Post-Network Era: Nothing Kompares to Reruns

“Goodnight, Mary Ellen. Goodnight, Jim Bob”

On September 14, 1972, in coherence with the Broadcast Era, these words echoed in living rooms across the United States for the first time. This was the sound of The Waltons’ bedtime routine, a fictional family that Americans tuned in to watch for a subsequent nine years after the airing of the first episode on CBS. The show was set in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II, spanning from 1933 to 1946. More specifically, the show follows the struggles of The Walton family to make a decent living during such hardship, but they never fail to end the day with their famous goodnights.

I remember the first time I heard about The Walton family. I was staying in a hotel room with my mom and siblings when we turned out the lights, said goodnight, and shut our eyes in hopes of a good night’s rest. However, my mom seemed to have a different plan, as she proceeded to recite the closing scene of The Waltons. She began, “Goodnight, Mary Ellen…” and my siblings and I questioned, “Mom, what are you doing?” Sure enough, she was nostalgically recalling the days when she would rush home from school to watch The Waltons with her family.

However, they were not watching the original nine seasons of the show, as was characteristic of the Post-Network Era. Instead, my mom and her family were the perfect example of a “family-orientated slate” audience that The Family Channel hoped to attract to their reruns of The Waltons in the 1980s. Originally, these reruns aired with the intent to seek familiar and popular programming that The Family Channel could afford, as pointed out in Derek Kompare’s article, “TV Land: Cable and Satellite as Boutique Television.” Not to mention, this increased the amount of income from advertising and their subscribing base, meaning the channel could meet distributors’ prices.

Additionally, the hopeful intentions of The Family Channel were met with even more successful results. One of which was that reruns served as a large component in the formation of cable networks’ strong identities. These identities were the result of The Family Channel being a boutique, meaning it had specialized audiences that were dedicated to their shows. This audience included those such as my mother and her family, proving that even forty years later, the boutique function of The Family Channel sold itself to its family-oriented audience quite well.


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