In addition to my love for classic film, I also greatly enjoy classic television series, which you may know if you’ve seen my “Recap and React” posts on this blog.
Before I was a blogger with an intense obsession over these things, I was a young’n who began to discover classic television in a way that many young people did in the 1990s and early 2000s: through Nick at Nite’s programming.
Founded in 1985, Nick at Nite is considered to be the first classic television network, airing unique programming that included only reruns of sitcoms from the 1950s through 1970s. Sharing a channel with the children’s TV network Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite only runs in the late night and early morning hours – as the name would suggest .
Their catalog has since expanded to include more recent hit series like Friends and That ’70s Show, with competition for the true “oldies” programming popping up from Me-TV, the Retro Television Network and other classic-centric channels.
Nick at Nite’s Classic TV Companion: The All Nite, Every Nite Guide to Better Living Through Television was published in 1996, just after the network’s 10th anniversary. As you can imagine, I was elated to find a perfect-condition copy of this book at my local Goodwill for only 99 cents!
Edited by Nick at Nite creative director Tom Hill, this book provides an episode-by-episode guide to all of the shows that were running on Nick at Nite at the time of its publication: Bewitched, The Bob Newhart Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Munsters, Taxi and Welcome Back, Kotter.
Each of these television series have a whole section of the book dedicated to them. Each section opens with quotes about the show, including excerpts of reviews from when the shows originally aired. Following these quotes, a short essay opens each chapter, detailing the show’s history on Nick at Nite. The Jeannie introduction is a particular favorite of mine. It details a poll that was held by the network to clear up the age-old debate of “Who has more power, Jeannie (I Dream of Jeannie) or Samantha (Bewitched)?” Samantha won the poll, but TV Guide published a blurb in Jeannie’s defense, and I Dream of Jeannie went on to become one of Nick at Nite’s most popular programs.
The rest of each chapter is filled with recaps of each episode in the order that they air on Nick at Nite (not unlike my own recaps in the “Recap and React” posts, though those in this book are a bit more detailed since I try to avoid spoiling anything major). Not every single episode is included for each series. It breaks down as follows:
Bewitched: 74 of 254 episodes covered (First two seasons only)
The Bob Newhart Show: 142 of 142 episodes covered (Complete series!)
The Dick Van Dyke Show: 158 of 159 episodes covered (Only the reunion special is left out)
I Dream of Jeannie: 139 of 139 episodes covered (Complete series!)
I Love Lucy: 179 of 181 episodes (Original pilot and Christmas special not included)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: 168 of 168 episodes (Complete series!)
The Munsters: 70 of 70 episodes (Complete series!)
Taxi: 114 of 114 episodes (Complete series!)
Welcome Back, Kotter: 95 of 95 episodes (Complete series!)
Most of the episode descriptions are accompanied by some type of “bonus” material: a fun fact about something that happened during production, a short bio of the episode’s guest star, a famed quote from the episode. The Bob Newhart Show Section has a “Hi, Bob-Ometer” which tracks the number of times “Hi, Bob” is said in each episode.
This book is most useful for reference if you’re doing an in-order rewatch of any of these series, but even if you haven’t seen these shows in years it’s a fun book to flip through. If you love classic television and happen to run across a copy of Nick at Nite’s Classic TV Companion, I would definitely recommend adding it to your book collection.