Reruns are a special part of television viewing. They are generational yet universal, on cable and also on streaming services. In my friend circles, reruns take up as much conversation space as brand new shows. As much as we get excited about a new season of a show, we still laugh and reminisce about things we watched as toddlers, children, or teenagers, sometimes rewatching them to feel that sense of comfort again.
Some people automatically think of shows that are “old” when they think of reruns, although series that are still on the air can also rerun their old episodes. The body of reruns naturally expands as time passes. As decades go by, the idea of vintage and retro programming encompasses more shows. When Nick at Nite was established in 1985, viewers tuned in for The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966) and Mister Ed (1961-1966). Right now, Friends (1994-2004) and Full House (1987-1995) dominate the schedule–fan favorites that didn’t exist when Nick at Nite was born! As time goes by, even Spongebob Squarepants is on the schedule. Surprisingly, the Nick at Nite block on Nickelodeon arrived before its sister project, TV Land, which launched in 1996. Both TV Land and Nick at Nite have seen countless schedule shifts as “classic TV” has gained more classics.
The reruns of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s co-exist in a catch-all bucket of nostalgia. But just as we can throw time periods into the bucket, we can take them out one by one and examine them as much as we please. The 90s got a huge revival in the 2010s; now the television, movies, music, and popular culture of the 2000s are just as big.
Even the way we view reruns is changing. I’ll always love the DVD boxed sets, but you don’t hear as much about those anymore. Watching reruns on television often means catching random episodes as they air (or recording every instance of the series to collect all the reruns). Watching reruns on streaming services is a completely different experience. You, the subscriber, curate your programming. Depending on what you pay for, you choose any episode from any season of any show that you want (for the most part). When you think about it, you are in charge of your own nostalgia.
And that’s the exciting part!