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Nostalgic replays or a dumping ground?

As I started watching Doogie Howser, one of Comedy Central’s many ‘new’ shows launched this month, the actor playing the boy genius Doogie looked extremely familiar.

tv Updated: Jun 29, 2012 23:25 IST
Poonam Saxena

As I started watching Doogie Howser, one of Comedy Central’s many ‘new’ shows launched this month, the actor playing the boy genius Doogie looked extremely familiar. Since it was unlikely I’d bumped into him at my local grocer’s, I wondered where I’d seen him before — and then suddenly the penny dropped. Of course — he looked like Barney in How I Met Your Mother and he looked like Barney because he was Barney.

I mean, he is the same actor,

Neil Patrick Harris. When Harris was young, he acted in Doogie Howser MD, and when he grew up, he acted in How I Met Your Mother. Which also gives you a rough idea of how old the show is (late Eighties to early Nineties).

So does it really qualify as a ‘new’ show? Yes and no. It’s new because Comedy Central is showing it for the first time, but it’s not new because, well, it’s an old show.

Once you get past all that, however, and if you haven’t already seen it, Doogie Howser is sweet and tender. Doogie is a child prodigy, a brilliant doctor at just 16. At the same time, he’s a teenager who faces normal growing-up pains (and yes, some pleasures too). So the day Doogie chronicles his first kiss (typing on an ancient, lumbering computer that looks like the T-Rex of computers), is also the day he records the loss of his first patient.

Among the other ‘new’ shows on Comedy Central (and no, none are new in the sense that none of them have been telecast very recently in America or the UK) is the British comedy The IT Crowd. Brit comedies have an altogether different flavour from American sitcoms and it’s not just the accents. The IT Crowd is about a two-member, socially maladjusted, geeky IT department that services a company. Both men are resigned to (and resentful of) the fact that no one in the company regards them as even vaguely human. Enter, a new head of department — a woman who knows as much about computers as Sarah Palin knew about Asia (in short: nothing). But she has a weakness for designer shoes — going to the extent of forcing her size eight feet into a size five pair of Blahniks, and ending up with hideously malformed, twisted feet, eerily reminiscent of evil witches in horror movies. But she also decides to improve social relations between the IT department and the rest of the company with, er, diverting results.

There are many other shows, including the American animated spoof series Archer, starring the super-competent, super-dangerous, super-arrogant spy Sterling Archer, who thinks nothing of tearing down slippery slopes on a snowmobile with a naked girl clinging to him even as he’s chased by the villains — and all the while tossing off over-the-shoulder smart one-liners. The zealous censors at Comedy Central blur out all the (according to them) offensive bits with little squares which have the channel logo on them (talk about strange ways of self-promotion). Archer is not a new show either and, in any case, it’s been showing on FX for quite a while now.

So to get back to where we started: while there’s nothing wrong with showing us old TV series (especially for those viewers who haven’t seen them before), it is equally true that if a channel’s programming consists of so many old shows, it doesn’t say much about the channel. And it makes us (the viewers) feel a bit like a dumping ground.