Revisiting TV Memories Not Always Good Viewing

By Jason Menard

Despite the advent of personal video recorders, there are some cases when the television medium and the rewind button just don’t mix – especially when it comes to shows we prized in our youth.

An affiliate of the Cartoon Network, aimed at the 18-plus demographic, has purchased the entire run of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and intends to run it during the 11:00 p.m. slot – too late to be targeted to a new audience. And while the wannabe hipsters will embrace the show, the vast majority of us who saw the show in its first go-around will probably end up disappointed.

The adage of you can’t go home again has been disproved over and over. But while the phrase can’t be used as a generalization, it does still apply in certain areas, especially to the things we loved as a child.

The shows don’t change – it’s the way in which we see them that’s evolved. The wide-eyed wonder of our youth is replaced by a more jaundiced, discerning perspective that adulthood provides. We know more, we understand more, and it’s harder for us as adults to suspend disbelief.

And, in the case of Pee Wee Herman, our viewing experience will now be filtered through a bit of salacious knowledge that Mr. Reubens unfortunately had, uhm, exposed. Simple jokes, innocent banter, and personal interplay will now be heavily coloured by innuendo and double-entendres – even when they’re not there.

The gazillion-channel universe that we live in has almost ensured that no show will ever go unwatched again. Entire channels are dedicated to replaying so-called classic series to the nostalgic. So the chances are good that the show you loved as a child is either on some channel’s schedule, or will be in the near future. The choice of watching again is up to you.

But, from personal experience, I’d advise you not to.

Everything’s bigger and better in our youth. The snows were higher, the games were more fun, and the shows were simply better. With an 11-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, I’ve been able to stay abreast of what’s on now: much of the older child’s programming features smart-alecky, pseudo-rebellious kids with a penchant for back talk and clichés. For my younger off-spring, her choices are more Princess-oriented and Disneyfied, along with some (absolutely entertaining) educational shows like Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go.

Watching our eldest’s shows, my wife and I have occasionally fallen into the trap of turning up our noses at the shows and lamenting about the loss of intelligent viewing options. Fortunately, with alternative channels like Animal Planet and Discovery Kids, we can take solace in the fact that there are more opportunities of education and entertainment to blend. But, let’s face it, as a kid sometimes you just want to be entertained and put the ol’ brain on park.

Both my wife and I were fond of the Incredible Hulk, so we were excited about the chance of catching it again when it appeared on the schedule for one of our subscribed channels. After two episodes we began to question our intelligence. Maybe we weren’t as smart or discerning as we thought we were.

My wife was a Charlie’s Angels fan. Another memory tarnished by reality. Miami Vice? Terrible. A-Team? B rate. But the worst, most disappointing wasted childhood memory? V.

Whenever discussions of shows we loved came up, V was at the top of our list. We remembered it as a stylish, intelligent, exciting show – even though the only memories we could conjure up was the image of the aliens peeling off their fake human faces. In this case, the stature of the show continued to be built up due to its stubborn refusal to show up on my dial. My faith in the quality of the show was unwavering.

Until we saw it. Let’s just say I miss my memories.

And that’s the key. Few things are as good as we remember from youth, and it’s made me gun shy about what I’m willing to watch again. I picked up Schoolhouse Rock andUnderdog DVDs and was pleased that they still met my lofty expectations. I watched Sesame Street with my daughter, or the old Spider-Man cartoons (you know, the one that used stock images when he was swinging so that the Empire State Building would appear in any jungle or any country…) with my son and they’re still entertaining.

Yet, I’ve lost so much by revisiting my youth. Fond memories have been tainted by present-day realities. I remember loving the Electric Company, but do I really want to pick up the new DVD set and risk slaying Speed Reader?

When favourite shows return to the tube, your decision on whether or not you want to watch comes down to how much are you willing to gamble? How fond are your memories? Are you willing to compromise childhood reminisces? I’m finding, personally, the answer is less and less in the affirmative.

After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder – and those built-up memories rarely stand the test of time.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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