Nick at Nite: Preparing Us for Netflix

I know. You’re thinking how is this possible? Netflix is about streaming what you want when you want it. More recently, it’s about new programming. Nick at Nite is about airing old network shows in syndication, and making us feel old for showing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Full House.

It’s because of one clever little marketing stunt (which Nick was always famous for): Block Party Summer.

Let’s go back —-

Summertime as a kid was the best time. Oh, sure, Christmas was great. But summer had that lasting impact.

Believe it or not, I spent a lot of time outdoors in the summer – swimming, biking, roller-blading, going on adventures with family and friends. But as much time as I spent outside, I spent just as much inside, watching TV. Movies, too. Mostly TV.

Each summer, my brother and I wordlessly developed a schedule of TV viewing. Mornings consisted of Nick Jr., The Price is Right, and Law & Order reruns, with an occasional movie thrown in. Afternoons after swimming would be Stick Stickley in the Afternoon, or another movie. Dinner, when not eating outside, would be Nick game shows or NBC sitcom reruns before the local news. And finally, after a full day of summer activities, we would settle in, hang the beach towels out to dry, and watch Nick at Nite’s Block Party Summer.

In July and August, for several years running, Nick at Nite would designate a day of the week with a marathon, 3 hours-ish, of  a specific show. I’ve always loved Nick at Nite’s promos. They were pretty genius. Each summer usually had it’s own jingle, too. Promos would typically have summery themes, like camp or a BBQ. Here are just a few days I remember:

Munster Mondays

Lucy Tuesdays

Bewitched Be-Wednesdays

Jeannie Thursdays

They changed over the years, though Lucy was a near-constant. Fridays were always oddballs – Welcome Back, Kotter, The Wonder Years, etc.

James and I loved these.

And on an Inception-y level, Nick at Nite prepared us for the Netflix binges of today. That’s why it’s not weird to watch 6 episodes in a row of one series — we’ve been doing it our whole lives, thanks to these and other Nick at Nite/TV Land marathons. And check out this promo:

“It’s Nick at Nite’s modern programming miracle! Instead of one ‘Mary,’ you get six in a row — ”

They knew the whole time this would be the future. Thank you, Nick at Nite. Thank you.

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Singin’ in the Rain: Some Things Never Change

Since the Oscar nominations were announced, I’ve been reading a few of the trillions of lists put together by various entertainment outlets. 24 of the Most Unforgivable Oscar Snubs, 10 Oscars That Were Whiter Than White. 33 Reasons The Lego Movie Is This Year’s Best Picture. Et cetera. But one list that was truly fascinating was EW’s 51 Performances Oscar Never Recogonized.

Typically, any list over 25 is questionable. But, I gave it a look anyway. First of all, it was greatly aided by having a video clip of each performance — no easy feat, and extraordinarily helpful in a list like this. Now, when watching awards shows, my dad is known for spouting tidbits and facts like a living, breathing, iMDb. So I’m kinda used to hearing things like, “You know, he was nominated for this film, but won for a different film eight years later,” or “This film lost to that film in 1976.” But seeing a cohesive list of performances that didn’t just lose an Oscar, but were never even considered is kind of startling.

They listed some incredible performances, many of which weren’t appreciated when released, or seem to have held up better over time, or were simply overshadowed. One of those many performances was Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain.

And that, of course, got me thinking about Singin’ in the Rain. This was a film I discovered “later in life,” maybe when I was 17 or 18, but I fell for it immediately. I mean, it shouldn’t be a surprise, really. It’s a musical and a movie about making movies. That’s pretty much gold for me.

What strikes me about Singin’ in the Rain is how the general representation of celebrity, stardom, and Hollywood, is still ALL true. The movie was made in 1952 about 1929, yet here we are in 2015, and nearly everything is still exactly the same.

My case:

– The Red Carpet Interview

In the film’s opening scene, we’re brought into a red carpet premiere of the new Lockwood-Lamont picture. A crowd is anxiously awaiting each celebrity arrival, screaming names and begging for autographs. This scene is narrated by Dora Bailey (played by Madge Blake), who is essentially Ryan Seacrest. She oohs and aahhs to her radio listeners as different celebrities exit their vehicles and prance down the carpet….. speaking of…

– The Celebs

You may not know the actors being caricatured  in this opening scene, but it almost doesn’t matter. The It girl, the attention seeking drama queen, the perfect Hollywood couple. We can fill in our current celebrities to match the labels.

– The Actor’s Interview

When Don finally arrives, he gladly conducts his red carpet interview. When asked about his beginnings, he weaves an elaborate tale, full of fancy schooling, serious roles and heaps of luck, while we see the truth — his low-class upbringing, his less-than-high-brow work in vaudeville,  his desperation trying to make it in LA. It’s  a tale celebrities still spin today, if not quite to that extreme. Oh sure, today it’s a lot easier to dig up old yearbook photos and embarrassing commercials, but we still have to do the digging. We always take what celebrities say with a grain of salt, knowing they rarely ever tell the whole truth.

– Studios Scrambling Over the Next Big Thing

The real challenge in Singin’ in the Rain is when this new technology arrives allowing movies to record audio, bringing in the Talkie Era. Shown at the premiere after-party, almost everyone believes it’s a fad. But when studios start buying into it, it doesn’t take long for Colossal Pictures to jump on board. The studio head halts production so the new technology could be installed.

Studios are so insane about being on top of the “the next big thing.” The same thing happened with Technicolor, HD, 3D — you get it. Nobody wants to be the last one, so when they rush into the new technology, there are always…. let’s call them growing pains. And they’re hilarious.

Probably my favorite scene in the entire film is when they start filming with the microphone and eventually screen an early version with sound. Anyone who has ever tried seriously filming a movie on your own will understand that scene. It feels all too real.

Ultimately, I think my argument here is trying to prove that we tend to dismiss “old” movies (be they made earlier than the year we were born, a musical, or –gasp– black & white), yet most of them are still completely relevant and totally entertaining. They may not be filled with lightning-speed editing or quick-and-punchy dialogue. Yes, Singin’ in the Rain has some cheesy moments. (Between you and me, I always skip the final dance sequence.) But overall, it’s a phenomenal film that holds up so well.

Give it a chance, people.

#LearnfromtheClassics