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Older television shows find new life this fall

Cassie Belek | Tuesday, December 5, 2006

There’s an old jazzy song called “Everything Old is New Again.” I know this because I danced a tap solo to it in 7th grade. It was a sweet little number for my first ever competition dance solo and the owner of the studio choreographed it for me. It was the big time, trust me. The lyrics say, “Don’t throw the past away/You might need it some rainy day/Dreams can come true again/ When ev’ry thing old is new again.”

One can even apply these words to the current television season. Shows, techniques and even actors from the past are suddenly revived and new once more. Unfortunately, not many people are taking notice of these resurrections.

“The O.C.”: “The O.C.” has risen from the dead in its fourth season, but the ratings prove that no one is noticing or watching. Nov. 30 brought in only 3.6 million viewers compared to the 24.3 million watching “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s true that the show is playing in the most competitive timeslot of the week, but with the fortunate death of Mischa Barton’s Marissa Cooper, “The O.C.” is having fun again. Kaitlin, Marissa’s younger sister, is the ultimate scene stealer and a perfect complement to mother Julie. When Summer went to Brown and stopped shaving her legs, Taylor stepped in and became the new female comic relief. Her budding romance with Ryan is all too welcome, since she has more spunk and energy than the empty-inside Marissa ever did.

“Saturday Night Live”: Believe it or not, “SNL” is becoming funny again. It’s been painful to watch since the cast from the Will Ferrell years abandoned ship for smoother waters, but with the talent of fresh meat such as Groundlings veteran Kristen Wiig, the 32nd season is looking promising.

Wiig is the new powerhouse of “SNL,” though this has yet to be acknowledged by the show or by mainstream media. Her straight-faced awkwardness in this season’s “Car Pool” sketch with Alec Baldwin created one of the greatest and funniest sketches in recent memory. Unlike the overrated Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz, Wiig never breaks, proving herself as a comedian and a professional.

“How I Met Your Mother”: This series isn’t exactly old, and neither is the multi-camera format that it uses, but its core concept is – singles in Manhattan looking for friendship and love accompanied by a laugh track. No big deal. However, “Mother” takes this antiquated premise and somehow finds a way to make it new. It’s not an exact “Friends” rip-off. There are five friends instead of six, and they hang out at a bar instead of a coffee house, but “Mother” has two people that “Friends” never did – Bob Saget and Doogie Howser.

Yes, Saget is nothing more than the narrator, but it’s refreshing to hear him narrate this series instead of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Neil Patrick Harris’ Barney is Chandler and Joey molded into one super sarcastic ladies’ man. The situations are fresh, and fortunately the series is too young to “jump the shark” by desperately making someone pregnant.

Sometimes revisiting the old welcomes all kinds of new. Even “The View” is renewing itself with loud-mouthed, giveaway-happy Rosie O’Donnell. The electric debates between liberal Rosie and conservative Elizabeth are enough to keep anyone tuned in, even without drunken appearances by Danny DeVito.

However, with a media transfixed by the happenings of “Grey’s,” a groundbreaking youth-oriented series is in danger of getting cancelled. With the full-season pick-ups of “Studio 60” and “30 Rock,” the show that inspired them both is being written off as past its prime. And with the (well-deserved) media attention of single-camera comedies, one actually good multi-camera sitcom isn’t getting nearly enough coverage.

The old may be new again, but whether or not the audience will notice remains to be seen.

Contact Cassie Belek at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer