Those Were the Days: 5 Old School TV Shows We Need Back Today

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By Eliza David

2017 has been a trip and that’s putting it mildly. Natural disasters, domestic terrorism, criminal investigations of people ranging from Hollywood moguls to the President himself – what hasn’t this year thrown our way that wasn’t the absolute worst?

A: The return of Will & Grace.

When I heard whispers about one of my favorite shows on the planet coming back to television, I wasn’t ready. We were in the throes of the most ridiculous presidential campaigns in recent American history, so it’s safe to say that my mind was elsewhere. Then the mini-episode dropped and my heart warmed for the first time in months. The nostalgia was needed and appreciated during that wacky election season. Now that we are just ten months into 45’s administration of errors, the one thing I look forward to every week is escaping into the world of Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen. It’s a tiny blip of superficial happiness, but it means so much.

It made me think of other shows that I’d want to see make a revival. Shows that not only provided entertainment value, but a social awareness that seems to be missing and needed in this current political shitshow we’re supposed to call a presidency…

In Living Color  – While SNL is good at highlighting 45’s buffoonery, there was always something extra In Living Color brought to the satire table. The 90s variety show gave a richer context to society’s ills. Boasting a hilarious diverse cast, the show launched the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest names like Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx. The comedic writing and hilarious skits provided an escape then and would make us laugh to keep from crying now.

Murphy Brown – The award-winning show (garnering twenty Emmys in ten years!) managed to touch on many issues still current today, especially in the realm of politics. The most significant moment in the show’s history had to be when then-Vice President Dan Quayle spoke distastefully of the namesake character’s unwed pregnancy during his 1992 re-election speech. The return of Murphy Brown would really give the ‘fake news’ president something to tweet about!

A Different World – It goes without saying that one of the most prolific and self-affirming sitcoms centering African Americans was this Cosby Show spinoff. The collegiate-themed sitcom managed to weave topics like Rodney King, date rape, and safe sex in with laughs. Imagine what the fictional Hillman College students could discuss week after week with real-life topics such as #BlackLivesMatter, the NFL protests, intersectional feminism, and missing the hell out of the Obamas.

Maude – If the only Bea Arthur character you know is Dorothy Zbornak of The Golden Girls, find a grownup and ask them about Maude Findlay. Before this All in the Family spinoff premiered in 1972, no other woman TV character had spoken so fervently about society’s political and personal ills like the hilariously cynical divorcee. Maude held no punches when discussing hot-button issues that still resonate 45 years later: racial equality, reproductive rights, misogyny, gender roles.  Maude’s raucous humor and outspoken bravado was supported by a talented cast of characters (including Florida Evans, who would become the matriarch of the next spinoff, Good Times).

My So Called Life – Today’s high schoolers weren’t even born when sullen 15-year-old Angela Chase showed up on our TV screens in 1994. As a member of the late Gen Xers, the angst of My So-Called Life resonated with me on every level. The teen drama managed to tackle homophobia, alcoholism, child abuse, and school violence. The new generation of Liberty High students could tackle in 2017 what the original show wasn’t able to after being cut short after only one season.


Eliza is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.

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