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Lost in space, the salvation of classic TV online

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Media, Opinion, sociology, Technology, television, Uncategorized on March 13, 2013 at 12:00 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

gsspI’ve written in the past about the lack of creativity coming out of Hollywood these days and it seems increasingly worse. Reality television flows through the airways like so much Typhoid-infested water, riddled with disease and parasites. Thankfully, like an oasis in the desert, modern technology has provided a welcome respite from the gunk that is today’s network television.

By monthly subscription, online video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video offer TV junkies instant access to more than a half-century of programming. Forget waiting a whole week for the next fix of Gilligan’s Island, Cheers or NYPD Blue, now I can watch anytime I want to, day or night, episode after delicious episode from pilot to finale.

These services were originally intended to provide instant access to the same movies you used to go to the video store to rent. But for those of us who prefer bite after bite of tasty episodic television, they serve up a veritable buffet of broadcast entrees ranging from exciting 1950’s westerns like Gunsmoke to angst-filled dramas of the nineties like Beverly Hills 90210.

No more will my television fix need to be delayed by thoroughly staged yet somehow unscripted shows like The Bachelor or bad refits of The Gong Show like The Voice or American Idol. If you don’t’ know what the Gong Show was, your probably too young to understand any of these other references either.

But, Danger Wil Robinson! Because of Hollywood’s continual reinvention of the wheel, when you finally rediscover your favorite old show, you have to be sure which version you’re watching. Is it the new Knight Rider or classic Knight Rider. The Hoff is a classic? Now I just feel old.

Do you recognize this vehicle? Hint - it was on a live action Saturday morning kid's show in 1976.

Do you recognize this vehicle? Hint – it was on a live action Saturday morning kid’s show in 1976.

If you prefer your TV tray filled with something more modern but still thoughtful, well-written and engaging, you can forget the networks. You’ll need to subscribe to cable or satellite services for AMC, BBC America or other high-end channels.

Award-winning programs like Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Doc Martin, Sherlock and the new runaway hit, Downton Abbey, have successfully lured fastidious viewers from Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC for several years. What’s that you say? You don’t have cable? Fear not!

All you need is high-speed Internet, a computer, tablet or even a smart phone, and these programs are just an app download away. Faster than Trump can say, “You’re fired,” you’ll be whisked off to a land where all of life’s problems are solved in a half-hour and no one called Snookie would have ever been allowed on the air.

Ah, the good old days – when the same B movie actor in a rubber carrot suit tormented the Robinson family on Lost In Space one week and sent the crew of the Submarine Seaview rocking and rolling on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea the next. Back then, no one worried whether the lines were politically correct and the very idea of product placement was barely a glimmer in some Mad Man’s eye.

With my remote as my time machine, I can go back there again with a mere click of the play button or a tap on my tablet screen. The down side is that there’s always another episode waiting out there, somewhere in the ether. I move from one to the next, losing all track of time and action. Did I feed the cat? Is this still Tuesday? Oh well, I can figure all that out after I find out who shot JR Ewing. Of course, they just went and killed him off again –this time for keeps (RIP Larry Hagman).

When the rest of the TV landscape seems empty and foreign, these characters feel safe and familiar, like old friends I’ve lost touch with. But even after just enough time to write these few words, I feel out of the loop again, so I better get back to watching. Sometimes you still wanna go where everybody knows your name.

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