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Better Then or Better Now: Make the call on classic favorites

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#1 of 84 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted April 17 2009 - 03:08 AM

Here's a thread likely to send some classic TV fans running for the torches, but remember it's purely subjective opinion and just for fun.

You watched a show when it was originally on. Maybe you loved it or you didn't. You've grown up (well, perhaps). You collect or watch the show today. It holds the same appeal. It doesn't. Or you like it better.
Better Then (when you were young and could be entertained by anything), or
Better Now (it delivers you back, but also gives you something you didn't see the first time).

For me, it pretty much breaks down to shows I enjoyed in the 60's that were written for my age then (around 10), to shows that were more adult and play better now.

So here's my breakdown: (And these are all shows that I own at least one season of)

Any Irwin Allen show (sorry, but these shows were specifically targeted for the ten year-old mind that often ruled the family television, and the cheesiness, thin characterizations, and unimaginative camera work is just too clunky to my ear and eye today). Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, Time Tunnel ... I loved you ... way back when. Not so much now.


The Fugitive. This was always more an adult show, and I remember being bored to death trying to watch this as a kid. Now... it's brilliant. Great scripts. First rate acting.


The Man From U.N.C.L.E Again, mostly written for the 10 year-old within us all. It relied too much on the cheap gadgets that don't hold up today. I lived and breathed this show in the '60s. I can't even get through the complete set I own today.

I Spy. To be honest, I loved this show back then for the great chemistry between Bill Cosby and Robert Culp (and because I could stay up til 10 on a Wednesday night to watch it), and I love it just as much today. No gimmicks. Just a great buddy show.

I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan's Island, Beverly Hillbillies, Gomer Pyle, The Monkees, Laugh In, etc. etc. I confess to watching IDOJ because the hormones were kicking in and it was Barbara Eden. She's still lovely to look at, but I just don't get off on goofy comedy anymore.

The Dick Van Dyke Show I enjoyed this as a 10 year-old for the physical schtick; I enjoy this today for the brilliant ensemble acting and great writing. And my 12-year old likes it. That's the test of a bulletproof show.

Night Gallery. Sigh. I loved this show because it brought to life all my favorite horror stories. But today, it's stilted, the color and look dates it, the adaptations diminish rather than exceed my interpretations of the stories. Some gems, but mostly dull, unpolished stones.

The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits (original series) Okay, this is a cheat. I was completely nuts over these shows then, and I'm still completely nuts over them now. Like a magical alignment of cosmic forces, they endure. TZ is the classic Aesop's Fables of our generation. These are timeless morality tales preserved in perfection. TOL was also that perfect combination of a writer and story editor (Joseph Stefano) hitting his creative peak, a gothic horror cinematography (Conrad Hall!) that had reached B&W perfection, and some marvelous casting. Ignore the look of the science today, but adore the fiction.

Combat! I loved the fight scenes when I was 10 and watched this every week. I discovered how good the writing was and the acting in the non-fighting scenes when I re-watched this entire series with my then 10 year-old son more recently.

I'll leave it there for now with the option to add more later. I'm sure I've lit a few flames, but let's all be honest about what really entertains us NOW versus then.

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#2 of 84 OFFLINE   michael_ks



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Posted April 17 2009 - 03:39 AM

Interesting thread topic, Wayne. Should get some decent mileage out of this one. Agree with you on just about everything, in fact, especially where "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is concerned. This series should be right up alley but its non-linear story telling drives me nuts. Agree with you too where Irwin Allen is concerned, save for "Voyage". The combination of Basehart, Hedison, lighting, photography, model work, etc. gives this show a look and feel I still adore to this day. If only this series had been accorded some good writers and the bulk of episodes had the dramatic punch of "Doomsday" and "Submarine Sunk Here"--well, we'd be talking unabashed classic for this show today. BIG agreement on both "The Fugitive" and "The Outer Limits", though. Timeless gems, that's what they are. Where I disagree the most is where "Night Gallery" and "Gomer Pyle" are concerned. With NG I love the look and feel of the show better than I had before, mainly because I what I remember are those wretched syndicated versions that I saw all those years ago. GP will always be a guilty pleasure but after seeing them a dozen times each due to my having an 8 year old mega fan in the house--yeah, it can get a bit old.

