Over the last forty years I have often heard people groan when a re-run is on. Some people find it crazy that I would watch a TV episode that I have already seen. Why would I want to do that? Not only do I do that, but I have tapes in my closet of shows if I can’t find anything on regular TV. I love those tapes and would never part with them.
Now I admit I sure as heck prefer a new, fresh episode over a re-run. I mean, who wouldn’t? But to me watching re-runs is no different than popping your favorite movie into the DVD player (or netflix, whatever). If you haven’t seen the show in awhile you smile remembering the jokes and memorable characters. If you watch them more often you feel comforted with the familiar program. Why else would The Big Bang Theory air so many times IN ONE DAY. It’s why re-runs air after work hours and late night and have aired then for as long as I can remember. Scrubs summed it up best in one episode which spoofed goody sitcoms. It’s always nice after a long day to come up and unwind with your favorite programs.
However I maintain that re-runs are more than just nostalgia or a way for some TV station to fill a half hour of dead air. There have been a lot of important programs kept on the air or remained popular after it was cancelled, because of re-runs. I Love Lucy pioneered the concept and I bet we would not remember that show as fondly without the endless runs in syndication. Star Trek would not exist as we know it without re-runs. The original series was cancelled and would have faded away. Instead fans kept watching and as a result we had the first movie. Which led to five more movies and four more series. The Brady Bunch was never a hit when it aired but has become a cult classic airing in re-runs ever since. The Big Bang Theory was a moderate hit on CBS but when it started airing in re-runs it became a MONSTER hit. TV Land and Nick at Night have been on the air for years and they have even created their own original programming (which sucks but I digress). There are kids today watching The Cosby Show and Fresh Prince and loving them thirty years later
Another thing I love about re-runs is that people can discover many great programs through re-runs that they either missed or did not pay attention to. In my case there are many instances where I loved the re-runs so much I had to watch the first-run stuff if it was still on. Benson, Who’s The Boss?, Night Court, Coach, Taxi, Happy Days, the classic Batman series, Bewitched, and The Carol Burnett Show (syndicated as Carol Burnett & Friends) are all shows that I never would have gotten the chance to enjoy had it not been for re-runs. Today they are among my favorite programs. Plus re-runs enable us to catch up if we missed the early years. I didn’t start watching Full House until season 2 or three, so it was re-runs that caught me up with season 1.
Need more benefits? We get to see the works of classic talents none of us would have ever gotten to see. Thanks to re-runs we can see classic Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Andy Griffith and more contemporary stars like Mary Tyler Moore, Bill Cosby and many other talents. The fantastic performances are being re-discovered every generation which I think is awesome. I may be going on a limb here but re-runs didn’t exist, I’m willing to bet TV shows on DVD would not either. Especially the classic stuff.
This doesn’t just apply to sitcoms of course. You can find old episodes of all kinds of actin and adventure shows. I think sitcoms are more popular because they are more of an escape. And people need a break after a day at school or work. I am using the word re-run when I really mean syndication. And in the 90’s we saw an explosion of first run syndication which opened a whole new area. Suddenly we could watch new shows like Star Trek-The Next Generation, Baywatch, and Xena:Warrior Princess without the confines of a network to muck things up. Also many shows which failed at the network thrived in syndication such as It’s A Living and Mama’s Family just to name two.
Yeah OK there are downsides to re-runs. The fact the shows are cut for time kills me at times. Especially when some networks cut the show any old place they feel to cram even more commercials in! And even I get tired of seeing the same episode to often (and do we need marathon blocks where the show is aired five hours a day?).
But I love my re-runs (duh) and never feel embarrassed to relive cherished programs. These days my love of re-runs has even spread into online shows. I admit I watch re-runs of Nostalgia Critic, AT4W, and other internet shows more than once. I think we’ll always have re-runs as a way to relax after a long hard day. Oh sure the shows and line-up’s may change, but the concept isn’t going anywhere.