Nostalgia and Netflix

I’ve been re-watching a bunch of shows I grew up on lately, I’m not sure if it is nostalgia that brings me to them, or a morbid curiosity to see how well they have stood the test of time. Most come across as clunky, poorly paced, and campy. Sometimes though I’ll be pleasantly surprised and be pulled into an episode just as I was when it first aired.

I’m almost through with Star Trek DS9 after having watched TNG and Voyager. TNG was one of my favourite shows as a kid, along with the rest of the Star Trek franchise, but out of the three there are very few episodes that are as good now as I remember them. DS9 has spiralled into pseudo-religious territory, and Voyager solved almost every problem with convenient Deus ex Machina. The franchise excelled when exploring ideas of humanity, what stands out most in my mind is the episode “The Measure of a Man” in which a trial is held to determine if Data is indeed a sentient being with rights of self determination. Another fine example is Quark the Ferengi barkeep recognizes the disturbing capability for “Hew-mons” to forget their morals when put in situations of extreme pressure.

Another show I attempted to watch was the X-Men animated series. I just couldn’t get into it. The first episode drops us into the mutant registration conflict, setting up the powerful themes of intolerance handled so well, but from there the acting and animation falls flat when compared to more modern shows and interesting ideas and a killer theme song just arent enough to carry it. Compare the series to a more modern cartoon and the difference is night and day.

I mean look at him.

Conversely, Batman: The Animated Series still holds up well. The animation is definitely of its time, but over all the Film Noir stylings and timeless character and set designs look just as good now as they did 20 years ago. The stories are classic Batman, along with a few invented-for-the-series baddies to add to the mix (Harley Quinn, for example was created for this show and proved to be so popular that she was added to the official canon). Throw in the iconic voice acting of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill amongst others, and brilliant musical compositions by Danny Elfman, and this cartoon is undeniably a classic.

Iconic Batman Imagery

I’ve trudged through shows of other genres as well, Frasier for example, or That 70s Show. Most sitcoms of the 90s really show their age, from the fashion to the cultural references to the laugh tracks, everything just reeks of the culture in which it was conceived. Thats not to say that it isn’t way to easy to throw on an episode of Seinfeld or classic Simpsons and have a thoroughly good time.

These PRETZELS are making me THIRSTY!

What am I getting at here? I guess my point is that we certainly do look upon the past with rose coloured glasses. We recall the media that we consumed in our formative years as being much better than it really was. With tools like Netflix, YouTube, and BitTorrent it is easier than ever to call up our old favourites and settle in for a marathon session. I can’t say if this is a good or a bad thing, but it is an interesting new way to watch. Especially now that we are in what many are calling a Golden Age of television, with shows like Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, I have to wonder how we will look back to TV shows of today in 20 or so years. Whatever happens, I’m sure I’ll still be here watching old episodes and drinking beer.

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