#3 of 84 OFFLINE   Tim Tucker

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Posted April 17 2009 - 03:42 AM

The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy. I adored these shows as a child. Now I'm struck by just how mean-spirited the relationship was between Lucy Carmichael/Carter and Mr. Mooney/Harrison Carter. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I Love Lucy. When I saw it as a child, it just seemed so strange compared to the Lucy I knew. Now I recognize its brilliance and genuine warmth.

Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch. Two shows I watched ad nauseum back in the 70s. I never want to see them again.

Adventures of Superman. A real disappointment revisiting this one. I liked it well enough as a child (not as much as Batman), and the B/W seasons are OK, but the color seasons have been a trial, both cheap looking and juvenile.

The Beverly Hillbillies. I have to disagree with you on this one. I'm watching S1 currently, and the show is just as good as I remembered it. And I now see that its serial structure was a radical departure from most sitcoms. Though I am concerned whether the quality will last through future seasons.

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#4 of 84 OFFLINE   Joe*A


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Posted April 17 2009 - 04:29 AM

Great thread:

That Girl - the nostalgic look still holds up but the comedy and situations are so ho-hum today.
Kung Fu - I loved loved loved this show as a kid and emulated Cain. Today, the fight scenes are so childish in comarison to the Matrix generation that you just have to fast forward the scenes to the dramatic aspect of the show.
Space Ghost & Birdman - Laughable to the nth degree. I liked this crap?
Johnnie Quest - This surprised me because I really thought it would hold its own in the new millenium but the episodes fall flat today.
Gilligan's Island - I thought it was crap back then too but yet, was addicted.
White Shadow - The show is still good but lacks any punch that I experienced back then

As someone wrote above, I have to admit that this list is better titled "STILL HOLDS UP"
Twilight Zone - The stories mean more to me today then they did back then (something to do with living and maturity)
Beverly Hillbillies - Hillarious still today and maybe more because I get most of the inuendoes.
Get Smart - I think I appreciate it even more now after seeing the theatrical re-imagining in 2008 with Steve Carrell.
All in the Family - relevent material then and now
Mary Tyler Moore - great characters that will live forever
Barney Miller - better understood today
MASH - excellent show will live forever
Dick Van Dyke - great situation comedy that will live forever
Honeymooners - masterpiece

#5 of 84 OFFLINE   smithb



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Posted April 17 2009 - 04:38 AM

This is good. I like the format and it could be useful in helping people selecting possible purchases.

I have a few I feel comfortable rating at this point and many more waiting in the wings after i see a season or two.

Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. I agree with what has already been stated. Classics.

Adventures of Superman. Hmmm...I'm just finishing up season 1 and I am enjoying them quite a bit. I started with the 1948/1950 serials (first time viewing) and enjoyed them equally. Just got season 2 in the mail. However, I plan on staying away from the color seasons.

The Andy Griffith Show. Most of my purchases originated as Westerns and Crime based so I wasn't sure how the older comedies would hold up. I took a chance on Andy because it was such a favorite growing up, and it hasn't disappointed in the least. It is just as good now, if not better, then I remembered. As a result, I'm looking forward to giving I Love Lucy, Honeymooners, Fathers knows Best, and The Dick Van Dyke Show a try

Star Trek (TOS). I have the remastered with new special effects editions. While I would have been happy with just the cleaned up video I am finding that I also appreciate the new CGI. It's like a good facelift that doesn't distort from the originals, unlike many that we are seeing coming out of hollywood these days (e.g., Burt Reynolds).

There many shows I am working through that I only had seen glimpses of in my youth so wouldn't want to rate from a THEN perspective, but I am definitely enjoying them now and give them honorable mention: Perry Mason, Untouchables, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Big Valley, HGWT)

#6 of 84 OFFLINE   Bob Hug

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Posted April 17 2009 - 04:39 AM

You've covered my sentiments perfectly on "Combat!," Wayne. All the kids in the neighborhood would get together to play "army" the day after a "Combat!" episode aired. Re-discovering this series on DVD as an adult reveals some terrific writing and acting in this series. Only negative, which I wouldn't have noticed as a youngster, was the repetitive use of MGM's "French Village" and some Southern California location filming. BETTER THEN: Welcome Back Kotter For whatever reason that I can't put a finger on, this was funny to me back in the day, but now I find it tedious going for the most part, even though I still like Gabe Kaplan's humorous stories. I had a hard time just getting though Warner's "Television Favorites" 6-episode sampler. I suppose the writing for and the characterizations of "The Sweathogs" just got too repetitious for me. I still enjoy John Sebastian's "Welcome Back" theme and the opening/closing montages of life in Brooklyn, though. BETTER NOW: Barney Miller I always liked this show during its original run, but I find it even funnier today . . . it's become my absolute favorite sitcom from the 70s. Writing/acting is top notch and I felt it never skipped a beat even when there were cast changes.

