TV Land, new on cable, plays those great oldies


Let me be blunt:

Call your local cable company right now and tell them to get on the stick and add the new TV Land channel to their lineup.

Why? Because it's the only way you'll be able to reacquaint yourself with everyone from "Mannix" to "That Girl" to "Hogan's Heroes" to the gang on "Hill Street Blues."

Tomorrow night, Nickelodeon is pre-empting its regular Nick-at-Nite programming to air the TV Land kickoff from 8 p.m. until 5: 30 a.m. the next day. Tune in and find out what you'll be missing unless the cable companies here wake up and smell the coffee (none of them has yet added the channel to their lineups), then pick up those phones and start calling.

TV Land is a wonderful land of make-believe, that long-sought-for place where old television shows go to die. It's a place where reruns of "Love, American Style" share the airwaves with reruns of "Petticoat Junction," where reruns of "The Addams Family" are buttressed by reruns of "The Ed Sullivan Show" and reruns of "St. Elsewhere."

It's a place where we've all been before, and a place most of us would love to visit again.

For years, we've had to make do with the wondrous offerings of Nick-at-Nite, a place where "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" still reign supreme, still offer the hope that it isn't impossible to mix fine art with popular entertainment. (It's also the place, of course, where one can discover that "Welcome Back, Kotter," is as awful as one remembers.)

The folks at Nickelodeon, the kids' channel that long ago gave up its evening programming to Nick-at-Nite, realize a good thing when people are watching it and advertisers are paying for it. So they're digging into their bottomless TV archives and starting a new channel from old scratch. The result is TV Land.

So far, the channel will be available to some 5 million viewers nationwide. That doesn't include anyone in the Baltimore area, unless you have satellite TV.

Here's a sampling of the shows that have taken up residence in TV Land so far:

"The Addams Family" -- Still one of the funniest shows of all time, with John Astin and Carolyn Jones as TV's sexiest spooks. (How did Ms. Jones manage to walk in that outfit?) Any show that gave us Uncle Fester, Lurch, Cousin It and Thing deserves to be seen again and again.

"St. Elsewhere" -- Sorry "ER," but this is TV's best medical show. Ed Flanders' Dr. Westphall had the moral backbone we all wish we could have (even if his preaching did get a bit high-handed at times), and the writing was always top-notch. It's also the show that introduced Denzel Washington to the world and, in one episode, offered Ray Charles a chance to actually act, instead of just sing.

"Mannix" -- What would the V-chip folks say about this one? Poor Joe Mannix probably got beaten up more regularly than any private eye on TV -- yet star Mike Connors never seemed all that bothered by the abuse. Maybe because he knew how lucky he'd already been, having narrowly avoided being tagged "Touch Connors" by a Hollywood press agent in the '50s.

"My Mother The Car" -- Jerry Van Dyke stars as a poor schlep whose mother is reincarnated as a car. The benchmark of awful TV for all time.

"Petticoat Junction" -- There's Uncle Joe, he's a-movin' kind of slow, at the junction. Not great TV, but a fond memory for those who grew up in the late '60s.

"Gunsmoke" -- This western's western, with James Arness as the incorruptible Matt Dillon, spanned three decades and kick-started the careers of a handful of famous names, including Dennis Weaver and Burt Reynolds.

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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