People listen to their favorite songs over and over, again and again, year after year. Why do we watch TV reruns?
There’s a big difference between listening to a song on the radio, the stereo, or an iPod– where we can sing along to three minutes of memories– vs. watching a 30-minute or 60-minute TV show.
TV shows we’ve seen already don’t carry the same emotional or rhythmical weight as a song. Music is background, so it doesn’t matter whether we’re consciously listening or not.
Reruns? That’s a totally different issue. We watch reruns because whatever else that is on TV at the time is worse than the rerun. Reruns are the lowest common denominator.
But watching a rerun assumes we’ve already watched the TV show once before. What of the generations that grew up after a prime time TV show entered the rerun cycle? For them, it’s not a rerun, it’s a first run TV show.
Better yet, many local TV stations and networks run marathon episodes of popular (and sometimes not so popular) TV shows. The Monk Labor Day Marathon is a good example.
Other reruns will air at the same time each day, Monday through Friday. That’s perfect for those who never saw the original broadcast to learn all about the show’s characters and episodes in compressed time. Our children watching black and white reruns of Perry Mason five nights a week for years. In elementary school the watched years of MacGyver before dinner.
Another aspect of modern technology meets television is time shifting. We use a digital video recorder (DVR) to watch television programs, either first run, or rerun. We never watched Star Trek Enterprise during first run, but watched every episode as reruns on the SciFi channel– four episodes every Monday.
Likewise, all the episodes of The Nanny were viewed on the DVR, never during prime time. Sidebar: Fran Drescher is utterly annoying, a contemporary Lucy, and just plain hot.
Television viewing is heading into the portable era with TV shows available for viewing on PCs, laptops, iPods, and cell phones. The iTunes Store sells TV show reruns for $1.99 vs. mostly free on TV. The difference? Portability. Ownership.
Reruns are selling like crazy. I won’t bother with the “why.” They just do, but I think that, like music played over and over, we take comfort in knowing what’s going to happen at the end of the show and that brings a sense of completion and closure to our day.