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Emmy commemorative: Where the classics air

TV Land takes auds back into time

Such a dilemma.

Should TV Land programmers schedule “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” followed by “The Odd Couple” or is it better the other way around? Is “I Love Lucy” better suited with “All in the Family” than “The Andy Griffith Show”? Would people prefer “Barney Miller” at 11 p.m. or is “The Dick Van Dyke Show” more of a latenight attraction?

Such are the questions execs ask themselves at Nickelodeon spinoff TV Land, where syndies reach new auds and those who want to revisit history.

For viewers vegging out on the couch with a quart of Ben and Jerry’s and looking to re-create their childhood comfort zone, TV Land offers a perfect escape. The network’s lineup has nary a clunker, with more than 150 Emmys combined among its current programming lineup.

“What we’ve learned is that there’s a big audience for these classics,” says Laura Hunter, senior VP of programming. “People like to watch programming they grew up on.”

In a way, TV Land has become a victim of its own success. Back when the network launched 15 years ago, many of the classic sitcoms had finished their syndie runs and didn’t have a home. Now that the shows are popular again, buying them back once their contracts expire has become a more expensive proposition.

“It’s become harder and harder and there’s more competition for these shows,” says Hunter.

Adds Larry Jones, exec VP-G.M. at TV Land: “We know every distributor and what’s expiring when. We have a target list of what we’re interested in.”

‘Andy’ posting best numbers

Currently, “The Andy Griffith Show” is the No. 1-rated program on the network, followed closely by “Leave It to Beaver.” “I Love Lucy,” which many critics consider the most influential sitcom of all time and airs on Nick at Nite, arrives on TV Land on Oct. 15, 50 years to the day the series premiered on CBS.

Joel Berman, prexy of the Paramount Television Group, calls “I Love Lucy” one of the “staples of syndication and we’ve always had success renewing it. Nick at Nite has given it another life.”

Berman also cites “The Brady Bunch” and “Andy Griffith” as two of the most successful syndicated series of all time.

Hunter says sitcoms are, by far, the most popular genre on the cabler, taking up 75% of the schedule.

“In the world of reruns, it’s easier to commit to a half-hour show than an hour,” says Jones. “With the proliferation of cable and going online, people’s times are so short.”

With that in mind, Nick at Night (which airs evenings on stations carrying Nickelodeon) schedules only sitcoms, all part of an effort to land that 18-49 demo. TV Land skews a bit older, 25-54.

Arriving in November is “Taxi,” to be followed by “Gilligan’s Island” and “Happy Days” in 2002.

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