Classic TV Comfort Food: Where to Find TV’s Hidden Gems

Victoria Leigh Miller
Writer
Roseanne Barr as Roseanne Conner and John Goodman as Dan Conner in ‘Roseanne’ (Photo: ABC/Getty Images)

We know there’s a certain segment of the population that still remembers the ABC Friday night lineup of The Brady BunchThe Partridge FamilyRoom 222The Odd Couple, and Love, American Style. And we appreciate you. Fast-forward a little, and there are viewers who are nostalgic for CHiPs, Wonder Woman, and even Doogie Howser.

There’s nothing like a Saturday night channel surfing sesh to take you back in time, and with the hundreds of TV channels and streaming sites available today, a favorite classic TV show is often just a click away. But with so many choices, even channel surfing can sometimes be cumbersome.

We were in the mood for a little TV comfort food, so we checked out the channels that offer classic TV or retro programming, and in the process, we found you a few hidden gems that currently can’t be found on streaming sites. Here’s our roundup. 

Aspire

If you aspire to watch hard-to-find 1960s classics, this should be your first stop. From the old school high school dramedy Room 222 (we heart Karen Valentine) to the hip undercover cops on The Mod Squad, Aspire will transport you back to a groovier time.

Gem: Julia

Marc Copage as Corey Baker and Diahann Carroll as Julia Baker in ‘Julia’ (Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Diahann Carroll’s groundbreaking role as Julia Baker, a single mom and nurse, made her the first African-American actress to earn an Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series category. Julia was one of Aspire’s first acquisitions when the network debuted in 2012.

Antenna TV

Antenna’s lineup covers a huge cross section of comedic classic TV, digging way back to 1950’s Burns and Allen Show and the 1956 adventure series Circus Boy. (Yes, that’s a preteen, pre-Monkees Micky Dolenz in the title role). Other classic TV goodies include Shirley’s Booth’s stint as hapless maid Hazel, Patty Duke’s twinning cousins on The Patty Duke Show, and familiar favorites like Bewitched, All in the Family and, yes, Doogie. Because can you ever really tire of seeing Neil Patrick Harris as a teen physician?

Gem: The Flying Nun

Marge Redmond as Sister Jacqueline, Sally Field as Sister Bertrille, and Shelley Morrison as Sister Sixto in ‘The Flying Nun’ (Photo: ABC Photo Archives via Getty Images)

A young Sally Field’s starring stint as airborne Sister Bertrille may be campy (her heavily starched cornette helped her to fly when the winds at the convent got high), but they just don’t make fantasy comedy like this anymore. The 1967 sitcom swooped in for three seasons on ABC, leaving 82 delightful episodes in its wake.

Cozi TV

While the 1950s are represented with adventure shows like Lassie and the Lone Ranger, it’s the 1970s that are really back in full force on Cozi TV. In addition to the secret agent adventures of bionic superstars The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, the network takes us to 1870’s Walnut Grove with Little House on the Prairie. A funny Frankenstein is also in the house with the Fred Gwynne-helmed sitcom The Munsters.

Gem: McMillan & Wife

Rock Hudson as Commissioner Stewart McMillan and Susan Saint James as Sally McMillan in ‘McMillan & Wife’ (Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Many people forget that movie star Rock Hudson also had a successful TV career. Hudson played a San Francisco police commissioner married to younger wife Sally (a pre-Kate & Allie Susan St. James) in this hit 1970s procedural, with popular character actress Nancy Walker providing comic relief as the wealthy couple’s boozy housekeeper.

Decades

There are not many places you can still see old episodes of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, but the classic Dan Rowan/Dick Martin sketch comedy is on Decades’ current lineup. Featuring programs from the 1950s to the 2000s, Decades is also the go-to channel for retro action hero dramas, including The Green Hornet and The Adventures of Superman.

Gem: Batman

Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin in ‘Batman’ (Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Based on the DC Comics characters, the caped crusader and his sidekick, played by Adam West and Burt Ward, defended the people of Gotham City in this ’60s action-adventure-comedy, which was known for its campy style and catchy music. The star-studded cast of recurring villains included Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar, Vincent Price, and Milton Berle.

Hallmark Channel

Corny made-for-TV Christmas movies aren’t the only thing to watch on this network. A lineup of feel-good shows, including reruns of the ultimate classic TV sitcom, I Love Lucy, fill out Hallmark Channel’s schedule. Eighties TV fans can catch old episodes of Cheers and The Golden Girls.

Gem: Home Improvement

Tim Allen as Tim Taylor and Richard Karn as Al Borland in ‘Home Improvement’ (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images)

While several of Hallmark’s most popular comedies can be found on streaming sites like Hulu or Netflix, Tim Allen’s tool-themed sitcom is only available here. The nine-season 1990s comedy launched Allen’s career as an actor and also introduced the world to “Tool Time” girl Pamela Anderson.

INSP

If cowboys are your weakness, you’re in luck. A whole lot of westerns are on the menu on this network, which specializes in family-value based entertainment. The Big Valley, The Virginian, The High Chaparral, Bonanza, The Lost Episodes, Walker, Texas Ranger — they’re all here.

Gem: The Waltons

Jon Walmsley as Jason Walton, Will Geer as Zeb Grandpa” Walton, Ellen Corby as Ester “Grandma” Walton, Ralph Waite as John Walton, Judy Norton as Mary Ellen Walton, Mary McDonough as Erin Walton, Richard Thomas as John Boy Walton, Kami Cotler as Elizabeth Walton, Michael Learned as Olivia Walton, Eric Scott as Ben Walton, and David Harper as Jim-Bob Walton in ‘The Waltons’ (Photo: CBS via Getty Images)

One of the most memorable dramas of the 1970s, The Waltons centered on a supersized Depression-era Virginia family. Spawned from the TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story which wasn’t even supposed to be a series, but the 1971 movie was so popular it ultimately served as a pilot for CBS. Thanks to INSP, nearly 40 years after the Earl Hamner Jr. drama wrapped, you can still say goodnight to John-Boy.

