Old TV shows live again Many SAPPY RETURNS

November 10, 1993|By David Zurawik

Capt. Woodrow F. Call is back in Lonesome Dove, Texas, . . . sort of.

The Waltons are up on Waltons Mountain again . . . in a manner of speaking.

And the Cartrights are back at the mighty Ponderosa . . . more or less, mainly less.

This November "sweeps" ratings period is going to be a month of many returns in TV land. Sunday -- the most important night of the TV week because viewership is highest -- is filled with them.

This Sunday CBS starts "Return to Lonesome Dove." On Nov. 21, CBS airs "A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion." And on Nov. 28, NBC offers "Bonanza: The Return."

Reunions, sequels and returns are not new. They started popping up on the small screen in the late-1970s. By the mid-'80s, the past-as-present movement had so spread throughout our popular culture that Esquire magazine dubbed it the "Re Decade in Rerun America."

It's all part of something called postmodernism -- which is another way of saying we've run out of new ideas and so are left with specials, like "Return to Green Acres," as big TV events and debates about whether the new Arnold the pig or the original Arnold the pig is better.

Is Jon Voight's Woodrow Call better than the original Capt. Call played by Tommy Lee Jones?

Is John-Boy any less a wuss as an adult? And how could the Cartright boys have any descendants to populate this return to "Bonanza" when there were no women on The Ponderosa?

These are some of the questions we set out to answer in comparing the originals with the remakes.

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