Watching Classic Television on Television

Updated October 2012

Today, if you want to actually watch classic television on television, you’ll need to look for it and be lucky. Many cable channels that used to air primarily classic television programs have shifted to original or more recent shows. The short-lived Ha! The TV Comedy Network, prior to merging with The Comedy Channel in 1991, aired classic sitcoms from the 1950s through the 1970s. When FX launched in 1994 (as fX), it filled its schedule with shows like Batman, Mission: Impossible, Wonder Woman, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and Dragnet. Syfy, back when it was The Sci Fi Channel, would air shows like The Amazing Spider-Man, The Immortal, The Time Tunnel and Planet of the Apes.

For years you couldn’t turn on The Sci Fi Channel without finding something from the 1960s or 1970s, or so it seemed. But not anymore. Even recent cable channels like Cloo (formerly Sleuth) and Chiller have dropped much of their classic programs. You can still find I Love Lucy, The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie on Hallmark Channel. And TV Land, although it has abandoned its classic television roots, does continue to air classic programs like All in the Family, Charlie’s Angels, Green Acres, Hogan’s Heroes, I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek and more.

(A cable channel that used to be dedicated to classic television was AmericanLife TV Network, also known as GoodLife TV Network and before that The Nostalgia Channel. As recently as 2010 it was airing Rhoda, Mission: Impossible the so-called “Color Honeymooners” episodes. A few years before that it aired Batman, The Green Hornet and The Rat Patrol. In September 2011 it relaunched as Youtoo TV and dropped all its former programming to devote itself to somehow merging social media with television.)

There are several specialty “networks” that do continue to offer classic television programming. These are primarily available as digital subchannels of local stations as well as certain cable systems. So if a station where you live is affiliate with one or more of these networks, you’re in luck. Here’s a look at the largest of these networks. Note that This TV and Me-TV are either owned or co-owned by Weigel Broadcasting while Retro Television Network and My Family TV are owned or co-owned by Luken Communications so there is overlap in the programs the two sets of networks air.

Retro Television Network (Launched July 2005)

Among the programs aired by RTV are Movin’ On, Police Story, Route 66, The Saint, Lassie, The Cisco Kid and Naked City. It also airs more recent programs and not every affiliate follows the national schedule.

This TV (Launched November 2008)

I wrote about This TV back in June 2009. Although it primarily airs feature films, you can watch Highway Patrol, Sea Hunt, The Outer Limits, Bat Masterson, The Patty Duke Show and Mister Ed.

My Family TV (Launched December 2008)

Formerly Faith TV, My Family TV was relaunched in 2008 and airs programs like Daniel Boone, I Spy, Lassie, Movin’ On, Peter Gunn and The Rifleman.

Me-TV Network (Launched December 2010)

An off-shoot of local Chicago and Milwaukee stations, Me-TV airs dozens of classic programs, including Batman, The Big Valley, The Brady Bunch, Burke’s Law, Combat!, The Fugitive, The Guns of Will Sonnett, Lost in Space, Make Room for Daddy, M*A*S*H, Night Gallery, The Rebel, Route 66, That Girl and The Twilight Zone.

Antenna TV (Launched January 2011)

Antenna TV airs programs like Adam-12, Bachelor Father, Dennis the Menace, Father Knows Best, The Flying Nun, Gidget, Hazel, Leave it to Beaver, The Partridge Family and Soap.


5 Comments

  • DuMont says:

    There’s ME-tv and METOO-tv out of Chicago which airs a fair bit of retro programming, but has negligible national carriageII think they’re carried as digital sub-affils).

    ME-tv: http://www.wciu.com/files/metv_schedule_2010.pdf
    METOO-tv: http://www.wciu.com/files/metoo_schedule_2010.pdf

    ME-tv carries vintage comedies such as ‘Dennis, The Menace’, ‘Father Knows Best’, ‘My Three Sons’, ‘Petticoat Junction’, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, ‘The Munsters’, ‘The Honeymooners’, ‘Burns & Allen’, ‘Gomer Pyle, USMC’, ‘The Bullwinkle Show’, ‘The Underdog Show’, and the dramedy ‘Eight is Enough’.

    METOO-tv carries vintage dramas such as ‘Route 66’, ‘Naked City’, ‘Daktari’, ‘The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’, ’77 Sunset Strip’, ‘Batman’ (really, a drama?) and ‘Peter Gunn’.

    These two stations remind me of ALN at its creative peak (back when it was chock-a-block programmed from the Warner Classic library). It confounds me that cablers and satellite distributors overlook gemstone networks like ME-tv/METOO-tv which probably has negligible carriage fees, and yet carry all sorts of pricey cents per subscriber networks that carry wall-to-wall unwatchablely pointless programming.

  • jb says:

    “Wall-to-wall unwatchably pointless programming.” Sounds like TV Land, all right. The demise of that channel is one of the saddest stories in television: from a museum-like desire to showcase and celebrate television history with “always something on” (no infomercials) to just another reality-show-clogged another waste of electricity.

    There was a time when one would gain an advantage in the programming landscape by being unique, but TV Land’s thinking apparently goes like this: “Let’s be unique in our like-everybody-elseness.” In other words, “Let’s load up on reality crap, but *our* reality crap. Yeah, that’s it.”

  • Joe says:

    I agree with what the previous poster said about TV LAND. I can remember when I used to stay up until the wee hours watching them and NICK AT NITE.
    However, I read though that TV LAND does read and listen to all the complaints about them and every once in a while do something about their programing. The fact that they are sticking with a few of the “classic” shows proves that. Unfortunetal though, that’s ALL the “classic” programing they have and they shred them to ribbons and scrunch the closing credits down so that you can’t even read them!!!!!
    It’s a damn shame what the channel has become-a DAMN shame :(

  • HCH says:

    TV Land has been terrible for so long, I can’t remember the last time I watched it at all.

    TV One airs GOOD TIMES and SANFORD AND SON and puts TV Land to shame by actually showing the episodes uncut. You can count on TV Land to edit 3 minutes per show out every time.

    I am really pleased to see TRAPPER JOHN M.D. showing up again on FamilyNet. Not my favorite channel most of the day but this was a good, solid show that ought to be out on DVD by now.

  • Trip Ericson says:

    Hello:

    I found your website through your link to me. Just wanted to let you know that I’m actively seeking more information on affiliates of My Family TV. I’ve inquired in hopes of getting a complete list, though you can see that I’ve already been able to add three more since you posted your link. =)

    – Trip

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