Where, oh Where, Has the Good TV Gone?

I’m going to sound like an old woman (which, lately, I’ve been feeling like anyways) for a moment: “Back when I was a youngin’…” TV was so much better than today.

Go ahead and think way, way, way back — to the ’90’s. Back when Nickelodeon had cool game shows, slime, and talking babies instead of talking sponges. ABC still ran TGIF, and Saturday morning cartoons were Buster and Babs and Yacko, Wacko and Dot, not Ash and Pikachu. And — my favorite! — I would get up early for school so I could watch “Rocky & Bullwinkle.”

It was all so cheesy, but it was all SO GOOD. Shows like “Boy Meets World” and “Full House” were after-school specials in the truest sense of the word — oh no, DJ might be developing anorexia, and Shawn’s parents took off again! — but I’m still watching re-runs (thanks, TBS, for that awesome morning lineup of “Saved by the Bell” and “Fresh Prince”). We were invested in characters’ lives and relationships. I can’t imagine people caring that much about Hannah Montana’s boyfriend or life enough to religiously watch for eight, nine, ten seasons.

Who didnt love Boy Meets World?
Who didn't love Boy Meets World?

Or maybe it’s just that, as an adult, I can’t see myself watching those shows at all. That’s so sad because when I was little, the best part about watching “Doug” and “Rugrats” was that I could enjoy the cute adventure Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil went on, while my parents got all the jokes that went over my head and laughed at the pop culture references in Doug’s fantasy montages. Can I imagine myself, as a parent, sitting through an episode of “The Fairly Odd-Parents” and finding it funny? Not really.

It seems there’s been a general shift in the idea of “television” — what makes a good show, what makes a sitcom/drama/action show, what is worth putting on TV. Sitcoms like “The Office” and “30 Rock” and “Scrubs” are a different breed than classics like “Friends” and “Cheers” and “Seinfeld.” Reality TV has all but taken over. Even The WB is gone, replaced by what I can only describe as the more “mature” CW (“Gossip Girl” would never have made it on The WB).

I do enjoy a few current shows. I’ve rather embarassingly become addicted to “Gossip Girl” and “90210” (you know you have guilty pleasures, too). And “Scrubs” was one of the few sitcoms remaining that I really had to watch every week, although I think it may have just jumped the shark with this new season. But I don’t think anything will ever make me call my friend screaming and crying the way that final episode of “Friends” did (yeah, fun fact for you there; I know I wasn’t the only one sobbing when Rachel showed up at Ross’s apartment at the end of that voicemail). It might be that I just miss being a kid and being able to find enjoyment in something simple like watching people go down the Pie Slide on “What Would You Do?”

And the little kid in me is really, really not OK with the idea of “my shows” popping up on places like Nick at Nite. No thank you, sir, that’s the place for shows from my parents’ childhoods.

Way to make me feel old again.

10 thoughts on “Where, oh Where, Has the Good TV Gone?

  1. With the caveat that the shirt I’m wearing is probably older than you…you do know that there was TV before the 90’s, yes? It is perhaps too soon to throw Friends, Cheers and Seinfeld into the “classics” category, good shows that they were. To some of us, perhaps only a few of us, “classic sit-com” might better conjure up memories of the Dick Van Dyke Show, My Three Sons, Dobie Gillis and, the champ, The Honeymooners. “To the moon, Alice…”
    Absurdly funny. Boy Meets World? Not so much.


    1. Which makes me wonder: do you think our sense of humor depends on the TV we watch as we grow up? I just don’t find lot of “old” TV shows that funny (save I Love Lucy), nor do I find many newer ones too funny.Maybe this is the sociologist in me coming out…


      1. Short answer to your question — I don’t think so. Example. My spouse and I watch many of the same shows but have very different senses of humor. But it changes. I think of humor as an evolutionary thing. Something I didn’t find particularly funny the first time around can become funnier on second viewing (or hearing). Case in point — I only glanced at The Office when it first aired and just kind of shrugged. I gave it another chance in the second or third season on the advice of one of my kids. It clicked with me the second time around. I don’t think the show changed that much in the interim, but something tickled the ol’ funny bone.


  2. Are you kidding me? Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, House MD…just to name a few. I find the trick is to limit my TV consumption to no more than 4-5 programs and blot out the godawful dreck that accounts for about 95% of everything else. The “Golden Age of TV” is alive and well!


    1. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find comedy like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Office” very funny; it might just be too dry for me. I’ve never watched “Mad Men,” although I’ve only heard good things. I can never get too into shows like “House,” I think just because I’ve always liked me TV to be funny, not too dramatic (although “Law and Order” is addictive and can be watched any time). Maybe it’s just my problem that I can’t get into new TV shows?


  3. Hmm…we obviously have very different definitions of “funny” :/

    I think “dry humor” is just a euphemism for things smart people find to be entertaining.


    1. Ooh, did I just get called stupid? =P

      We probably do have different definitions of humor. I’m strange when it comes to that — I enjoy being self-deprecating, but I tend to get a little defensive if other people pick on me, and it sometimes makes me uncomfortable if people are self-deprecating around me. I think…I don’t know if that makes any sense. I think I just like my TV to seem a little surreal and be a break from real life; maybe that’s the deal.


  4. I think that if you compare the shows on Nick and Disney now to what we watched when we were little, TV is awful. It’s not just that I’ve grown up either, because I’ll still gladly watch “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and still get scared every time the Temple Guards jump out. I also still want to get slimed and watch people get slimed (on game shows, not the Kids’ Choice Awards).

    I think there are shows on now that are just as well-written/funny as shows like “Friends”. It’s just the stuff for younger kids that had gotten really bad.


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