#7 of 84 OFFLINE   Joe Tor1

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Posted April 17 2009 - 04:46 AM

Good topic, Wayne. I’m about your age, so I relate. I agree with you everywhere… except on Irwin Allen! Sci-Fi was never as much fun as when Irwin Allen did it. He didn’t try do “City on the Edge of Forever" or “Amok Time” and, as long as you didn’t expect it from him, everything was cool! He never failed to entertain… and say what you might about logic and even characterization; his shows were never slow and dull! “Old and clunky” becomes relative with time. Irwin’s shows were amazingly modern to an audience whose baseline was “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver”. The fact that these shows have any popularity at all today speaks volumes! With today’s sci-fi being so relentlessly grim, I’d say Irwin Allen may have been “Better Then”… but, in the proper perspective, he’s still great now!

#8 of 84 OFFLINE   gruagach


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Posted April 17 2009 - 05:16 AM

Better Now
The Avengers - As a kid, I found it too chatty. As an adult, I've found it clever and entertaining.

Better Now and Then
Time Tunnel - It's still fun.

Better Then
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ("Bath Tub" in my house). A remark I made to friends, probably during a latter season is sticks out most, "Kowalksi's always getting hurt." I've even glanced at clips on YouTube, but it doesn't attract me.

I can't revisit comedies due to laugh tracks. Can't stand them. *For the DVD feature wishlist: the ability to turn off laugh tracks. But I'll still watch Monty Python, despite them.

Better Now
The Fugitive - A boring drama as a kid. A brilliant drama as an adult.

#9 of 84 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted April 17 2009 - 05:59 AM


Route 66 I liked this as a kid for the car and the travelogue across America. I LOVE it as an adult for the writing, insight to the human condition, buddy chemistry (Tod and Buz episodes), and for the boozy, cynical, horny women along the way.

STILL HOLDS UP would have been a good name for the thread, but that narrows the category. I was going more for what the different perceptions of the show as youngsters, versus our reacquaintence with those shows today.

I probably shouldn't have included The Beverly Hillbillies or Gomer Pyle because I do not own those sets and have not seen them lately. I'll take your word for it on those. And I've been a little harsh on Night Gallery, when the truth is I would not trade back either season DVD set. It just wasn't as good as I remembered it.

I did watch pieces of a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea last night on the AmLife network (4 Irwin Allen shows in a row every night!) I probably haven't given it a fair shake yet either, but it didn't hold my interest even for nostalgia. Perhaps it was just a bad episode (Big whale swallowing Baseheart and chick in a round diving tube). The models were cool, though. Which I remember was a huge draw for the show - those great models (monster suits ... not so much).

Andy Griffith, I Love Lucy, Honeymooners, Star Trek defintely on the Then and Now list, IMO.

I've got to see a Barney Miller again. I liked that show so much I wrote two spec episodes to try and get an assignment. Danny Arnold was a genius.


Maverick. I couldn't resist a great con character like James Garner as a kid, and I'm enjoying the stories today as I rewatch them on the RTN (Retro Television Network).

#10 of 84 OFFLINE   michael_ks



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Posted April 17 2009 - 06:27 AM

I'm afraid that if "Jonah and the Whale" didn't win you over, then shows like "The Fossil Men" and "Fatal Cargo" will fall far short. For me what's neat about "Jonah" are the solid production values, original Jerry Goldsmith score and the presence of Gia Scala. But I admit, for a season opener it still falls a bit short. The miniatures indeed were a great draw for many a male viewer, to the extent that some 45 years later, high quality production model kits were recently made for both Seaview and Flying Sub. Great comments about "Route 66" and as you probably can surmise from my comments in that thread, this series is right up there with "The Fugitive" for probing commentary on the human condition, courtesy of maestros Rodman and Silliphant. As for westerns, these are better to me now than before, especially "Rawhide", "The Rifleman" and "Have Gun Will Travel". I revisited "Kung Fu" S1 in the last couple of weeks, a series I was enthralled with during its original run (save for S3 which I'll probably never get). Doesn't hold up for me as well as the others, but certain episodes from S1 like "Superstition" and "The Preying Mantis Kills" play well owing to the guest stars and the many scenes with Radamas Pera and Keye Luke, which I always enjoyed. As the series wears on, there's less interaction between the two unfortunately and the show becomes a bit too metaphysical and zen-like for my taste. I like the light hearted, fatherly touch of Master Po, like the scene where he laughs at Grasshopper, who thought he'd fallen into a pool of acid instead of lukewarm water during one of his tests.

