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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Static From The Geek-In-Chief: Reunited- And It Feels So Good... Sorta

We've seen a Dallas reunion. We've seen a Happy Days Reunion. The Carol Burnett Show, The Golden Girls, and even That's Incredible! have dug up their casts for clip-wrapped chats. Last night, in the latest nostalgia-fest, the stars of the mediocre One Day At A Time got back together to reminisce about the good old days. Why? Simple math: networks know that nostalgia equals ratings. And they'll take ratings any way they can get 'em.

In their day, these shows all grabbed larger audiences than almost anything on network television today- after all, there was almost no competition. Cable, DVDs and video games weren't the factor they are today. So most shows that were considered a failure in the 1970's and early 1980's grabbed higher ratings than many shows considered hits today. For this reason, along with plummeting quality standards, there will be few shows worth revisiting after 20 years. Can you picture plopping down in front of your super-high def hologram set in 2025 to watch a JAG reunion? How about setting your BrainChipLaserTiVo2025X to ingest a laugh-starved Yes, Dear retrospective?

The logistics of today's TV will make future reunions a casting challenge. Reality shows will likely be exempt from the reunion phenomenon. In 10 years, who'll really care to see a "Where Are They Now" special on The Apprentice 2? And the huge, fluctuating casts of today's ensemble dramas won't help: You'd need a scorecard to gather the gobs of doctors who've traipsed through the ER since its premiere (plus, Noah Wyle already looks 50). How would one go about gathering the casts, past and present, of NYPD Blue for a sitdown? To guarantee screen time for all, the special would have to be a three night miniseries.

And the passage of time, which provides historical context for the fashions, morals and (aged) appearances of the stars, will cease being a factor as ratings-starved networks rush these specials to air. Which is ironic, since it's kind of the crucial attracting factor to a nostalgia show, don't you think? The inevitable Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, and CSI reunions will still happen, but sooner after cancellation- in 10 years or less, instead of 20 or more. Will it be as interesting seeing the cast of Friends when they still look like... the cast of Friends? Heck, Lifetime even did a Nanny reunion barely 5 years after the show bit the dust. I didn't even know the show was off the air.

Of course, history proves the networks will never let quality (or lack thereof) stand in the way of a bad (but highly rated) special. So, when the One Day At A Time Reunion cleans up in next week's Nielsens, prepare for the next wave of retrospectives, which will surely clog our sets come May.

But me? I'll sit quietly, waiting for that Reba reunion. That is, if The WB is still around in a few years.

Tell us what reunion show you'd like to see next! Go to the right hand column and vote in our Idiot Box poll!

Static From The Geek In Chief airs every Tuesday.

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