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What Happened To Hour Long Syndicated Reruns After The Early 80's

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Frank Soyke, May 29, 2016.

  1. Frank Soyke

    Frank Soyke Screenwriter

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    When writing the last post something occurred to me I wanted to get some feedback on and a possible explanation from some of you who may know more than I. Here goes:

    When I was watching TV in the late 70's, about 75-79, I remember seeing a lot of syndicated reruns of hour long 60's and early 70's programming. I vividly recall watching Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Mission Impossible, Mannix, Hawaii Five-O, UNCLE, Kojak, Lost In Space, etc. What I noticed as we got into the 80's was not only did these shows disappear, but I don't recall seeing many newer (early-mid 70's) hour long shows in syndication either after they left the air. I don't recall seeing too many reruns of hit shows like Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Baretta, Police Woman, BJ/Lobo, Rockford, Love Boat, etc) As we got further into the 80's, I have NO recollection of seeing reruns of hit hour longs like Hill Street Blues, St Elsewhere, LA Law, Miami Vice, Dallas, etc in reruns either at the end of their runs or after they left first run.
    Is it my imagination, or did hour long syndicated reruns slowly leave the air and disappear almost completely until the past couple decades on cable retro channels? If so, why?
     
  2. Message #2 of 67 May 29, 2016
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
    jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    Good question.

    The only syndication reruns I remember watching in the late 1980s on OTA channels, was Knight Rider on a local station at midnight on a Sunday, IIRC.

    After that, I don't have any recollection either of older one-hour shows as reruns on OTA channels.
     
  3. Message #3 of 67 May 30, 2016
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
    Bob Gu

    Bob Gu Screenwriter

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    I remember reading at the time, that the powers that be (sheep) decided that hour-long shows didn't do well in syndication and that half-hour sitcoms did better in the ratings. Some hour shows were deemed too violent for daytime/afternoon programing or harder to edit, or not in color. I recall that there were syndicated Gunsmoke episodes that took out the shootouts. The irony was that the stations started showing two episode blocks of the sitcoms.

    The 80s was the period where they also came up with time speeding. But it was too late. Every time a new over the air station came on they would start with old TV shows and then after six months they would shift over to home shopping. Also the rise of the cheap pre-sold talk shows, and infomercials, left less places on the schedules for "old reruns".

    A similar thing happened with the studio syndicated movie packages. They all went over to cable, and OTA movie packages consisted of the same Public Domain movies sometimes with prints that looked like SLP VHS. And even the PD movies vanished from OTA by the 90s.

    It so great now that the OTA retro stations have embraced the old shows.
     
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  4. Scott511

    Scott511 Stunt Coordinator

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    The area where I grew up ran OTA the syndicated BJ/Lobo show package endlessly in the mid-80s, along with Buck Rogers. In fact I went to work for that station in 1993, and was eventually given 4 episodes (3 BJ & 1 Lobo) that were never sent back. That same station ran The Rockford Files (still on a film chain!) until a couple of years before I started. They also ran Quincy and The Dukes Of Hazzard in the 80's, and stopped around 1990. Another local station ran Street Hawk, Voyagers!, and The Greatest American Hero. Someone aired those bizarre 30 min Knight Rider episodes (each episode cut into 2 parts, because as Bob said in the post above "the powers that be (sheep) decided that hour-long shows didn't do well in syndication") but I can't remember if it was OTA in my area, or cable.

    Three 80's series that were sold exclusively to USA Network in the 80s were Airwolf, Riptide, and Miami Vice. So those would have not turned up anywhere while those contracts were in place. I wish I still all my Airwolf episodes from the USA Network broadcast, since some episodes had different dialogue than the CBS versions, plus some had strange almost "work print" type dubbing and sound fx. I'm probably only one of the few that remember that. After Hardcastle & McCormick was cancelled it was sold exclusively to the CBN network, that would have kept it out of syndication for the run of that deal.

    I'm thinking there are a couple of more 80s series that ran in my area OTA in the 80's early 90s, but I would need to go back through my TV guide collection to turn up those titles.
     
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  5. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    My guess, and it is merely a guess... The advent of infomercials in the '80s probably contributed to the absence of syndicated hour long programming.

    - Walter.
     
