indulging in nostalgia

Several years ago when Dick Cavett was posting on Facebook he mentioned that his old shows were being shown on a television service called Decades. The programming was shown on a digital subchannel on CBS-owned television stations. As luck would have it, our television provider at the time, Verizon (later sold to Frontier) offered Decades, which Channel 2 in Los Angeles carried on one if its subchannels. I was delighted to be able to watch the Cavett shows along with other gems of the era, such as Laugh-In.

Frustratingly, the CBS-owned stations dropped Decades and replaced it with a service called Start TV, which features action-adventure shows, particularly those starring women (Rizzoli & Isles, for example).

Since then we had switched to Spectrum because we were upset with Frontier’s pricing policies and because we wanted to be able to watch the Dodger games, which at the time were only available on Spectrum.

Decades logo and taglineThis winter PBS broadcast a marvelous special that documented the relationship between Cavett and Groucho Marx, showing some of his many appearances on Cavett’s shows. An accompanying New York Times article quoted Cavett as saying he still watched his old shows on Decades. The Decades channel was still around? Really? I went to the Decades web site and found no indication that it was available on Spectrum in Southern California. Not willing to give up, however, I used the search function on my cable box and found that Decades is carried on Channel 14, a low-power station in Ontario, a city thirty miles east of Los Angeles. Spectrum carries that station.

So I have my Decades and Cavett once again. I love watching the old Cavett shows (there were several incarnations). Talk shows were different in the late sixties and the early seventies, and Cavett’s show was more cerebral than most. One episode featured Louise Lasser and the psychologist Albert Ellis. Lasser quizzed Ellis about the ethics of the profession and the differences between Freudian psychology and (what were at the time) current practices. In response to a question from Cavett, Ellis defended himself against a quote that appeared in the New York Times, explaining the context and the nuances surrounding his complete presentation from which the quote was extracted. In another episode, E.G. Marshall said that if we can send a man to the moon who hit a golf ball across its surface, we should be able to provide universal healthcare. (Some things don’t change.)

Of course, guests smoked on the set in those days. E.G. Marshall lit a cigarette for Maureen Stapleton. An elderly Bette Davis failed to observe the convention of moving down a chair when the next guest was introduced, perhaps because she didn’t want to leave her seat next to the desk where the ashtray was.

There are some differences in the current incarnation of Decades. Laugh-In, once a Decades staple, is gone, but there are plenty of old CBS programs, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Ed Sullivan, and the various manifestations of the Lucille Ball series.

That’s more than enough to satisfy my need for nostalgia.

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