I wrote the following for an article about reruns in March 2020:
“There are shows that transport us back in time. Shows that engender warmth and happy memories, episodes that bring back home, moments the mind clings to for comfort and solace. Chris Ryan of The Watch podcast [at The Ringer] has referred to these television treasures as nightlights. They are great shows to watch with rapt attention, but they’re just as wonderful to replay as a soundtrack to life.”
I still feel this way. There are times when I pay attention to all twenty-two minutes of a sitcom, and there are times when I allow myself to get distracted and leave it on as a nightlight. At the end of the day, I still love the show and find comfort in it.
I’ve decided to divide my rerun nostalgia into four categories, with a few examples each:
- I grew up watching this show. I might have a few specific memories of watching it with family and friends, but the series acts more as an overall fixture of my childhood/life and is very meaningful to me (Full House, Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens, Sister, Sister, The Brady Bunch).
- I grew up watching this show and have a clear memory attached to it that has impacted my life in a profound way (Barney and Friends, Arthur, Green Acres).
- I remember seeing this show as a young child, but I didn’t rediscover it or attach heavy nostalgia to it until high school or college (Boy Meets World, 7th Heaven).
- I barely saw this show growing up (or didn’t see it at all). I have now watched episodes of it in adulthood and have adopted it into my canon of nostalgia (Cheers, Frasier, Family Matters, Ally McBeal).
I could come up with more examples in each category, and the lines between #1 and 2 tend to blur. Do you ever compartmentalize your nostalgia? When you choose to bring a show from the past into the future, what makes you want to keep watching it?
My previous post closed with the idea that we’re all in charge of our own nostalgia, thanks to the conveniences of modern technology. I’d like to add another layer to that, courtesy of my friend Eboneé. Eboneé commented on “Reruns: Part 1” on Instagram and connected it to a wonderful memory of watching reruns with her parents. A specific series she posted, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, was in its first run when her parents were very young. After they grew up watching its reruns, they shared those reruns with Eboneé.
This pattern illustrates that when we are children, our parents play a huge role in the television we watch, helping inspire what we will later feel nostalgic for, but they pass the baton to us at some point. Eventually, we start choosing which shows we’ll keep in our hearts and minds, which ones we’ll show our own kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews someday. This generational heritage is powerful, and for me, it’s a positive idea. Television is a vehicle for storytelling, and we all play a part in perpetuating stories of importance.