Sunday, January 28, 2024

moon over parma

I love television. I love watching television. I love reading about television. I love talking about television. and, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I love writing about television.

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s watching television. Those were some interesting years. The airwaves were filled with Westerns and police shows and anthology series and situation comedies. A lot of the current crop of independent "retro" TV channels have rerun some of the more popular programs from "back in the day." Of course, Nick at Nite revolutionized the "kitschy rerun format" that so many other networks have copied. I was a big fan of Nick At Nite in its early days. I relished the simplicity of The Donna Reed Show, the stupidity of Mr. Ed and the "shoot the bad guy and learn a lesson" repetitiveness of The Rifleman. Nevertheless, there I was, front and center, happily consuming everything Nick At Nite had to offer.

Ten years after its cable television debut, Nick at Nite teased at having Welcome Back Kotter join its evening line-up in the spring of 1995. I was very excited by this news. I remember being a big fan of the Gabe Kaplan-led sitcom in its initial run in 1975 (when I was 14). I distinctly remember being in hysterics from the outlandish behavior of the "Sweathogs" — a group of unknown young actors whose antics were the centerpiece of each episode. Welcome Back Kotter enjoyed phenomenal ratings in its first two seasons and it made stars out of its cast — specifically John Travolta. During its run, Travolta launched his successful film career, garnering an Oscar nomination for his turn as a Brooklyn disco enthusiast in Saturday Night Fever. Mrs. Pincus and I anxiously looked forward to the return of Welcome Back Kotter and to reliving fond memories of our youth.

On Monday, May 29, 1995, we excitedly tuned in... and OH MY GOD!

Just after the conclusion of the familiar theme song (a Number 1 record for former Lovin' Spoonful front man John Sebastian), the veritable shit hit the fan. The show was nothing like we remembered. It was awful. It was painful. The writing was terrible! The acting was amateurish. The premise was stupid. The jokes were not funny. Mrs. P and I shot each other helpless looks. "Could this be the same show we loved?" we collectively thought. "What were we thinking?" Sympathetically, we watched another episode or two during Nick at Nite's "Big Premiere." Finally, we changed the channel to something — anything! — else.

At the end of the summer of 1995, standup comic Drew Carey premiered his self-titled sitcom on ABC. The show featured Drew and his pals hanging out in a Cleveland bar, dealing with all life has dealt them in their working class life. Drew's character worked at large department store and the daily situations lent themselves to Drew's often funny, often off-the-wall humor. The show lasted nine seasons and was pretty popular, even through cast changes. Drew and his co-stars were consistently funny and, from what I recall, remained funny through its finale — despite lagging ratings. Curiously, after its first run, syndication of the show was sparse. A few local stations briefly showed episodes and several "retro networks" sporadically put the series in its lineup. Star Drew Carey was named the new host of stalwart game show The Price is Right. Drew's costar's found gigs in other series, films and on comedy club stages. I like watching Drew Carey on The Price is Right. He appears to be having a better time that the contestants and often delivers self-deprecating jabs to the bewilderment of the studio audience.

While scanning the wide assortment of entertainment that I pay Comcast to pump into my house, I came upon a listing on Antenna TV. The Drew Carey Show was added to their Sunday evening lineup. My interest was piqued. Should I watch? Will I be disappointed? After all, I hadn't seen an episode of The Drew Carey Show for years. These thoughts ran through my head as I toyed with the remote control. As the 8 o'clock start time approached, I clicked over to Antenna TV... almost expecting to be disappointed ala Welcome Back Kotter.

So, Mrs. Pincus and I watched through very, very discerning eyes.

It was surprisingly funny! It held up, aside from a couple of dated references to John F. Kennedy, Jr, the jokes made us laugh and the situations were genuinely ...well ... funny! The cast was funny. The writing was funny. The show was funny. When the four back-to-back episodes were over, we changed the channel at the opening notes of the theme to the absolutely dated sitcom Family Ties.

There are some shows from my youth that I can watch and there are some I cannot — all for different reasons. I'm glad I found out that The Drew Carey Show is one I can still watch.

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