We should save old TV shows like we save old movies

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

In my goodbye post from last week, I mentioned that I’m a film studies minor. Over the past few years, I’ve watched some stellar and some less than stellar movies and TV shows. I’ve taken so many different film classes, I don’t think I could accurately name every single one of them. The one I remember the most, and this is for a number of various reasons, was cop dramas.

The class charted the inception of the cop drama with the 1950s show “Dragnet” and ended with more modern fare like “The Wire” and, if I remember correctly, “CSI” and “NYPD Blue” and a whole slew of shows in between. We looked at a few international fares as well such as my favorite, “Line of Duty.” (No, seriously, “Line of Duty” is fantastic and you should definitely check it out. I’m sure it’s one some streaming platform.)

Anyway, that isn’t the point. The point is, there is always a start to popular TV genres. “The West Wing” started the political drama. (It didn’t really, but it was the longest-running political drama until “24” kicked it out of the top spot.) “The Sopranos” started the era of prestige television. Again, not really, but when I say prestige television, I’m sure the show pops up in your mind along with “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Terror” and “Chernobyl.” Everything starts somewhere.

As a longtime viewer of television, and with a father who loves TV and used to watch a lot of it when he had cable, I remember watching and being a fan of the legal drama before I even knew what that meant. I watched “The Practice” with my dad on Sunday evenings before we had to pick my mom up from work. We watched “L.A. Law” on reruns. Dad liked David E. Kelley, obviously, because we also watched “Boston Public” and then “Boston Legal” when “The Practice” ended.

I know many college kids won’t know a thing about Kelley and the shows I just discussed. I apologize for that, but not really, because it drives home the thing I want to talk about. Old procedurals simply aren’t appreciated by the network that originally birthed them. They’re just not. Well, Shelby, what do you mean? I’ll tell you what I mean.

If I were to look for a way to stream “L.A. Law,” a TV show that won 15 Emmy awards, four of them for Best Outstanding Drama, I’d find the only option available to me would be digitized copies from old VHS recordings that someone illegally posted to the site Daily Motion. “The Practice” used to be available on Amazon Prime, but now, when I look for it, it says the title is currently unavailable for purchase or streaming. I’ve never tried to look for “Boston Public.” To be honest, I probably couldn’t even find it on Daily Motion.

This is a travesty! Old TV shows need to be loved and need to be preserved, whether it be on streaming sites or on DVD box sets. (“L.A. Law” is literally the only show that is on box set… but only the first four seasons. The last three seasons are only available overseas. What?) I know it’s hard to think about seeing as there are literally so many new shows to devour in this oversaturated market. New series are always coming out and networks have better things to focus on, but the preservation of old movies is still important. The preservation of old TV shows is just as important.

Television is a relatively new invention, but it has quickly become the most popular form of entertainment, especially now because of the coronavirus and the fact that all movie theaters are closed. Older shows deserve to take their place in the entertainment echelons alongside other newer fares. They deserve to be loved 20,30, 40 years down the line by people who love television and devour it any time they can. They deserve to be loved by people who aren’t afraid to take a chance on something that might be seen as cheesy or too old. Nostalgia is the comfort blanket of the masses and what’s better nostalgia than shows from a bygone era, be it the ‘50s or the ‘80s or even the ‘90s?

Maybe I’m alone in this, but new TV shows aren’t the be-all to end-all, because let’s be honest, how many old TV shows walked so the things you’re enjoying today could fly? Everything starts somewhere. Let’s honor and preserve the past to also preserve the future.

Shelby Arnold

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