When readers write to this column, they generally complain about the vulgarity, sleaze and lowest common-denominator carryings-on they see among the current prime-time network offerings.
Well, to borrow a slogan from an old-time radio show: Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
The best thing about going back in time is that you don't have to fork over a thick wad of bills to buy a DVD collection of some of your favorite shows -- although, judging from what's available in some video catalogs, there's no shortage of classic TV to be found in handsome multi-DVD sets.
In fact, you don't even have to subscribe to cable TV. While Nickelodeon first struck pay dirt on the concept with its TV Land channel, other networks have sprung up to offer even more diverse alternatives. The best part of it is that you can get some, if not all, of these networks over the air with your set-top digital-TV box, as the networks appear as subchannels of over-the-air network affiliate stations.
The one drawback: Local channels are passing up the chance to present local programming by showing cheaper, decades-old reruns.
Half of this column could be taken up solely with the series titles, as many of them will bring a fresh wave of nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time. Granted, there may have been more violence on some of the dramas, but the rare displays of blood in their black-and-white milieu were shown only in a deeper shade of gray.
Now, for a network-by-network listing.
Bounce TV caters to African-American tastes. There are lots of movies and documentaries, but two programming staples are "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" and "Soul Train."
This TV, another channel, also shows a lot of movies, but in the early morning before you head to work or school, viewers can catch episodes of "The Patty Duke Show," "Mister Ed," "Green Acres," "Inspector Gadget" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch."
Cozi TV, a new service for NBC-owned and -operated affiliates, shows the occasional flick, but has a deeper roster of TV series, including several that never aired on the Peacock Network. Its shows include "The Lone Ranger," "The Roy Rogers Show," "Alias Smith and Jones," "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "McCloud," "Highway to Heaven," "I Spy," "Magnum, P.I.," "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "Lassie," "The Six Million-Dollar Man," "The Bionic Woman," "Sherlock Holmes," "The Virginian" and "Wells Fargo."
RTN, short for Retro Television Network, often showcases classic series from the Universal, MCA and Revue vaults. Its offerings include "Ozzie and Harriet," "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "The New Zorro," "The Bill Cosby Show," "Movin' On,' "The Naked City," "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," "The Archies," "Mr. Magoo," "Lassie," "I Spy," "Hopalong Cassidy," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The Joey Bishop Show," "The Real McCoys," "Highway to Heaven," "The Saint," "Route 66" and "The Soupy Sales Show."
Antenna TV takes material from the Columbia, TriStar and Screen Gems archives and puts it back on the air. Its classic TV series include "Leave It to Beaver," "Dennis the Menace," "Father Knows Best," "Adam-12," "Dragnet," "The Partridge Family," "Sanford and Son," "Maude," "Good Times," "All in the Family," "Barney Miller," "It Takes a Thief," "S.W.A.T.," "The Monkees," "Gidget," "The Flying Nun," "Circus Boy," "The Jack Benny Program," "Burns and Allen," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Here Come the Brides," "Hazel," "Bachelor Father," "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," "McHale's Navy," "Diff'rent Strokes," "Benson" and "WKRP in Cincinnati."
Last but certainly not least, Me TV has convinced the stars of the shows in its stables to make short network-promo ads in which they say, "Watch me, on Me TV." What's there to watch? Offerings include: "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," "Make Room for Daddy," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction," "My Three Sons," "The Donna Reed Show," "Get Smart," "That Girl," "I Love Lucy," "Daniel Boone," "Perry Mason," "The Rockford Files," "Hawaii Five-O," "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "The Big Valley," "The Wild Wild West," "Emergency," "The Rifleman," "M*A*S*H," "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeannie," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Odd Couple," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Twilight Zone," "Kojak," "Rod Serling's Night Gallery," "Mission: Impossible," "Combat!" and "12 O'Clock High."
One network's roster alone would be impressive, but there are six such stations competing for our eyeballs. This list doesn't include Ion, a successor of sorts to the ratings-challenged Pax network. Ion, though, tends to show scads of CBS police procedural dramas from the past decade.
Some cable TV subscribers have cut the cord, in a manner of speaking, opting to stick to over-the-air TV because of subchannels like these. However, for TV consumers who want as full a choice as possible and are savvy enough to skip the channels that carry programming they find offensive, these channels might be found on a digital-cable tier. And they're almost certainly in the lineup of satellite TV's 500-channel universe.