Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Nostalgic programming all the rage on the tube these days

Digital sub-channels and a seemingly insatiable appetite for vintage television series are igniting an explosion of nostalgic programming that goes well beyond “M*A*S*H” and “I Love Lucy.”

IT'S HARDLY stop-the-presses news that we love old TV shows. There probably hasn't been a day in three decades or more that didn't see some outlet showing reruns of such classic fare as "I Love Lucy" or "M*A*S*H."

But for fans of classic TV, these are high times indeed, with the explosion of new channels specializing in vintage programs from the 1950s through the '80s. And we're not just talking the pop culture touchstones, either. For every "Gilligan's Island" or "The Brady Bunch," there is a far more esoteric but no less-entertaining program to be found, from the cerebral 1960s drama "Route 66" to the "Twilight Zone"-ish "One Step Beyond."

Technology and economics are the twin engines propelling this rise in nostalgic programming. The recent digital transformation of local TV has provided stations with sub-channels that represent added revenue sources for outlets like NBC10, whose Cozi TV affiliate is on channel 10.2, and PHL17, which carries Antenna TV on channel 17.2.

On the number-crunching front, old TV shows are a relatively low-cost investment, especially the more obscure titles, according to David Bianculli, TV critic for NPR's Philly-based "Fresh Air" program and creator of

More to the point, noted Bianculli, there is a sizable audience that loves nostalgic shows.

"Viewing by young people [of vintage programs] isn't what it was a generation ago," said Bianculli, who also teaches TV and film at Rowan University. "They go straight to their own channels - Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central. They don't even have the exposure to these sorts of shows. So what's happened is that cable television and local television stations have begun to fill in this gap, mostly with older viewers."

While Bianculli is thrilled that such programming is so widespread, he did offer a caveat: "A lot of these channels, though they're showing [series] you can't see elsewhere, they aren't treating them with the respect they deserve. They're speeding them up, they're cutting them up. And that's really irritating to me.

"In my dream TV world, there would be a 'Masterpiece Theater' of old television, where [shows] would be presented in context at regular speed without editing."

So, you've been forewarned; but if you're still yearning for vintage TV, here are some places to find it.


Find it: Channel 17.2; FIOS: Channel 463; Comcast: Channel 252; RCN: Channel 29.

Biggest hits: "All In the Family," "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeannie," "Leave It to Beaver," "Newhart," "Three's Company."

Coolest shows: "Barney Miller," "Green Acres," "The Jack Benny Program," "The Monkees," "WKRP in Cincinnati."

Online:; Facebook:; Twitter: @antennatvonline


Find it: Ch. 10.2; FIOS: Ch. 460; Comcast: Ch. 248; DISH: Ch. 82; RCN: Ch. 28.

Biggest hits: "Charlie's Angels," "Highway to Heaven," "Murder She Wrote," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Six Million Dollar Man."

Coolest shows: "The Avengers," "I Spy," "Make Room For Daddy," "Maverick," "One Step Beyond."

Online:; Twitter: @cozitv; Facebook:


Find it: Ch. 69.3; FIOS: Ch. 470; RCN: Ch. 24.

Biggest hits: "Wagon Train," "The Mod Squad," "Cannon."

Coolest shows: "Combat!" "Kung Fu," "Peter Gunn," The Man From U.N.C.L.E," "The Untouchables," "The Wild, Wild West."


Find it: Ch. 2; FIOS: Ch. 2/502; DISH: Ch. 2; DirecTV: Ch. 2

Biggest hits: "Bonanza," "Cheers," "Gunsmoke," "I Love Lucy," "M*A*S*H," "Star Trek," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Quincy."

Coolest shows: "Adventures of Superman," "Batman,' "Get Smart," "Mission: Impossible," "Naked City," "Route 66," "Taxi," "The Rockford Files."

Online:; Facebook:; Twitter: @metv.


Find it: Ch. 69.4; FIOS: Ch. 480; RCN: Ch. 25.

Biggest hits: "Beverly Hillbillies," "Bonanza," "Dr. Who," "Lassie," "Petticoat Junction," "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet," "The Lucy Show."

Coolest shows: "Dragnet [1950s version]," "I Spy," "Make Room For Daddy," "Mystery Science Theater 3000," "The Soupy Sales Show" [1970s version].

Online:; Twitter: @watchretrotv; Facebook: