Wednesday, July 18, 2007

80s TV flashback

There’s a danger in nostalgia television. For every old show from you childhood that you liked and has held up - say MASH or WKRP in Cincinnati - there are whole hosts of them that don’t age particularly well. It’s why I have steadfastly refused to watch the 70s version of Battlestar Galactica. It was a show that was never going to age particularly well, but I imagine now looks horrific in comparison to the recent version of the show, which is routinely cited as one of the best on television.

But I found out there are two of my childhood favourite shows coming out on DVD this week and next. And I find myself debating whether or not I need them. Not only because of the whole “how well have these shows aged”, but also that the last couple of sets we’ve bought – Space: Above and Beyond, and The Flash – have not proven to be as entertaining the second time around as they had been in my memory.

Next week we have Benson. I can’t tell you why I liked Benson so much as a kid as it was obviously aimed at adults. It was a spin-off of the comedy Soap!, which I never watched. But I liked Benson. As I recall, I think it might be because I found it funny. And that it lasted seven seasons does give some credence to that idea. It also helps that Robert Guillaume was a pretty funny actor. And his character was quite sarcastic. Even at a young age, I could really appreciate good sarcasm.

The other show didn’t last nearly as long as Benson. One inglorious season where, if I recall, NBC threw it into the death slot up against 60 Minutes at a time when that show was averaging about 30 million viewers a week. But I loved Voyagers. The premise of the show had great appeal to me. It was about a 12 year old boy who was ridiculously knowledgeable about history, got to travel through time and, with help from a buff but stupid guide, fix history when it went off track.

(One of the show’s stars, Jon Erik Hexum, achieved lasting notoriety after Voyagers ended when he accidentally shot himself in the head with a gun containing blanks while on the set of a new show. It’s just one of those things that is so unbelievably weird that it sticks in your brain.)

And it just so happened that when the show aired I was a 12 year old boy who was ridiculously knowledgeable about history and certainly wouldn’t have minded going on some adventures if it got me out of Virginia Park. So yeah, the show had some appeal to me.

But whereas I might have caught the odd episode of Benson somewhere and have a vague idea of how it aged, I haven’t seen Voyagers since it aired. Shows that last one season from back in the early 80s don’t tend to get repeated a lot. So I have no idea how well it’s held up. If I had to guess, probably not that well. I suspect a very high cheese factor. I also wonder how good the quality of the video will be.

Will I end up buying them? Depends. I suspect it will take a moment of weakness when I’m home. Still, at least the notion that the shows are out there bring back a flash of memory of crappy tv shows of my youth. I had the real roll going there for awhile, what with following Manimal, Misfits of Science, The Powers of Matthew Starr and Automan. I also remember being confused when the shows were cancelled. I liked them and thought they were cool. Didn’t everyone?

Ah, my first introduction into the wonders of network television. Just because you like something, doesn’t mean it won’t get cancelled from out underneath you. Or that it was any good in the first place, to be brutally honest.

But one DVD set I will be buying in a few weeks will be The Tick vs. Season 2. Spoooon!


Pat the Wench said...

Benson totally rocked ... I also loved that show when I was a kid!

colette said...

I am boggled that you didn't see Soap. I don't rate it as full of comic genius as some fans but it is still a show worth picking up.

towniebastard said...

I've seen episodes of Soap!, but it wasn't my thing as a was a bit to slapstick, plus it based on soap operas, neither of which appealed to me.

Benson, however, was based on a guy who was very smart and sarcastic. You could see where a show like that would appeal to me and, eeriely enough, Pat.