#11 of 84 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted April 17 2009 - 06:34 AM

Dynasty: About the same; first of all, the dvd quality is excellent, which brings the 80s back to life in my eye. Secondly, the financial concerns of the Carringtons seem relevant today--we're going through the same things in today's economy. The stories don't seem as silly as I remember them, but I'm probably thinking of the later seasons (which were pretty looney). They're only up to season four as of now...

The Flying Nun: A hair better than I remembered it. The storylines were actually more heartfelt and thoughtful than anything currently on television. It wasn't antiseptic either; they tackled some heavier issues than people would think.

H.R. Pufnstuf: 10X better than before. When it was playing first-run, everybody loved it. But everything in its own time is taken for granted. Now? There's NOTHING like it on television. There is no children's show with one ounce of Pufnstuf's quality. It was peerless then, and it's peerless now. Highly watchable and if any modern kid doesn't like that show, then there is something seriously wrong with that kid...

Lost in Space: Eh; not as good as before. But the prints are pretty lousy. I remember when that show looked brand-spankin' new--it made a difference in its watchability. The stories are just as dumb as ever. We didn't care about the stories, though. We cared about the actors and their characters. We cared about the weird trio of Will, Dr. Smith and the Robot and their corny adventures. I think the series would improve, in my estimation, if they'd get off the dime and try to restore the prints to pristine quality.

The Jeffersons: It's still okay; the actors and the comedy are still terrific. But some of the issues they discuss have gladly become (a little bit) irrelevant today, in terms of bigotry and racial discrimination stories and what have you. I wonder what the Jeffersons would think in 2009 of a black president. But it's still good to remind ourselves of where we've been and how bad we sucked. Makes you feel good to realize that some progress has been made in the anti-racism front.

V: Eh. The first mini-series is still terrific--the rest of the series has not aged well at all. It was stupid then--it's stupider now. Lord knows now that it's supposedly coming back to television that WB will have another look at the show on dvd and maybe come out with a BR boxed set (hopefully remastered. The prints of the weekly series have faded a little bit). I'll give it another look if a new dvd comes out, but it still won't cure the stupid stories from the weekly version...

Family Ties: Like the Jeffersons, many of the topics discussed on this show are slowly becoming irrelevant. That doesn't hurt the quality of the performances, it just dates them. I still enjoy watching this, and look forward to season six on dvd.

I Love Lucy: It's fine wine; it gets better every time I look at it. I don't think it'll ever go out of style; I notice my nephews and nieces watching it today. Hopefully they'll pass it on to their kids and so on. It was already 20 years old when I started watching it myself.


#12 of 84 OFFLINE   AndyMcKinney



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Posted April 17 2009 - 06:44 AM

I would have to agree that as far as classic sitcoms go, The Beverly Hillbillies holds up better today that most. What I'm sure (at the time) was dismissed as "low" humour is actually still quite good and, I feel, was very sophisticated for its time. I still get plenty of chuckles from that one, when many other shows of the same period just come across as clunky, corny, you name it. Though not on DVD, Batman is another comedy of that time that seems to have retained its charm. I also find that The Addams Family has held up pretty well, too (though perhaps not quite as well as Hillbillies.). Despite the topicality, I find some of All in the Family to still be quite humourous, too (though some of it is equally tedious). M*A*S*H still holds up well, too (far better than the feature film). I was surprised at how un-funny I found Laugh-In when I started watching the TrioTV reruns. Given its sterling reputation, I was expecting a lot more. I'm sure many of those jokes/gags were tired even then (though I can appreciate the fast pace, tape editing tricks, etc. were revolutionary for time). I also find a lot of older drama shows unintentionally funny, quaint or just too darn predictable these days. I found a recent-ish KTLA rerun of Emergency! very boring, and this was a show (when I was a child) that I really loved at the time.

#13 of 84 OFFLINE   GlennH



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Posted April 17 2009 - 07:27 AM

Just FYI, in case you don't know, you can do that with the M*A*S*H DVDs, and the show plays so much better sans laugh track.

