TV Land Turns 17

Happy birthday to cable channel TV Land, which turns 17 today. It launched on Monday, April 29th, 1996. The channel today bears little resemblance to what went on the air back in 1996. For a long time, TV Land and Sci-Fi Channel were the two cable channels I wanted the most. I can still remember visiting relatives and turning on the TV to see what was on those channels and wishing I had them.

I also have a vivid memory of watching most of the pilot episode to Fast Times (CBS, 1986) on TV Land while on vacation. It was part of a day’s programming chosen by a contest winner. That sounded like a dream come true but I am sure there were a lot of stipulations and restrictions.

By the time I finally got Sci-Fi Channel the name had been shortened to Sci Fi and most of the old shows were no longer being aired. I still do not get TV Land although certainly I could if I were willing to pay for a more expensive tier of programming. But there’s no reason to do that these days.

TV Land, like so many other cable channels — MTV, VH1, TLC, The History Channel, CMT, A&E, Syfy — that have drifted far from their original concepts. At least The Nashville Network had the decency to change its name (twice, first to The National Network in 2000 and finally to Spike in 2003) when it wanted to rebrand.

To mark this rather insignificant anniversary of a cable channel I always wished I had, never got and now don’t want, hit the comments with your thoughts. What one season wonders or popular obscurities do you remember watching back in the day before TV Land became The Boomer Channel and shifted its focus away from classic television?

9 Replies to “TV Land Turns 17”

  1. I remember watching “Route 66” on TV Land. Bewitched. Bob Newhart (starting with the first, and ultimately the second). They had very clever promotional commercials.

    I recall they ran a Bob Newhart marathon overnight once, and I videotaped every episode.
    Never watched a one. But still, it was neat.

    Don’t even have cable TV now. Don’t want it.

  2. Early TV Land was great; I remember on Saturdays they’d run some semi-obscure westerns and detective/crime shows, like THE WESTERNER, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL (a popular series, but hard-to-see then), THE ROGUES, THE DETECTIVES, BURKE’S LAW and HONEY WEST. When the Ultimate TV Fan contest winner got his little block of time to program for a year, one of them ran a couple episodes each of M SQUAD and CORONET BLUE, as well as the pilot episode of MR. TERRIFIC.

    The monthly ‘Museum of TV & Radio Showcase’ ran some great stuff; The Alfred Hitchcock-directed SUSPICION episode, ‘Four O’ Clock’, The DESILU PLAYHOUSE pilot for TWILIGHT ZONE, ‘The Time Element’, FORD STARTIME THEATER’s version o ‘Turn of the Screw’, starring Ingrid Bergman and directed by John Frankenheimer, Sam Peckinpah’s modern update of his cancelled THE WESTERNER series, ‘The Losers’, starring Lee Marvin in the Brian Keith role, for DICK POWELL THEATER, etc.

    They once ran a night of Sid & Marty Krofft shows, just for kicks, including the nightmarish special, THE WORLD OF SID & MARTY KROFFT LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL, which also featured the Brady Bunch kids taking the stage and singing ‘Proud Mary’. And at least one commercial break per half-hour featured a ‘Retro-mercial’. Good times, only bested by some of the Encore movie channels, particularly Encore-Mystery, running an uncut, commercial-free block of vintage tv goodies (as Encore-Westerns still does now) on weekday afternoons, maybe a year or so after TV Land’s debut.

  3. Sadly, TV Land went the way of every other cable channel I know of that started off as a haven for classic and vintage programming. As the channel got older we got new management that didn’t care about vintage programming and instead wanted to cater to the hip and trendy 18 to 34 crowd. Game Show Network and ESPN Classic also fell victim to this over time.

    In its prime, TV Land was how I got to discover “Burke’s Law” and “Honey West” and also allowed me to rediscover “Ellery Queen” and other shows. I still have my TV Land recording of “The Time Element” from the Desilu Playhouse which was technically the pilot for “The Twilight Zone”.

  4. This may sound crazy, but I would love to see an equivalent of Turner Classic Movies for the truly GREAT television of the past: Playhouse90, The Defenders, Home Front, The Westerner,Slattery’s People, East Side/West Side, The Richard Boone Show, He and She, the Fugitive, Route 66, The Great Adventure,Omnibus, Profiles In Courage, Mr. Peepers, Coronet Blue, The Name Of The Game, Ben Casey, Mr. Novak, I’ll Fly away, Nichols, great stand alone dramas and comedies such Visit To A Small Planet, The Private War Of Ollie Winter, Noon Wine, and The Crucible, Documentaries such a World War One, Victory at Sea, Sinatra: The Man And His Music, and The Fabulous Fifties. All of thses shows were superb, most are inacessible.

