Advertising Age reports this week that ESPN Classic will launch in the U.K. on March 13th. Here’s hoping the cable channel’s content is a whole lot richer and more relevant on the other side of the pond.
I loved the original "Classic" that aired in the mid-1990’s. In those pre-ESPN days, you could view reruns of the Joe Namath Talk Show from 1969, see a youthful Mickey Mantle and his Yankees do battle with Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers in the 1952 World Series and also enjoy countless episodes of ABC’s fabled Wide World of Sports (with my all-time favorite broadcaster Howard Cosell at the mic).
Ever since ESPN acquired the cable channel, however, Classic has gone to hell in a handbasket. They rarely, if ever, show the great games of yesteryear. Instead, ESPN recycles "instant classics" from last week and PBA bowling events from two or three years ago as well as some totally incongruous show co-hosted by twin brothers that I’m still trying to figure out.
In the process, they’ve totally alienated me (and, I’m sure, hundreds of thousands of other Baby Boomer sports junkies who long to see the Heidi Game just one more time).
So, to my blogging chums in Britain, here’s hoping that you get to see lots and lots of great old clips showing George Best and Henry Cooper strutting their stuff and not some recently recycled nonsense that just aired a fortnight ago on Sky Sports.
There’s nothing classic about alienating your core constituency…whether its politics, marketing or, in this case, broadcasting.
Speaking of bringing back shows from the 70’s and 80’s. Can someone please explain to me why ABC’s answer to SNL back in the 80’s called “Fridays” has never made it back on air via Nick or VH1? Michael Richards, Melanie Chartoff, Larry David, etc. Had some great musical acts too. How about the Andy Kaufman episode?
I’m looking forward to seeing some classic clips of yesteryear, although, if the UK ESPN Classic goes the way of many other British sports channels and simply crams in as much footage of Manchester United as possible then I for one will won’t be tuning in. Like the New York Yankees, Man Utd have the biggest (fair weather) fan base of any club in the country, but when the media cater to that fact at the expense of the rest of us then it only leads us to despise Man Utd even more.
Gang: In the 80s, when Nick at Night started airing “classic” shows from the 60s, those shows were no older than the ones they are currently showing!
Time for my nap.
Andrew, you make a fair point. But, haven’t you heard, we boomers think that the universe revolves around us?
Syd, aka “RepHomeslice,” do you have a craving for TV programs that aired well before your time? I’m guessing you’re probably not a fan of programs that aired in the 40’s, such as Mary Kay and Johnny. People like to watch shows that they grew up on because they are nostalgic. So, as sad as it sounds, “classic” for me are shows like Mork & Mindy, Different Strokes, The Jeffersons, Perfect Strangers, and Three’s Company. I could really care less about “I’m Dickens. He’s Fenster” – culturally significant or not. I’m sure I’ll share your same feelings in 10-15 years when TV Land starts airing re-runs of Frasier, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Everybody loves Raymond.
Well put, Syd. The same holds true for the Game Show Network, which originally aired some great “What’s my line?” classics from the early and mid-1950s. Now, they have a bunch of $25,000 Pyramid reruns that are about as exciting as watching grass grow. “I’m Dickens. He’s Fenster, eh?” Pretty obscure stuff. Thought you’d suggest “Dobie Gillis” instead. Quick quiz: What was the name of Love That Bob’s secretary in the show?
Sadly, this is the trend with the retro-themed cable outlets. There once was a time when Nick-at-Night and TV Land would air true classic 1960s sitcoms such as “Get Smart” (the greatest of them all), “Bewitched” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Now, they serve up “Roseanne,” “Cheers” and “Night Court,” long-running shows that are less than two decades old.
While many boomers (including me) would love to see Namath’s talk show or Yankee-Dodger World Series, I think the viewing public’s taste for vintage video doesn’t extend to anything before their time. Why else, then, would visitors to the Museum of Television and Broadcasting continue to request episodes of “Seinfeld,” which runs everywhere in syndication, instead of “Love That Bob,” “Julia” or “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster”?
The networks are only giving people what they want. In so doing, they are depriving them of important pieces of American cultural history.