In The Era of Streaming, Are We Too Preoccupied With Old Shows?

We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be consumed with nostalgia when there’s so much great new TV out there.
By  · Published on October 6th, 2017

It’s fine to take a stroll down the 90’s, but when we explore from underneath the warm blanket that is nostalgia, it can make all the difference in the long term.

Hulu recently announced that they will be adding many of TV’s 90’s hits to their ever-expanding library of television. Shows such as Full House, Family Matters, Boy Meets World, Step by Step, and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper will be on the roster and of course, this is exciting. Thinking back to an era when we couldn’t catch up on our favorite programs on our own time, and had to rely on re-runs, being able to watch all of these shows now whenever wherever is pretty thrilling. That being said, it is easy to fall into this 90’s nostalgia and binge all of these fun and familiar programs rather than jumping into the unknown. Many of us are guilty of it. We watch all of Friends for the tenth time rather than tuning into the new season of a fresh new comedy like The Good Place. After a long and difficult day, I sometimes sit and watch The Golden Girls, when I clearly see new episodes of You’re the Worst sitting in my queue. It’s not that I don’t want to watch it, it’s just there is some kind of comfort that comes along with shows I have been watching since I was a child, and when I come home from a tough day, all I want to do is watch a show I know will make me feel something. However, when I do venture out, I am usually so glad for having done so.

There is no doubt TV culture right now is intimidating. It’s like Disneyworld; we’ll just never see it all. But it is important to support new shows that we do have an interest in if for no other reason than for the purpose of encouraging originality and diversity. With reboot culture being so popular now, probably in part because of the positive response these older shows have had on streaming platforms with both newer and older generations, we need to tell studios that while we do occasionally enjoy a blast from the past, we also like to try out new things. Otherwise, we will remain frozen in time.

This is not to say that we should never watch these older programs. They do provide a nice excuse to relax and are a vehicle back in time to what might have been simpler days. The two eras of TV can coexist, and I am one to encourage using history to learn how to advance the present.  By noticing the evolution of TV, it is interesting to see how far we have come in our overall viewing experience. After all, there is a large difference between previous family programs like Full House in comparison to family shows today like Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat which have more poignant voices in addressing family and social issues.

As we have discovered, TV is so much more than just “TV” now. In the 90’s, we still had to watch ads and we could not record on DVR or rewind when we missed something. Our lives solely depended on the decisions of the cable channels. There was also a more fixed number of television programs being aired, rather than the plethora of options we have today, which begs the question: Does our current era of television give us the opportunity to fall in love with TV like we have in previous decades?

For a film and television fanatic like myself, the answer to that question is an immediate yes, but thinking about this further, I’m not completely sure. There are so many things constantly being created and put out. We have to sort through a lot to find something we actually really just enjoy, which involves some work on our part, but it is rewarding. Also, binge culture seems to have increasingly condensed our time with various shows. It seems like some of the shows that we fell in love with from the 90’s or before, albeit those like Seinfeld and Friends are irreplaceable classics, in part were easy to fall for because they were all we had to watch. At the very least, there was a designated time to watch them, which meant there were 30 minutes every week in which some devotion could be placed onto those shows and an attachment could be made. However, with the fast-paced world we live in today, filled with choices, it’s easy to forget about a newer show that didn’t make much of an impression on us when we watched the pilot, or a show we binged in a weekend and will never watch again. That being said, our world of streaming platforms and new cable services, though they contain an excess amount of TV, are crucial at giving storytellers and creators the space to experiment and have their voice be heard, and everyone no longer has to watch the same things.

So while it is fun and comforting to re-watch all of our old favorites, it is important to explore and keep up with shows we love that are currently on air so that we continue to get more shows like Jane the Virgin, Blackish, and Rick and Morty in the future. That way, 25 years from now, these shows can live on just as series like Friends and Will and Grace do today, rather than being lost amongst the bunch.

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Film lover and pop culture enthusiast.