Pluto TV, I love you!
I don’t know about where you live, but in my area, I Love Lucy reruns were on our local TV station at 9 am every weekday for as long as I can remember. Two back-to-back episodes, 9:00 and 9:30. Through my childhood, through the decades of my twenties, thirties, and forties, right up until a few years ago when we didn’t have “regular TV” anymore.
It’s hard to explain how much this regularity was an essential part of the Lucy experience for me. Even now I have a warm and safe feeling that’s associated specifically with 9 am.
Then over a period of a few years that kind of TV wasn’t a thing anymore. Instead, we had the option of streaming. Every episode of Lucy and other old shows were at our fingertips — either free or to purchase for a small price. What could be better than that?
Well, I’ll tell you what’s better than that — the way it used to be! Choosing full episodes of Lucy and watching them intentionally somehow ruined it for me. I still loved the show itself, but did not find the same joy in watching it. I realized that the randomness was a key part of the experience.
Back in the day, I could turn on the TV any time between nine and ten and see what Lucy was “doing.” It could be any episode, any time. And I could jump right in and feel like I was there too.
There was a cozy commonality I found in the “you turn on the TV and there’s Lucy” phenomenon. I loved that there was a reference to it in one of my favorite books, Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson. It’s a scene where the main character is home sick from school:
“When I woke up, snow fell softly at the window and the black and white television was on. Lucy and Ethel were trying to steal John Wayne’s footprints from the cement outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in old Hollywood.”
And later that same day:
“I was still watching television, another “I Love Lucy,” an older one back in New York.”
And it wasn’t just Lucy. There were many shows that I got to know that way, by dropping in on partial episodes over the years and eventually watching whole series, only in bits and pieces. Sometimes a person doesn’t necessarily want coherence.
But that way of experiencing TV seemed to be in the past. I was resigned that this was just the way it is now. With Lucy or other favorites, you had to choose first and then watch, and it wasn’t the same.
Until a couple of months ago. I was tired and cranky at the end of one day and somehow didn’t feel like doing anything. There wasn’t anything I particularly wanted to read, watch or do. And the thought came to me: “The only thing that could make me happy right now is channel surfing.”
I Googled “I miss channel surfing” and found out I am far from alone. There are apparently lots of people out there who feel the same way. Among all the threads of discussion about this, someone recommended Pluto TV, saying it creates a similar experience.
And it does. The first night I tried it out I watched two partial Perry Mason episodes and part of a documentary about the origins of hip hop. It was great. I never could have chosen that particular combination.
As I’ve explored more, it’s kept getting better. It slowly dawned on me that there is a separate channel for each show. After that first night, Perry Mason seemed to be on most every time I went on Pluto. Which was fine; it was still random and that’s the whole point.
Then I realized I was stuck on the Perry Mason channel, that it was one of many. There are channels for The Carol Burnett Show (I love Tim Conway!), Family Ties (to relive my teenage years, which I can only do in small doses), Happy Days, The Jeffersons, The Love Boat, Andy Griffith, and countless outer classic shows.
Including, yes, I Love Lucy. Now any hour of the day can feel as warm and welcoming as 9 am.
So thank you, Pluto TV, from the bottom of my heart.