Just after marking its tenth anniversary, MeTV is looking ahead to what’s next in the vintage TV space. It’s been a busy 2021 thus far for the classic hits network, which premiered three-hour animated block Saturday Morning Cartoons Jan. 2, and morning show Toon In With Me Jan, 4. Both sit on the schedule alongside MeTV staples such as Adam-12, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island, The Flintstones and Happy Days.
“We’re continuing to build our network,” said Neal Sabin, vice chairman at MeTV parent Weigel. “We acquire programming that we think makes a difference.”
MeTV got its start on a low-power Chicago station, and went into network mode Dec. 15, 2010. In 2015, MeTV had its largest audience ever when over 1.3 million total viewers watched MeTV Remembers the M*A*S*H Finale.
More recently, in May of 2020, horror spoof Svengoolie delivered his largest audience ever, with over 1.2 million total viewers. “He had his best year ever,” said Sabin of host Rich Koz.
The late Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island hosted the network’s “The Summer of Me” in 2015 and Barry Williams of The Brady Bunch did so in 2017.
In 2019, MeTV debuted the original series Collector’s Call, which has Lisa Welchel of The Facts of Life hosting a program about memorabilia collectors.
Saturday Morning Cartoons is a three-hour animated block reminiscent of the Saturday morning TV many of us grew up with. Programs include Tom & Jerry, Popeye and Friends, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.
Toon in With Me is hosted by comedian/actor/radio host Bill Leff. Warner Bros. cartoons, such as Road Runner and Porky Pig, are featured along with MGM stuff such as Tom & Jerry and Droopy Dog.
Kevin Fleming and Leila Gorstein are on the show too, Kevin handling puppet mascot Toony the Tuna. For now, Fleming and Gorstein can’t be in the studio alongside Leff. Sabin looks forward to the day when COVID is less of a factor in production.
“Producing things during a pandemic is really, really hard,” he said.
The 7 a.m. program averaged around 500,000 total viewers its first week, according to Sabin.
He is keen to do more Collector’s Call, but will wait until the pandemic dies down before producing more episodes. “It’s been a good franchise for us,” he said.
MeTV would consider other originals, Sabin added, but for the moment is focused on the recently launched programs.
To be sure, viewers tune in for the vintage stuff. Key shows for MeTV including The Andy Griffith Show, Perry Mason, M*A*S*H and Hogan’s Heroes. With 200 affiliates, the network is available in 99% of the country.
COVID, not to mention the divisive culture wars playing out on cable news, has been good for MeTV viewership. Sabin said the network consistently comes in at No. 4 in daytime among cable networks, behind the news nets.
“People come to us to escape,” he said. “To see shows they remember when times were easier.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.