  6. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Lorimar tried selling Dallas in syndication but it didn't do well and since it was still running, some there must have felt it was cannibalizing the then-current CBS episodes or that audiences couldn't follow the old and new storylines at the same time. They also tried it with Knots Landing and got pretty much the same results, so they scrapped plans to syndicate Falcon Crest and just sold it directly to cable. With serialized drama, you miss one episode, you're out of the loop until it's rerun again, and for a show with over 350 episodes, that could be awhile.

    Murder, She Wrote was another 1980s hour-long show that IIRC went directly to cable (USA Network, in fact) and skipped local stations altogether (ironically, Magnum PI was syndicated to local stations, and in my former hometown market of Raleigh-Durham the same station that reran this also reran Dallas at one point). So was Cagney & Lacey, which was rerun on Lifetime shortly after it was cancelled.

    The MTM shows were an odd case. Victory Television ended up with the rights to Hill Street Blues, but once St. Elsewhere reached syndication, MTM had founded its own distribution company and distributed it itself; it regained the rerun rights to the whole library by the 1990s after years of their shows being split between Victory and Viacom. I do not recall ever seeing The White Shadow, Remington Steele or Lou Grant in reruns other than cable.
     
  7. Message #7 of 67 May 30, 2016
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
    FanCollector

    FanCollector Producer

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    Remington Steele was syndicated on broadcast channels in the New York area at several times through the late '80s and early '90s.

    Lots of '60s-'80s drama reruns were running on broadcast channels in New York from the early '80s to the early '90s. I recall watching Quincy, Cannon, The Rockford Files, Star Trek, Mission:Impossible, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, Switch, Mannix, Hart to Hart, Columbo, McCloud, Banacek, McMillan and Wife, Kojak, Perry Mason, Ironside, and Hawaii Five-O off the top of my head. (And Naked City reruns in the very late hours.) Star Trek was the only one of those series that ever played in the early evening prime syndication slots in those years, though. After the early '90s, most of the morning and late night syndication slots they had were taken up with other kinds of programming, although Quincy, Rockford, and the NBC Mystery Movie shows lasted past 2000 there.
     
  8. Stan

    Stan Producer

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    What is time speeding? I'm guessing it has something to do with compressing the show to fit the time slot, but never heard that phrase.
     
  9. Bob Gu

    Bob Gu Screenwriter

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    Time Speeding/Time Compression would speed up a TV program and reduce the actual runtime about two minutes per half-hour program, so they could add more commercials in syndication without cutting story content. So an old prime time hour show would run about 51 minutes without commercials in real time and about 47 minutes time-sped.

    Combat! and The Fugitive, among other shows were time-sped in the 80s. The time-sped B&W episodes of Combat! were used for the DVD release of Seasons 1-4, but 51 minute versions were used for the color Season 5.
     
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  10. JoshuaB.

    JoshuaB. Second Unit

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    Growing up in Canada in the 80s, I got to watch many of the 60s sci-fi/spy/adventure shows (The Prisoner, UNCLE, Secret Agent, Twilight Zone, etc.), courtesy of the CBC Saskatoon and Prince Albert stations, older shows my friends had no interest in. The federal government slashed the CBC's operating budget drastically in 1990, which meant regional programming was axed and syndicated programs would be purchased only for national broadcast. A few 60s British shows and Star Trek continued to air nationally, as British shows don't count against Canadian content regulations (I assume that because Star Trek had two Canadian regulars, it qualified as Cancon).

    As others mentioned, infomercials were much cheaper to buy, so stations like my beloved ITV in Edmonton (where much of the early SCTV episodes were filmed) dropped late-night reruns (ITV aired Get Smart, Hill Street Blues, Buck Rogers, and uncensored cult movies like An American Werewolf in London) in favour of infomercials by 1990.

    If it wasn't for syndication in the 80s, I'd likely never discover the many 60s/70s TV shows and buy them on DVD or Blu-ray years later. In this Netflix age, studios are scrambling to launch their own streaming sites and perhaps future generations will discover vintage TV classics while also enjoying the plethora of quality contemporary scripted shows.
     
  11. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Maybe this is way too simple, but I think it's just a matter of cable starting to expand and needing programming. Cable stations had more hours in the day to fill with syndicated reruns than broadcast and could probably pay more. From the point of view of the studio, it's probably easier to negotiate with one cable company than dozens or hundreds of local stations. The cable stations could probably afford to write larger checks than broadcast, which probably helped too. I think it's just part of the evolution on how content is delivered. But I could be totally wrong, that's just my educated guess.
     
