Decades and the TV shows that define them

What was the defining television show of your generation? Do you mark the passage of decades in favorite television shows? Sometimes television commemorates or reflects momentous occasions, other times a television event itself is the momentous occasion.

The CBS Television Stations group and Weigel Broadcasting have announced plans to launch Decades, which they’re calling “the ultimate TV time machine.” Decades is a new national entertainment programming service for distribution across local television stations’ digital sub-channels.

Happy-daysWith a library of over 100 classic television series including I Love Lucy from the 1950s, Star Trek from the 1960s, Happy Days from the 1970s, and Cheers from the 1980s, as well as a wide selection of theatrical and made-for-television movies and footage of historical news events, Decades will provide viewers with a new way to experience our shared historical and cultural past. It will show classic TV episodes, examine their historical context, and also review important historical events and examine what people were watching on television at the time.

“Decades takes the digital broadcast network platform to a new level. Viewers will ‘Relive, Remember & Relate’ to the events that touched their lives and generations past,” stated Norman H. Shapiro, President of Weigel.

Many of us can mark moments in our lives through TV shows or televised events. As someone who was a teen in the 1990s, I keep coming back to Buffy: The Vampire Slayer as the show that captured my generation, or at least my experience of it, best.

Buffy was in tune with the pop culture of its time with lines like “It’s like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog” in a way that gives it an immediate sense of time. Not only that, through a science-fiction lens, it explored so many issues that were relevant to the teenagers (and adults) watching it. Many of the issues explored were universal, making the show relevant even today, despite some visuals like the gigantic computers and lines like “If the apocalypse comes, beep me” feeling dated. Yes, young people — once upon a time, the coolest kids had beepers. I can tell you this with great authority as someone who was once jealous of Buffy’s beeper.

Buffy-the-Vampire-SlayerBut it wasn’t just the pop culture references in Buffy that made it a defining TV show for my generation. Buffy itself has become a pop culture reference. It’s so ingrained in our culture that even most people who didn’t watch it are familiar with it. It’s a show people associate with a certain moment of time and the specific brand of entertainment and girl power that Buffy helped define for a generation of viewers.

Of course, unlike I Love Lucy, Buffy had much more competition on the airwaves, and TV shows today have even more. I doubt any one TV show from the 90s and beyond can define a decade in the way something like Happy Days did the 1970s. With so many viewing options, there’s rarely one show that everyone watches or knows today the way people did some of the Decades picks.

That has me intrigued by Decades. It’s an exploration of our history and a link between television and our wider lives. That link hasn’t disappeared, but it has evolved, so looking back should be interesting. Decades is expected to debut during the second quarter of 2015.

What television show or shows do you think defined your generation? Is there a specific televised event or an episode of a series that sticks in your memory even years or decades later?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.