By Dom Serafini
I wonder where I was during the fantastic TV programs of the late ’70s and early ’80s. My son also wonders about my whereabouts in the ’90s, otherwise known as the golden age of Italian football (soccer) teams. I am only now being introduced to many of these gems via YouTube or on the MUX broadcast channels (those after the .1).
It is both entertaining and informative watching Dick Cavett’s interview with Alfred Hitchcock in 1972, which originally aired on ABC (pictured above), or the final football match of the 1994 World Cup between Italy and Brazil, when Italy’s soccer superstar Roberto Baggio missed the penalty kick that essentially gave the Cup to Brazil. There’s even a Netflix movie about it, Il Divino Codino (The Divine Ponytail), thus named due to Baggio’s habit of having his long hair in a low ponytail.
The same is true of Seinfeld and Friends. I never watched them on network TV, but now — 32 years after the first episode of Seinfeld aired and 27 years after Friends bowed — I am officially addicted to both on syndicated television.
And what about the pop group ABBA, which was already famous in 1975? I only discovered them because of the 2008 movie, Mamma Mia! (I somehow missed the very successful musical that ran both in London’s West End and later on Broadway.)
However, it seems that things were different for me when it came to movies. Of Rotten Tomatoes’ 140 top movies on the 1980s, I missed only 30, including Toxic Avenger and Predator. I did even better in the 1990s, when out of the top 140 movies I missed just 25 (including Tombstone, The Iron Giant, and Chungking Express).
But the question remains: where was I when these great TV shows were broadcast?
A study out of Australia’s University of Melbourne determined that “there is a thing known as the ‘forgetting curve,’ which indicates how memories of a TV show deteriorate over time.” But in my case it is not a matter of my memory failing to remember details of a show, it’s the fact that I completely overlooked some good shows back then.
These days, there is apparently a widespread phenomenon of people watching older shows, with the BBC even going so far as to call 2020 “the year of the re-watch.” NBC even paid $500 million to bring The Office to its streaming service, Peacock. Similarly, WarnerMedia (soon to be Warner Bros.-Discovery) paid $425 million for a five-year license to put Friends on its HBO Max, and Netflix shelled out $500 million for a five-year lease on Seinfeld.
Psychologists, like Krystine Batcho, a professor at Syracuse, New York’s Le Moyne College, who studies nostalgia, calls this trend of watching series from days of yore “comfort TV.” But, once again, neither the idea described by the BBC nor the one outlined by Professor Batcho are the case for me since I missed these shows when they first aired. And “nostalgia,” I assume, only concerns shows that were already watched.
However, in an e-mail exchange, Professor Batcho wrote that she “relates” to my experience, and explained that it could be “the dynamic of shunning or avoiding the ‘ordinary.’ As time passes, the content can become more interesting, because it is no longer ordinary.”