Here’s one of those instances where you have to remember that The Onion and A.V. Club are separate entities, so when you see a headline like, “Things are so bad for NBC, The Office and 1600 Penn are being bumped in favor of Matlock reruns,” you realize that this is not a parody story, but a thing that actually happened. Yes, WKYC, the Cleveland affiliate for NBC (which finished the last sweeps period in fifth place, behind CBS, Fox, ABC, y Univision) preempted last Thursday’s reruns of The Office and Law and Order: SVU, and a new episode of 1600 Penn, to air a two-hour Matlock episode from 1992. And here’s the best part: in the first hour, WKYC got better ratings for a show old enough to be a drinking human than it did for brand-new programming from the struggling Peacock. The Cleveland station may be onto something: what if networks replaced new shows dwelling in the ratings cellar with reruns of classics that would appeal to the same (or a larger) audience? We’ve got some suggestions after the jump.
Current show: 90210 (The CW)
Replace with: Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000)
Okay, this one’s kind of a gimme. But c’mon; the ratings for the remake of Fox’s ten-season teen classic are so low that even the CW is canceling it. Why not just run the old one? In fact — as far as we know, they may have been doing that already. Well, do you know anyone who’s been watching it?
Current show: Betty White’s Off Their Rockers (NBC)
Replace with: The Golden Girls (1985-1992)
Let’s not pretend that the (admittedly shrinking) audience of Off Their Rockers is tuning in because of the show’s hackneyed Senior Punk’d premise. The selling point is right there in the title: people love Betty White. So why not give them Betty at her best, in the form of some vintage Rose Nylund? It’s not like the target audience for Off Their Rockers remembers any of those punchlines anyway.
Current show: Guys with Kids (NBC)
Replace with: Bosom Buddies (1980-1982)
NBC’s low-rated, critically drubbed sitcom runs on the hilarious premise that guys taking care of kids is super-duper funny, am I right? So we figure anyone whose sense of comic incongruity is that retro would likely just die for Bosom Buddies, in which a couple of dudes have to dress up like ladies for a cheap apartment. Hilarity ensues!
Current show: Whitney (NBC)
Replace with: The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977)
Sure, replacing the sour and unfunny Whitney with something as smooth and well-executed as MTM is kind of like jumping straight from bologna sandwiches to filet mignon, but what the hell — if you’re trying to make a female-led ensemble sitcom, you might as well watch the best one ever made.
Current show: Touch (Fox)
Replace with: Early Edition (1996-2000)
You know Fox must be spending a fortune on Keifer Sutherland’s 24 follow-up, but its second season ratings have been considerably lousier than they’d like. Instead, why not snatch up a post-Friday Night Lights Kyle Chandler, at considerably less than his post-FNL rate? Chandler’s late-‘90s CBS series had a very similar premise — journalist uses supernatural means to prevent terrible events — but was warm and enjoyable, instead of bland and boilerplate.
Current show: Deception (NBC)
Replace with: Dynasty (1981-1999)
Most critics have taken pains to note that Deception is rather a shameless rip-off of the ABC hit Revenge, but credit where due: both shows are rich-gazing primetime sudsers in the noble tradition of Dynasty, Dallas, Knots Landing, and countless other tributes to bad behavior in ostentatious mansions. Save us all the trouble and just re-run the old shows, which give us deliciously naughty one-percenters, with ‘80s fashion and hair to boot.
Current show: Body of Proof (ABC)
Replace with: Quincy M.E. (1976-1983)
Look, we love Dana Delany as much as the next late-‘80s television junkie (Colleen McMurphy 4eva!), but c’mon, do you know anyone who’s stuck on this crime drama, in which she plays a medical examiner trying oh-so-hard to balance her professional and personal life? When it comes to TV medical examiners, we say OG Quincy or GTFO.
Current show: Go On (NBC)
Replace with: The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978)
We wanted to like Matthew Perry’s group-therapy sitcom — we like just about anything Perry does (yes, that includes Studio 60) — but it’s too strained and too scattered, and its sagging ratings seem to imply that audiences agree. Instead, NBC should invest a few bucks in running Newhart’s ‘70s classic — or, maybe, running older episodes of another, current NBC comedy that Go On bears a remarkable resemblance to, particularly since that program is starting to struggle as well.
Current show: Blue Bloods (CBS)
Replace with: The Wire (2002-2008)
This’d be a fun experiment: switch out CBS’s maddeningly generic cop drama with old episodes of HBO’s masterpiece. You can pretty safely bet that Blue Bloods’ audience hasn’t watched it! And let’s face it, everyone should watch The Wire. (Bonus points if CBS decides not to bleep it.)
Current show: Smash (NBC)
Replace with: All About Eve (1950)
No, there wasn’t an All About Eve TV show you haven’t heard of; NBC should just pull the rest of their planned episodes of the perpetually troubled, eternally hate-watched, increasingly low-rated Smash and run Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s backstage comedy/drama every week. Look at it like this, NBC: at 138 minutes plus commercials, that’s an entire night of programming you don’t have to worry about!