  5. I have absolutely been completed alienated by TV Land for the past several years, and I know other fans have as well: I mean, seriously, several people have actually opened up a Facebook page to PROTEST all of these godawful original sitcoms with has-been actors that TV Land keeps cranking out, like, HOT IN CLEVELAND, RETIRED AT 35, THE EXES, HAPPILY DIVORCED, THE SOUL MAN, and I forget what all else. And you know what? The big wigs at TV Land have actually acknowledged this, but you know what they said to these people? “Oh, we’re making so much money off these shows right now, so we’re not going to stop making them, even though you don’t like them.” So that just goes to show you, it’s all about the money.

    My cable provider recently picked up MeTV; it’s decent. The programs are 90% uncut (there’s still some minor dialogue cuts here and there that aren’t really noticable), but their lineup is a little on the limited side, I find. Still, right now, they’re a whole lot better than what’s become of TV Land.

    I outright, downright REFUSE to watch TV Land AT ALL, anymore.

  6. TV Land is horrendous with it’s cuts. I try to watch Dick Van Dyke but they always cut the ENTIRE bumper after the last act. There’s lots of cuts on other shows as well. It’s impossible.

    I think MeTV has taken up the mantle of showing classic TV (along with Antenna TV which I unfortunately can’t get). And I agree that they don’t cut AS much but it’s still very noticeable if you have the uncut versions on DVD or Netflix streaming.

  7. I was a teenager back in its golden years. Both Nick at Nite and “Nick at Nite’s TV Land” were some of my most beloved TV channels, along with MTV and VH1 back in the 90s…and still are, but only in my memories. I was even watching as a LITTLE kid back in the late 80s when they were airing The Patty Duke Show, My Three Sons, The Donna Reed Show, etc., and those jingles in the station IDs were some amazing earworms that I still remember today. It took me years to get into Mary Tyler Moore, and luckily it was on for YEARS on both Nick at Nite and TV Land. Then it became one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. I even earned my Mary Merit Badge for answering all of the quiz questions correctly…when I was about 15 years old. That was back when I was first exposed to Rhoda and The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I even remember Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. I’ve seen it mentioned that it was aired late at night on the TV Land Kitschen, but I also remember it playing early in the day around noon. The whole package was the real deal. I think many of the innovative and unforgettable station IDs for Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, TV Land, VH1 and possibly MTV were done by the same advertising firm.

    But, now I’m just rambling on about what are now becoming vague memories. It’s a shame that it will never be like it was. I could tolerate even some of the more modern shows on TV Land as long as they were good, like Roseanne and The Golden Girls. Nick at Nite was already dead years before that…turned into the Full House/Fresh Prince/George Lopez channel. The most cornpone, unwatchable sitcoms of the 90s to anyone with a brain. But I had to turn it off a few years ago, along with TV in general, when I started noticing that Roseanne was so hacked up it would make you want to puke and so many blocks of Everybody Loves Raymond that I grew to hate the show, even cutting jokes short for more commercials. No more All in the Family or Sanford and Son. That’s not even including the new cornball sitcoms they were airing (Sorry Betty White!) When the internet went off for a few hours recently, I thought I’d try some TV for the first time in a few years. I got to TV Land and The Golden Girls. One half hour episode was stretched to an hour, busting at the seams with commercials, to the point that it would come back on for two to three minutes, then more commercials for 7++ minutes! By the time it came back on I’d forgotten the plot. Absolutely disgusting! Thank goodness it didn’t take too long to get Hulu and Youtube back. But that’s what TV is now and why the cable box stays cold. Yes, buy the DVDs, stream online and get some rabbit ears for free digital broadcasts. TV=GAME OVER.

    Hello out there from TV Land
    A beautiful place to be
    Nick at Nite
    Better living through…good TV!

    I’ve made a personal decision
    To try better living through television
    And to make right
    I gotta have Nick at Nite!

    The girls want it (Uh huh!)
    The guys want it
    Every night all night they want it
    Gotta have it
    Nick at Nite

    Nick at Nite
    A TV viewer’s dream
    It’s custom fit to every screen (for your viewing pleasure)
    A TV viewer’s dream!

    Listen to viewers across the land
    Say, “Hey! Make mine the Nick at Nite Brand!”
    Non-slip show for viewer traction
    Tops in friendly satisfaction!
    Big TV pleasure in every bite
    Make the switch to Nick at Nite
    Brand Reruns

    TV Land Haiku-
    Junkyard of the soul
    cast off, forgotten, say what?
    Metaphor, dummy!

    …..hmm, not so vague.

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