#14 of 84 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted April 17 2009 - 07:49 AM

This is fantastic information, thank you. I will run, not walk the next time Target offers Seasons 1 & 2 together for $14.99 (which they have every couple of weeks or so lately). I loved the early seasons of that show, but resisted buying it for that very reason (overused laugh track).


X-Files. Not exactly classic era television, but I've rewatched this recently and compared it to X-File alumni Vince Gilligan's current show Fringe, and X-Files is still great and just ... better. I like Fringe, but X-Files succeeds in creeping me out more. And Gillian Anderson, well, there you go, once-in-a-lifetime great actress making a show.

#15 of 84 ONLINE   TravisR


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Posted April 17 2009 - 08:12 AM

Actually, Vince Gilligan's current show is Breaking Bad. The X-Files and Breaking Bad are too different to really compare but I think Breaking Bad is probably the best new show I've seen in a couple years.

#16 of 84 ONLINE   Hollywoodaholic


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Posted April 17 2009 - 08:32 AM

I agree, awesome show (the scene with Tuco and his invalid 'tio' with the bell and the poison was the most suspenseful sequence I've seen this year). And you're right, Vince Gilligan does Breaking Bad; I was thinking of consulting producer Daren Morgan (sp) on Fringe, who wrote some of the best X-Files episodes, including my favorite, "Humbug."

#17 of 84 OFFLINE   DaveHof


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Posted April 17 2009 - 09:14 AM

Better Then:

I Dream of Jeannie: Iconic characters, Barbara Eden is never less than adorable, but there's no 'there' there. It's the same handful of labored plots over and over. But I bought them all anyway.

Father Knows Best: A classic '50s sitcom, I know, but watching it again I was struck by how annoying the kids are. Bud's a headcase in half the shows and Kitten is such a spoiled brat.

Wonder Woman: Perfect casting of Lynda Carter, but not much else.

Better Now:

The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet: For me, this holds up so much better than Father Knows Best. Clever writing and situations and I love the musical element in the series as well.

Family Affair: Struck me as too sickeningly-sweet when I was younger, but now I think it should be viewed as a dramedy rather than a comedy, and I find the episodes truly heartfelt and touching.

The Fugitive: One of television's finest achievements.

Loved it then, Still Love it Now:

The Brady Bunch: I pretty much have the episodes memorized by now, but I still watch one at least once a week. It's my security blanket.

The Dick Van Dyke Show: Along with 'I Love Lucy,' arguably the best sitcom ever.

Room 222: I identified with the students when I first watched it. Now I identify with the teachers.

Wings: Much-maligned in its time, I think it's one of the last great ensemble comedies when the networks were full of them.

Green Acres: So delightfully bizarre. So unique both of its era and now. Only The Simpsons can rival it for surreal genius.

#18 of 84 OFFLINE   Gary OS

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Posted April 17 2009 - 09:23 AM

Wow, what a great thread idea Wayne! Kudos my friend. Of course you guys have covered so many I would have mentioned, and I find myself agreeing with Wayne and Michael on most of these. I do especially agree with Michael on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA when we are talking about the first 2 seasons. Once we get to Season 3 I have to admit the show goes from Better Now to Better Then. Gary "I'll have to take some time to really think about this great topic, but you guys have hit on so many already it may be difficult for me to contribute much originality" O.
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#19 of 84 OFFLINE   gruagach


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Posted April 17 2009 - 02:10 PM

Ta. I once considered a MASH purchase, but the laugh track idea turned me off. I guess I'll reconsider.

#20 of 84 OFFLINE   JamesSmith


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Posted April 17 2009 - 05:56 PM

Dear Hollywoodaholic: How do you feel about the Adam West Batman series? Is that better or worse than when we saw it as a kid? I feel your pain when it comes to the Irwin Allen shows.I feel bad for the various series, because most of the times they have a first rate cast who are capable of some great acting if they have a good script and direction. I WANT to love Voyage, but some of the scripts fall flat in so many ways. The repetitive brainwashing plot, the hackneyed monsters; not only are the outfits atrocious, but their plans for world domination are always defeated by something stupid mistake they make. Land of the Giants: Good cast, bad scripts. Too much chasing and running, not enough character development. And again--the actors are capable if given the right material.You can see glimpses of it in certain scripts, but it's never taken too it's conclusion. Time Tunnel. Ok. There's some really bad wooden acting here by one of the actors. I can live with some of the "cheap" special effects, such as when they cut into old classic movies for footage, but if the acting was just a tad better. I fear I've been spoiled by some of the faster scene cutting that we've had since the eighties. JamesSmith

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