Image Credit: TVLand It doesn’t take much sleuthing on TV Land’s Facebook page to discover some of the channel’s viewers are downright peeved. Their demands? More classic programming and fewer new shows. “Bring back the classics! Archie Bunker rules!” declares one viewer. “With all these comments, can’t you guys take the hint! You need to revamp the channel,” censures another. One says: “I’d rather watch the Cavs’ losing streak than Hot in Cleveland.”
TV Land’s first original scripted sitcom, Hot in Cleveland (which has just been renewed for a third season), nabbed SAG recognition in January with a nomination for the cast and a win for Betty White, along with the highest ratings in the network’s 15-year history. Capitalizing on their new hit, TV Land debuted their second original comedy, Retired at 35, earlier this year.
But many of TV Land’s Facebook fans are calling for a programming re-haul, and their show requests run the gamut: Get Smart, I Love Lucy, Mork and Mindy, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, That Girl, Barney Miller, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Rockford Files, The Love Boat, The Monkees, Hazel, Rhoda, Flipper, and Soap all have fans eager to see their old favorite shows back on air.
But those fans shouldn’t hold their breath. “As time progresses and a network matures, there are still only 24 hours in a day,” Jaci Cohen, Executive Vice President of TV Land’s programming, tells EW. “We’re never able to give everybody what they want, and that’s why shows come and go on our schedule.”
TV Land does air some classic sitcoms — but only in blocks of several hours (ex. Sanford and Son for two hours or The Nanny for three). In the past, the network has rounded out its classics with reality fare, like High School Reunion, The Cougar, She’s Got the Look and most recently, Harry Loves Lisa, which aired last fall. Viewers can also check out full episodes and extra content from the network’s classic programming and reality shows on TVLand.com. “Our schedule is still 60 to 70 percent classic TV,” Cohen says. “We’re in the business of participating in the current conversation, as well.”
That percentage doesn’t seem good enough for some viewers, who feel TV Land has strayed too far from its original mission of airing classic television. They want more shows from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, and don’t seem afraid to ditch TV Land for other outlets: “Retro Television Network and Antenna TV rock because they both offer the classics we’ve all begged for,” says one Facebook user. Somebody else shares, “I found The Hub. They play Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Family Ties.”
That’s not to say there aren’t any fans of TV Land’s original programming. Cleveland’s ratings don’t lie: The series has enjoyed a 30 percent jump in TV Land’s primetime viewership. Plus, there are Facebook users who show enthusiastic support for TV Land’s original, scripted sitcoms amid the vitriol. Says one user of Hot in Cleveland: “I always laugh out loud at this show, even my hubby too.” Another praises the show as “a breath of fresh air in this sad world.” Extols another, “It’s the best show on TV.” “It’s about finding the balance between yesterday and today,” Cohen says.
How long the hostility from nostalgia hounds will go on remains to be seen. And even if TV Land’s Facebook feedback isn’t 100 percent positive, these new, original comedies might mark the dawn of a new era for the network that once aired “retromercials.” And who knows? Hot in Cleveland might one day invite the same nostalgia as All In the Family or I Love Lucy. “I think you could definitely call it an evolution,” Cohen says of TV Land’s branding and direction. “We are committed to scripted sitcoms and continuing down this path.”