Writers Workshop: Chateau Lafitte and Welch’s Grape Juice

Image by Alexander Antropov from Pixabay

Say the word vintage, and my mind goes right to vintage television. Mary and I watch a lot of vintage Tv, mostly because we aren’t entertained by what The Big 4 Networks are serving up these days and there’s not a lot on most of the streaming services that we’re interested in. That might change when our old TV finally gives up the ghost and we buy a “smart TV,” which many people think is an oxymoron, but for now we’re talking mostly about whatever we can receive via an indoor antenna.

When we uninstalled cable and decided to go with what we could get over the air, I was surprised at the number of stations that appeared. Nothing like the 300+ that we were able to get with our old cable package, but we weren’t watching 95% of them anyway. We still have access to more channels than we watch, but at least now we aren’t paying for them. A few channels are elusive: we haven’t been able to receive the two public TV stations and their subchannels on a regular basis. For that, we’ll need to get a stronger antenna, possibly an outdoor one, and neither of us are that enthused about it. There are more powerful indoor antennas and one that suggests it can make the wiring in my house act as a huge antenna. It might be worth the $39.95 to experiument with that.

Anyway, there are a few stations that play “vintage” TV, meaning they run (or maybe rerun is a better way of putting it) programs that were popular between roughly 1950 and 2000. And, just as with vintage wines (where the term comes from), you have to decide which shows are Chateau Lafitte and which are decades-old bottles of Welch’s grape juice. In other words, it’s a matter of taste. For some, In The Heat Of The Night represents the finest TV has to offer; for others, it’s watching Carroll O’Connor as a Southern version of Archie Bunker.

Most of our favorite shows are carried by MeTV: we’ve been spending the 8 PM hour with Andy Griffith and Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show) and the 10 PM hour with Bob Crane and Werner Klemperer (Hogan’s Heroes). They’re shows that we’ve seen so many times in our lives that we actually remember lines of dialogue and specific situations. On Saturdays and Sundays, we watch Peter Falk as Columbo (Saturday on Cozi TV, Sunday on MeTV). We’ve seen those shows so many times that one need only mention the villain and we know the story (certain actors, such as William Shatner, Robert Vaughn, Robert Culp, Jack Cassidy, and Patrick McGoohan, have been the villain several times, but a mention of the plot is usually sufficient to remind us about the story). For a while, This TV was running episodes of The Saint with Roger Moore, but just as I started telling everyone who would listen about it, they abruptly stopped showing it in favor of Redneck Archie Bunker.

That’s maybe the frustrating thing about the vintage stations: once you get accustomed to seeing a show in a given time period, they decide to take it off in favor of something that you either like better (less frequently) or that you hate with the fire of a thousand suns (usually the case). Someone finally explained that the production companies will lease programs to one of the vintage stations for a specific length of time, after which they lease them to another station, which might or might not actually have any plans to broadcast the show.

I just wish someone would keep track of which station has the broadcast rights for which vintage TV program. Wonder what would be involved with that?

11 thoughts on “Writers Workshop: Chateau Lafitte and Welch’s Grape Juice

  1. The nostalgist in me loves old TV shows, but they are hit or miss. I never realized they were leased for certain time periods. I would love McGale’s Navy or Topper, but those never seem to come around. Too old I imagine. My grandson has always loved Andy Griffith, but when the season they moved from black and white to color queues up he goes back and rewatches the old black and white episodes instead.

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    1. The oft-maligned color episodes of Andy Griffith… by then Barney Fife was in Raleigh, Opie was no longer a precocious little boy, and Andy and Helen Crump (not my favorite of his various love interests) were getting serious, plus we were saddled with Howard Sprague…

      McHale’s Navy is on Antenna TV at 8 AM weekdays, 5:30 AM weekends, and 2 AM Saturday/Sunday (All times Eastern, so adjust for your time zone). Topper? That’s so old, it might be in public domain…

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      1. Ugh, Howard. Never a fan. I will see if I can find McHale’s Navy on my Philo streaming.

        Topper was my childhood favorite so it is REALLY old.

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  2. I like Murder She Wrote on Cozi TV and Home Improvement on Laff. I read up on that “antenna that makes your house wiring an antenna” and what I read wasn’t favorable (like not really possible unfavorable). I looked up the broadcast reception chart for my zip code and it wasn’t good news. I’m not in a good position to pick up many broadcast stations. We have only one local independent station within 20 miles and but the rest are 60 to 120 miles away. My town area is surprisingly rural.
    I don’t have any way to contact Kat directly, which is why I left the comment on my blog about the 405 error. She usually reads my post.

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    1. I tried one of those “turn your house into a giant antenna” things when we first moved here (over 30 years ago) and it didn’t work AT ALL, so I think I’ll pass If I had to do it again, I’d’ve had a rooftop antenna installed then. Cable was fine when we had it, but quite costly and we didn’t watch most of it. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20…

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    1. I still have a TV with a picture tube, and there are probably many more out there, but I doubt there are many TV’s like the one in the picture that are still in service. I follow a motel in Boca Raton, Florida (hey, they followed me) in Instagram, and they have an old tv similar to the one above. I asked them if they had a digital converter hooked up so they could still use it today, and they told me that, while it would probably still work, they hadn’t done that. It’d be fun to see if they could.

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  3. We just cancelled our cable because I find we watch YouTube more than TV anymore. I also have Netflix on my phone so that TV sort of fell by the wayside. It’s saving us $150 a month! Isn’t it crazy how things described as vintage now includes the 90’s? Am I old now?? I swear it’s was 1997 like five minutes ago.

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    1. It’s amazing how much TV you can get nowadays without paying for it. Digital TV with all the subchannels is great. I do have trouble picking up the PBS stations (we have two), even though they’re in range of the antenna we have. There are times I’m tempted to having someone install a good outdoor antenna. Right now, I’m waiting for this TV to bite the dust so I can justify getting a smart TV…

      The vintage TV channels basically play whatever content they can get, and a lot of the shows from the ’90’s are becoming available even as some of the shows from the ’60’s and ’70’s are being put away until the companies that supply them can get more money for them. So many shows have never been offered by the network production companies, even though they were popular in their day. There is a ton of great stuff on YouTube, though, and I would imagine that a lot of the streaming services will at some point recognize that there’s a gold mine out there…

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