Imagination Connoisseur, Jeffrey Lindenblatt, asks why younger, genre entertainment fans don’t seem to know much when it comes to classic, black and white TV shows or movies. Is it all JURASSIC PARK’s fault?

(edited for clarity)

Dear Robert:

On a recent show, you were discussing that younger people could not watch programs in black & white, with cheap, special effects, etc. You used the film JURASSIC PARK as your before and after point.

I believe that this happened earlier in time.

Today, we talk about how there is so much new programing with the networks, cable station and streaming services that there is not enough time in the day to get through all them. I believe that and have not had the time to go through shows like BREAKING BAD and GAME OF THRONES, so don’t hold that against me.

I grew up in a similar time as you. To give you an idea how close in age we are to one another, you were born the week “The Menagerie: Part 1” was having its second broadcast on NBC and I was born the week “I, Mudd” made its debut.

The stories you bring up about things you watched and collected from your childhood, I can relate to because I had the same experiences … but, I digress.

In the 80s, you remember we had (in most markets) three networks, one PBS station and a few local television stations. Some areas got lucky and had cable – but that did not happen in my case until the late 80s. During the 70s and early 80s, most the mid-day and afternoon programming were re-runs of movies and television from 30s up to present day.

On the movie front, every channel would have a movie slot either at 4:30, 8:00 and in the middle of the night. Their movies would run classics like KING KONG to PLANET OF THE APES. The major networks every year would have a special time for THE WIZARD OF OZ, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS … those were the three oldest films shown on network television. The fourth would be DR. NO on Sunday nights on ABC. Locally, every Sunday morning, we would see a classic, Abbott and Costello film. As for classic TV programming, we would have shows from the 50s, like I LOVE LUCY, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, THE HONEYMOONERS, ONE STEP BEYOND, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, etc.

In college, I did a paper on the elements of a current, cult-classic, TV show and whether or not any shows at the time had a shot at become a cult show. One of the factors to look for at the time was if the program was showing widely in syndication five years after its last original episode.

That factor was rendered moot starting in the mid-80s with the return of original programming for syndication with the success of shows like STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (ST:TNG), talk shows, and cartoons like HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and DUCK TALES. Many production companies wound up producing tons of shows and the local stations ate it up, replacing many classic shows with the new, syndicated fare.

Also, in the syndicated market at that time, stations airing the newest shows began the practice of not showing the show not once but twice a day – sometimes back to back. That made another timeslot unavailable for older programming.

Cable also starting to get their hands on classic TV shows and movies at this time, so unless you had access to cable TV, this programming would not be available to you in your local market. Similarly, when FOX network began it also took away prime-time hours previously reserved for classic TV or movies on local station that had become the new FOX affiliate.

This is also time when stations started increasing the amount of hours dedicated to local news time – and don’t forget those 30-minute, infomercials.

By the time you get to the early 90s, you might have one or two shows on re-runs that were produced twenty years earlier. But anything that was black and white was basically gone. Maybe you would get an I LOVE LUCY or THE HONEYMOONERS episode, but that was it.

The first time this really hit me was when my sister’s boyfriend (who was 8 years younger than me at the time) told me he was a big fan of IN LIVING COLOR and loved Jim Carrey.

At the time, Jim Carrey was being compared to a young Jerry Lewis. I ask him to you know who Jerry Lewis was and he said: “Oh, the guy from the telethons.” This guy had never watched any of Jerry Lewis’s movies because they were not being show on tv locally anymore. I used to see it on the local, 4:30 movie but that was long gone by this time.

Most children would not search beyond a few channels because they will find something that they liked instead and would not go beyond their comfort zone. Back in our days – with less choices – we would be available to experiment with something new and possibly like it.

All the Best,
– Jeffrey Lindenblatt

PS – On the topic of seeing the spoof before the original product. I remember seeing HIGH ANXIETY before I saw any Alfred Hitchcock movie. To this day I remember the scene when Brooks was being shit on by the birds and years later the saw the original scene from THE BIRDS and being disappointed. So, I can understand the situation you are talking about.