Classic TV, Movies Have New Customers, But Definitions Can Prove Elusive

Wonder about where old sitcoms, movies, “classics” fit into the modern, ever-expanding TV environment? It can be hodgepodge -- especially when searching for “new” viewers.

Retro TV shows and media flourish on various platforms -- new streamers, old-style cable TV networks and local TV digital signal-based networks.

Nexstar Media Group just started Rewind TV, one of these networks based on local TV digital subchannel signals. It hopes to grab viewers with 1980s-1090s shows, such as “Drew Carey,” “Murphy Brown” and “Growing Pains.”

Classic sitcoms? That may depend on your definition.

Digital TV station-based networks have been around for years. E.W. Scripps, for example, owns the men-targeted Grit and comedy focused Laff -- both are built on older, “library”-acquired TV series and movies programming.

Cable TV networks like Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Walt Disney’s now own FXM (previously known at FX Movie Channel). Both began airing older, classic movies. TCM has remained firmly in this mode. FXM has branched out to newer stuff. Eight years ago, it moved much of its classic movies to the morning/daytime period, under the FXM Retro brand.



A recent look at an FXM schedule sees upcoming movies such as the 1944 William Bendix movie “Greenwich Village” and the 1967 “Tony Rome,” starring Frank Sinatra. More recent movies make the list:  mystery/horror “A Quiet Place” (2018) and “Pitch Perfect 3” (2017).

There is much discussion around that tricky world “classic” and maybe “vintage,” as well.

TCM has a new TV on-air promotional spot -- one with a reflective, melancholy tone looking to touch on a broad range of movies and talent: James Stewart, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Diana Ross, Orson Welles, the recent version of “A Star Is Born” and Clark Cable.

Ending voiceover: “24 frames a second is how context and culture meet and where life comes into focus.” It ends with a new tagline: “Where Then Meets Now”

All this yields a somewhat pensive look at movies. The promo TV piece received a healthy mix of negative and positive comments on YouTube. Worried loyal viewers are concerned about a shift out of the “classic” mode.

Not being a regular viewer of TCM, I wonder what kind of movies would be available going forward -- old, award-winning critically strong movies, or perhaps something else less “classic” and revered.

Definitions can be hard. Think of music and all the names and permutations we give to different styles.

A few years ago, one famous musician/songwriter was giving an interview with a reporter. His son was close by, playing his guitar. The music? Something from the Beatles. The artist responded, perhaps with a slight tongue in cheek: “Ah, the classics!”

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