Old Sitcoms Never Die, Nor Do They Fade Away

The old NBC sitcom “Mad About You” came out of the same era that produced “Seinfeld,” “Frasier” and “Friends.”

Those sitcoms preceded or coincided with a handful of other sitcoms from a decade ago (or more) that went on to achieve a high degree of ubiquity, thanks to rerun syndication -- “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The King of Queens,” “The Nanny” and even “The Golden Girls” (and more recently “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men”).



And now, there is another way in which “Mad About You” stands apart from the others: It is the only one of them whose producers and cast members are daring to reconvene more than 20 years later to go on with the show.

“Frasier” never did it. “Seinfeld” never did it. Neither did “Friends,” “Raymond,” “King of Queens” or “The Nanny.” Come to think of it, “Will & Grace” did it, but that show aired for years in off-network syndication.

By contrast, “Mad About You” has not been seen on local TV or basic cable in eons. Recently, however, all of the show's original episodes have been running on-demand on Spectrum (formerly Time Warner and Charter) cable systems, free of charge to subscribers.

And that is who is reviving the show with new episodes -- Spectrum, under its Spectrum Originals umbrella. Due to start running Nov. 20 on Spectrum, the company released a couple of episodes of the new “Mad About You” last week to TV journalists.

The new show finds the same couple, Paul and Jamie Buchman (no relation to your TV blogger), living the Manhattan life in Greenwich Village. The story line in Episode One is one of those that recur again and again in family sitcoms of this type -- the Buchman's daughter (their only child), Mabel, is leaving home to attend college, leaving the Buchmans as empty-nesters.

This brings up a variety of emotions in both mom and dad -- with dad (Paul Reiser, 63) dealing with his feelings overtly by crying, and mom (Helen Hunt, 56) bottling up her feelings and otherwise concealing them.

The success of this “Mad About You” revival depends in no small measure on the sentiment (if any) that a generation of sitcom viewers in the 1990s still possess for it.

It might be very unscientific (and possibly woefully uninformed) on my part, but if there has been a groundswell of interest in the fates of these Buchmans since they left the air in May 1999, I am unaware of it. Oh well, I am often the last to know about these kinds of things anyway.

While watching the premiere episode of this new season of “Mad About You,” I was struck by how retro it seemed. It has the look and feel of a show made in the 1990s, minus the commercial breaks.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Many have classified various TV shows as akin to comfort food. And if we expect the new “Mad About You” in 2019 to look the same as the old one, then so be it.

Of all of the vintage sitcoms mentioned above, it is “Frasier” that comes up again and again in conversations, with friends mentioning that they have recently binge-watched it on Netflix or Cozi TV, which runs four consecutive episodes every weeknight.

It is one of those rare shows that gets better with age because, for among other reasons, no one on the show ages. This is because the survivors have never staged a revival, reunion or reboot of any kind.

Instead, the Cranes of “Frasier” and their friends are frozen in time, while, for the Buchmans of “Mad About You,” time goes on and here they are, hovering at around age 60, just like the rest of us.

The new “Mad About You” starts Nov. 20 on Spectrum cable.

1 comment about "Old Sitcoms Never Die, Nor Do They Fade Away".
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  1. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), October 28, 2019 at 4:45 p.m.

    I always liked Mad about you, and have been re-watching episodes courtesy of Spectrum. Not all, but many have held up pretty well. It is remarkable how "Seinfeld-esque" it actually was: observational humor, set in NY, with a splash of sarcasm and two people who frequently do not-very-nice things to others. I am looking forward to the reboot.

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