The TV of today is fundamentally different from even its relatively recent past. Sure, cable still exists, but broadcast TV is increasingly an afterthought and those times when everyone seems to be watching the same show are fewer and farther between. You’re streaming something on HBO, I’m binging a season of one of Netflix’s latest shows; I’m watching on a TV, you’re watching on your phone.
But it is possible to return to an earlier era — sort of. The internet runs on nostalgia, and there are a couple of websites that specialise in recreating the Before Times: one that makes you feel like you’re watching in another era, and the other allowing you to tune into shows alongside other people.
If you want to go back to a simpler age, an age where people watched the same thing at the same time, check out Toonami Aftermath. The site hosts different livestream “channels” playing preprogrammed cartoons live. You can click around the different channels to see which shows are currently playing. As you do, you’ll gain access to that channel’s unique chat, allowing you to hop into the conversation with whoever else is watching.
How well this works for you may vary, since the site is entirely supported by these individual channels (servers, really). Sometimes, you’ll see a channel that isn’t currently active, and you’ll need to return at a later time to see if anything is playing. During off-peak hours, you might only have a few channels to choose from, which truly harkens back to the olden days of television.
If you want to know what programming is coming up later, most channels have their own schedules. If something piques your interest, set a reminder to return to it at the scheduled time, like it’s 2003 all over again.
If you want to relive specific eras of TV, hardware and all, head over to My TV! This project, by @joeycato, assembles five different decades of TV to explore, including the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s. Each era has its own website, featuring the decade’s name (My70sTV.com, My00sTV.com, etc.), complete with an era-appropriate onscreen TV set to match. Depending on the era, you’ll see different options — remotes for newer TVs, and colour dials for older sets. It gets more compartmentalized than that, since you can choose the specific year you’d like to watch. For example, if you use the My 90s TV! site, you can choose any year from 1990 through 1999.
Unlike Toonami Aftermath, these channels aren’t live, nor do they offer full episodes. Instead, these different web apps show off a collection of things you might’ve come across while flipping through the channels in their respective eras: clips from popular shows, talk shows, music videos, and, my personal favourite, vintage commercials. Who knew the commercials we once hated sitting through could be so fun to watch on the internet in 2022?
You can change the channel to see every type of media content offered, or narrow your choices by unchecking some of the options to the right of the TV set. This section is useful regardless, since it gives you an idea for how much of a particular type of content is here. There might only be 427 dramas to check out, for example, but there are over 15,000 commercials to explore. (If each commercial was 15 seconds long, that’s roughly 62.5 hours of commercials from one decade of programming. Enjoy!)
Both of these sites are fun, and include plenty of hidden features to discover as you channel surf. Go, relive your childhood! Or, depending on how old you are, maybe your parents’ childhoods.
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