sitcom or how many people watch pre-1978 sitcoms regularly? I chose that date as Taxi and WKRP came out that year.
It depends on many factors. How beloved was the show? How dated has the show become? How universal are the situations and characters? Is the show still relevant on some level? Is the appeal strictly nostalgia?
Certainly as generations pass on, the shows from their era tend to fade into the mist. But not always. I LOVE LUCY is still around. So is THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. And if you look hard enough, THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW and THE HONEYMOONERS are still on TV somewhere. If I’m not mistaken, a local New York broadcast station still airs THE HONEYMOONERS on a regular basis.
Some series seem timeless like MASH and GOLDEN GIRLS and CHEERS and I suspect they’ll still be around when the Jetsons are alive.
Others like MURPHY BROWN with it’s political references and most of today’s sitcoms that rely so heavily on pop culture references will have very short shelf lives.
And then there are the series that for whatever inexplicable reason still has a following – shows like GILLIGAN’S ISLAND and THE BRADY BUNCH. You explain it. I can't.
I’m a little surprised that TAXI didn’t fare well in syndication. Maybe it’s just that audiences didn’t like the setting – a taxi garage was grimy and uninviting. But the writing and characters were top notch. THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW also did not have a great afterlife. It could be that the sets today look chintzy. I dunno. A better written show from any era you will not find.
But I digress…
WKRP IN CINCINNATI feels very dated. And on the DVD’s the music is replaced because of rights issues. So you’re watching a knock-off of the original program.
All of this can be said for movies too. Yes, most movies made in the ‘30s and ‘40s have disappeared forever. But not all. And with movie channels like TCM, some of these oldies but goodies can still draw an audience. People will be watching Billy Wilder movies long after they’re watching Seth Rogen movies.
I personally consider myself very lucky. Lots of TV writers toil for years on shows that disappear into the ether. Having done many episodes of MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER, and THE SIMPSONS – I’m eternally grateful that people today can still enjoy my efforts. That YOU can still watch my shows.
Now if I could just get Netlix to run ALMOST PERFECT…