Play It Again, Sam

Ishould have expected this. Nothing good ever comes out of the upfront. For buyers and sellers, sure. For the multitudes who actually watch television? Forget it.

In their gotta-find-something attempts to keep from sliding even faster down the slope they’re on, NBC and Fox (the other four will surely join them soon enough) are declaring the death of reruns. All original, all the time. (Although how any network that broadcasts reality shows can say the word original with a straight face is beyond me.)

No more reruns. There goes my summer.

This is sacrilege to anybody older than your average O.C. viewer. For half a century, reruns, like baseball and mowing the lawn, have been a faithful and reassuring sign that summer is here—that we can slow down for a couple of months, which, Les knows, we need now more than ever.

Reruns got us off the couch and down to the beach. Nothing on TV could compare with actually, you know, interacting with the environment.

Reruns got us out in the yard to mow the lawn. Well, OK, I live in an apartment, so I don’t have a lawn. But the patio is in dire need of a cleaning.

I can’t get to it now, though. I have to stay stuck to the living-room couch, because Zucker forbid I miss a new episode of The Apprentice. And here I thought that, with Angel dead and gone, I’d finally have some free time.

But no. And why are they killing off reruns, anyway? In spite of all the wailing and the wringing of finely manicured hands, the networks are hardly at death’s door, are they?

They’ll take in more than $9 billion at the upfront this time around, no matter what happens. They still have the Super Bowl. The occasional series-finale windfall. Ongoing Ponzi schemes like sweeps months.

They may no longer rule the media world, but they’re still the biggest bullies on the block, and they will be for some time.

Look, I’m not saying their comeuppance isn’t coming. Eventually, the networks will just be big niches. One day, HBO will surpass a broadcast network in total viewership. But not tomorrow. Or next year. Or the year after that. Rome may have been built in a day, but it took centuries for the empire to die.

Granted, the networks have the right of any arrogant, power-corrupted organism to bellow and battle to hold onto power. And yes, they’re electronic Buicks, with about as much appeal to youth as playing bocce ball on a lawn in Boca Raton.

So they have to do something. But shelving reruns? Why not just cancel summer?

Besides, some of the other rearranging of the furniture in the house on fire is working, sort of, at least with some viewers. I, for one, love the police procedurals. With CSIs spawning like salmon and Law & Orders popping up like mushrooms on moldy bread, I’m watching more free TV than I have since before I got cable in 1984. (Even more impressive, I’m returning to the networks even though I now get my TV beamed in by satellite, with its gazillion channels.)

And technology has helped as well as hurt the dinosaurs. DVD collections of your favorite seasons of you favorite shows are raking in some serious coin, for example.

There are some fights the networks shouldn’t pick, anyway. They’ll never get the kids back. They’ll never compete effectively against cable unless they can field shows filled with cursing, bare breasts and bun shots. And we know how likely that is right now.

So keep reruns. Blame Nielsen for everything else. Apparently, that always works.

And let the rest of us clean the patio.