  12. Vahan_Nisanain

    Vahan_Nisanain Supporting Actor

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    I remember the Lifetime network aired reruns of China Beach and L.A. Law. To my knowledge, neither of them were syndicated on local stations.
     
  13. jperez

    jperez Second Unit

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    Maybe this is not directly related to the theme of this thread, but I really can't understand why nowdays we're subjected to endless reruns of ST: The Next Generation on BBC America, Bonanza and the late years Gunsmoke on TV Land. This has been going on for years: TV Land has four Gunsmoke shows daily from Monday to Friday and BBC America also shows several The Next Generation episodes each day. Yes, they're great shows, but... really, I'm ready to get the same saturated programming on other classic shows, like Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. St. Elsewhere...
     
  14. Ron1973

    Ron1973 Beverly Hillbilles nut extraordinaire

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    When KBSI (Cape Girardeau, MO) first came on the air in the late 80's/early 90's, they were also showing The BJ/Lobo Show. I wish I would have had the forethought to have gotten those on VHS at the time. They were also showing an edited down version of Championship Wrestling; it aired live as 1 1/2 hours out of Memphis on WMC, but there was a syndicated package that got sent out to markets in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, and obviously Missouri that was an hour long. Later on, they even added Texas to the mix, but that's getting off topic.

    WREG in Memphis was airing the color Gunsmoke episodes as well as The Rockford Files well into the early 90's, but I think they were the exception rather than the rule.

    WPTY in Memphis was a haven for hour long shows in the 80's. Emergency!, Daniel Boone, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk and other shows I'm sure I'm forgetting.
     
  15. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    I still have about 30 VHS tapes with the complete series of St. Elsewhere recorded.
    I'm sure it was from TV Land when it first launched. I just remember it was on very early in the morning (5-6 AM?). I believe it ran through two times complete. Pretty short lived.
     
  16. Message #16 of 67 Jun 2, 2016
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    BobO'Link

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    I think most of the stations in the Mid-South (i.e. Memphis area) were exceptions. KAIT (Jonesboro, AR) ran Little House on the Prairie and Bonanza in the afternoons during the 80s/90s. WREG was most definitely a exception with lots of programming. During the 80s they ran Perry Mason at 10:30pm (or 11 - been too long to remember properly) M-F with *uncut* movies, and little to no commercials, during the overnight hours (midnight to 6am).
     
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  17. Joel Fontenot

    Joel Fontenot Screenwriter

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    In Baton Rouge, LA, I remember coming home after school and watching Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, I Dream of Jennie, Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show, and then Wheel of Fortune all the way until the 6pm news on the local channels. This was south Louisiana, so... central time. The only 1-hour syndicated show we ever had was Star Trek. This was from the mid 70s into about 1980. Shows like Wild Wild West and Bonanza were on in the afternoons in some of the central Louisiana channels from Lake Charles, Lafayette, and Opelousas, LA. I only saw those when I visited family in that area of the state.

    Now, at some point in the late 70s, Star Trek was moved to after the 10pm news on my local channel.

    Cable definitely had an affect on where these syndicated shows ended up. Today, you have cable networks like TNT showing several Grimm, Charmed, Supernatural, Law & Order, Castle, and Bones episodes every day.
     
  18. jcroy

    jcroy Producer

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    I vaguely remember Bonanza was on in the morning when I was a kid, before I started kindergarten. Though I didn't know what the show was in those days. (It was on just before Sesame Street). I liked watching cowboy type shows for reasons I don't know.

    It was only many years later when I heard the theme music again, that I realized that show before Sesame Street was actually Bonanza.


    As I got older and moved several times, Little House was on during the aftertoon. That's what I was watching when I got home from school. (I was a "latchkey kid").
     
  19. David Rain

    David Rain Screenwriter

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    hour long syndie shows likely don't do well in the ratings & that's why you don't see former hits like NYPD Blue, Thirtysomething & LA Law being widely available.

    Ratings are the bottom line, kids.
     
  20. AndyMcKinney

    AndyMcKinney Cinematographer

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    Another big recent trend: instead of populating hour-long blocks with different shows, many local stations simply air back-to-back episodes of the same sitcom in a one-hour block (and usually, from two totally different places in the show's run).

    So, even though it's half-hour episodes, it's an hour-long block of the same show, so the equivalent of an hour-long show.
     

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