Sunday, August 21, 2005

Nostalgia TV

I've had this idea a couple years now: television stations that recreate the past. I don't mean something like TV Land, which could just as easily be called the Revisionist History Channel, what with it only focusing on shows that were popular. I mean the past, uncut and uncensored, aired again for your viewing pleasure. You could tune into Channel 1943, say, and just get that little thingy until something came on in the evening, or you could click over to TV 1964 and mark your calendar to make sure you didn't miss the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in February. I thought it'd a huge success, appealing to both the left's unsatiable desire for kitsch and the right's social anxiety. Don't want to see Janet Jackson's nipple on the new plasma TV? Fine. Program it so nothing after 1958 plays.

It was yet another of my brilliant get-rich quick ideas that went nowhere, slowly, and if anything amounted to a net loss rather than a profit, considering the amount of time I spent pondering (and now writing about) it. And now I read this, that Russians have established not a missile gap, but a nostalgia gap. In other words, their TV has already retreated into the past.

Boris Nemtsov watches to recall a time when state television had more freedom. Mikhail Gorbachev watches to see what he missed during his busy years as president. Vladimir Ananich and scores of others just watch to relive their youth.

Ananich is the brains behind Nostalgia, one of two hugely successful cable television channels that offer viewers a trip back to the Brezhnev and Gorbachev eras with a lineup of classic Soviet television programs. The other channel is Retro TV.

Viewers wake up to perform morning exercises along with the same trainers who put the nation through their paces 30 years ago, listen to the weather from the same date three decades ago and watch news from when the Soviet Union was a superpower.

"Some viewers," the Moscow Times article continues, "say that Nostalgia and Retro TV, which have been launched over the past 12 months, are the freest and most dissident channels now on the air."