Logo 

Logo was originally geared toward the LGBT community, but in 2012 the network shifted its programming strategy to include programs with a variety of cultural and lifestyle themes. Classic ’70s and ’80s sitcoms, including Alice, One Day at a Time, and The Facts of Life can now be seen on the channel, as well as edgy classic comedies like Three’s Company and Soap.

Gem: Mama’s Family

Carol Burnett as Eunice Higgins and Vicki Lawrence as Mama Harper in ‘Mama’s Family’ (Photo: CBS Photo Archive)

Vicki Lawrence’s spinoff from her Carol Burnett Show “The Family” sketches gave the Harper clan a new lease on life. Mama’s Family had a two-season run on NBC, then nabbed a first-run syndication deal that lasted four seasons. Lawrence was only in her 30s when she slapped on a gray wig and glasses to play elderly Thelma “Mama” Harper. The cast also included Ken Berry, Rue McClanahan, Dorothy Lyman, and Betty White.

MeTV

This network’s extensive programming lineup pulls from the huge libraries of CBS Television Distribution, NBC Universal, and 20th Television, which means it has access to some of the biggest and most beloved classic TV hits from the 1950s to the 1990s. The short list includes The Andy Griffith Show, The Brady Bunch, CHiPs, The Lucy Show, Wonder Woman, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Twilight Zone, Planet of the Apes, and The Love Boat. Genre-based programming blocks are a staple on this network.

Gem: The Bob Newhart Show

Bob Newhart as Dr. Bob Hartley in ‘The Bob Newhart Show’ (Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Comedian Bob Newhart played Chicago psychiatrist Dr. Robert Hartley in this 1970s comedy. Viewers saw Newhart’s straight-man character at home with wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) and at his medical office, where he interacted with fellow docs, office staff, and of course a cast of neurotic patients, including Elliot Carlin (Jack Riley), Emile Peterson (John Fiedler), and elderly knitting guru Lillian Bakerman (Florida Friebus).

TV Land 

This 24-hour version of Nickelodeon’s once-popular Nick at Nite (that programming block now airs 1990s shows like Friends and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) includes reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and the iconic ’70s comedy-drama, M*A*S*H. In recent years, TV Land has made the leap into original scripted programming, with shows like Hot in Cleveland, Younger, and The Exes, but it’s also the place to find everything from The New Adventures of Old Christine to The King of Queens.

Gem: Roseanne

Roseanne Barr as Roseanne Conner, Alicia Goranson as Becky Conner, Sara Gilbert as Darlene Conner, Michael Fishman as D.J. Conner, and John Goodman as Dan Conner in ‘Roseanne’ (Photo: ABC/Getty Images)

With talk of an eight-episode reboot coming up, it may be time to catch up on all 222 episodes of Roseanne Barr’s long-running ABC comedy about the blue-collar Conner family. We won’t tell you how it ends.

TV One

Originally launched in 2004 as a competitor to BET, TV One broadcasts some of the most beloved throwback sitcoms featuring African-American families, including The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son. And with no trace of The Cosby Show left anywhere on today’s TV landscape, the network also carries the Lisa Bonet spinoff, A Different World, which is one of the only places you can still see a member of the Huxtable family.

Gem: Good Times

Ralph Carter as Michael Evans, Esther Rolle as Florida Evans, John Amos as James Evans, Jimmie Walker as J.J. Evans, and BernNadette Stanis as Thelma Evans in ‘Good Times’ (Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

The good times with the Evans family continue to roll on TV One. The Norman Lear comedy, a spinoff from Maude, which was a spinoff from All in the Family, stars Jimmie Walker as J.J. Evans, the eldest son of a low-income family living in the Chicago projects. It’s pretty dy-no-mite to still see this show still on the air 40 years later. 

UP

Uplifting entertainment is on the agenda for this network, so it’s no wonder the heartwarming drama Touched by an Angel makes the cut. Ditto for 7th Heaven and the fast-talking original seasons of Gilmore Girls.

Gem: Growing Pains

Joanna Kerns as Maggie Seaver, Alan Thicke as Dr. Jason Seaver, and Kirk Cameron as Mike Seaver in ‘Growing Pains’ (Photo: ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

The recent death of Alan Thicke makes us even more nostalgic for this ’80s family comedy about psychiatrist Jason Seaver, his TV reporter wife, Maggie (Joanna Kerns), and their four kids (Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, Jeremy Miller, Ashley Johnson.) Watch this series all the way to the seventh season and you’ll even see a young Leonardo DiCaprio as a homeless teen.

We TV

Originally slanted toward female viewers, We TV was previously called WE: Women’s Entertainment, but later changed its branding to accommodate a wider audience. Today, amid campy reality shows like Marriage Boot Camp and Mama June: From Hot to Not, classic drama series like Law and Order and CSI: Miami can be found on the network.

Gem: House M.D.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House in ‘House M.D.’ (Photo: Greg Gayne/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

The Emmy-winning medical drama, which stars Hugh Laurie as the sometimes salty Dr. Gregory House, found a new home on We. The show originally ran for eight seasons on Fox, and if you’ve never seen it before, it’s time to make a House call.

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