Seniors & Aging

Pam Stone | Bring back family time with return of ’90s sitcoms

Ever since it has been reported that the ’90s sitcom “Coach” is returning with a new home at NBC, I guess it’s not surprising that those loyal to the original show have besieged me with emails asking, “Are you going to be on it?”

I figured this would be a good forum to reply, and the honest answer is …

I don’t know. Probably not.

That’s not meant to be enigmatic; I really have no idea. I wouldn’t think so, as the show isn’t about my character. It’s a sequel to the original show that picks up with Craig T. Nelson’s Hayden Fox being wooed out of a couple of decades of retirement to become assistant coach to his son, who is now head coach of an Ivy League university that is just getting its first football team.

That’ll take some “splainin,” Lucy, because all Ivy League schools already have long-cherished football programs that are nearly revered for their tradition. I, however, have great faith in this new series’ creator, Barry Kemp, who will write all 13 episodes ordered by NBC execs, as this is the man, after all, who not only created “Newhart,” but also the original “Coach,” as well as films “Patch Adams” and “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.”

So a pretty good track record, which earned lots of dollars for everyone, and that’s why this new “Coach” was sold by its “pitch” alone, without even a script, and received the breathtaking order for 13 episodes — unbelievably rare these days, as generally, a pilot gets made with maybe an order of two episodes and, poof, it’s gone; we’ve all felt that annoyance of really liking a show, only to see it yanked before it ever gets a chance to find an audience.

On the other hand, there have been more than a few online comments from television viewers expressing dismay that networks are bringing back old shows. Along with “Coach,” there is also “Full House” and “The X Files.”

“Hollywood is officially out of ideas,” was one I read, followed by, “Those shows were awful then; who wants to watch them now?”

I hear ya, but respectfully disagree. While not as groundbreaking as “All in the Family” or “MASH,” both “Coach” and “Full House” were family-friendly shows, and “Full House,” in particular, always had a tidy little moral to wrap everything up. I have two nieces-in-law, both in their early 30s, that will still watch “Full House” when it comes on in reruns because it’s like comfort food to them; it takes them back to a familiar time in their childhood when all seemed comfy cozy. If someone recognizes me from “Coach,” their remark is nearly always, “I used to watch that show with my Dad,” or, “My whole family loved that show!”

And that makes me feel very good indeed because any time there is something that draws an entire family away from their smart phones and computers to laugh and enjoy themselves together is pretty important, I think, and should be cultivated.

Even if you loathed these shows, there are a couple of other reasons to celebrate relaunching old sitcoms, the main one being (get ready to stand and cheer) the fact that a sitcom is being produced instead of another reality show.

Think about that for a moment. Reality shows are everywhere because they are unbelievably cheap to produce: no sets to be built, no high-priced stars demanding 1 million bucks per episode and no need to film with four cameras. So the fact that a network is taking the chance to splash out what will probably cost around a million and a half per episode is a pretty big deal. And to me, anything that helps rid the world of a potential “Honey Boo Boo” or “Real Housewives” is commendable.

And here’s the second reason that has me grinning from ear to ear. Hollywood is a very young town. Network executives are young, as are many producers and directors and writers. As a matter of fact, it’s no secret that if you are a writer and haven’t managed to sell your own sitcom or drama series to produce by the age of 35, you are considered over the hill, and good luck trying to pick up any work in your 40s. But here comes Craig T. Nelson, now aged 70 and fresh off his success from NBC’s “Parenthood,” along with Barry Kemp, whom I’m going to guess is now eligible for Social Security, and they just landed one of the biggest deals in town in a pitch to executives who were probably in the third grade when “Coach” initially premiered.

As a middle-aged broad, I love this. Strike one for the AARP generation! I will watch all three shows just to support the attempt to give America something that’s inoffensive and might bring families back together again — even if it’s just for half an hour. I know that’s not much.

But it’s a start.

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