Nostalgia still works: TV channels lean on pre-revolution classics

Malý pitaval z velkého města
"Malý pitaval z velkého města" (Little Crime Stories from the Big City, 1982). Photo: Czech Television

Commercial TV channels in the Czech Republic are tapping into nostalgia by airing classic series from the pre-revolution era during the summer months. For example, Prima is broadcasting the 1982 detective series "Malý pitaval z velkého města" (Little Crime Stories from the Big City) on Monday evenings. This drama, set in socialist Czechoslovakia, follows the criminal police as they tackle various cases inspired by real events.

Originally produced by Czechoslovak Television, the 15-episode series has become a summer staple. It is aired alternately by Czech Television and commercial networks. Despite being the least watched period of the year, it continues to draw hundreds of thousands of viewers, demonstrating its enduring appeal.

"Pitaval" may reflect its era, but it remains a well-crafted series with a beloved cast. Many episodes have become sources of ironic pop culture references.

Another perennial favorite is the legendary 1975 comedy series "Chalupáři" (Cottagers). This series, featuring the story of a grumpy inspector from Prague who buys a cottage in a fictional village, is aired annually by both commercial channels and the main channel of Česká televize. In 2023, the series was broadcast in prime time, attracting around 700,000 viewers. This year, it has been moved to the early evening slot on Sundays, starting at 6 PM.

The top commercial station Nova has also licensed several classic series. It has included "Třetí patro" (Third Floor), a 1986 series set in a vocational school, in its Sunday afternoon slot. This series follows a young instructor struggling to earn respect from students only a few years his junior.

TV Nova has also acquired the more ideologically charged series "Chlapci a chlapi" (Boys to Men), which aired in October 1988, just over a year before the Velvet Revolution. The series, depicting young soldiers during their compulsory military service, was overseen by high-ranking officials of the communist army. The theme song, "Dva roky prázdnin" (Two Years of Holidays), alludes to the 24-month service requirement in socialist Czechoslovakia.

Commercial stations often find these series a cost-effective way to attract large audiences. Some channels even revisit controversial titles. For instance, Joj Family has re-aired the propaganda series "Rodáci" (Countrymen), created for the 40th anniversary of the Communist Party. Occasionally, "Třicet případů majora Zemana" (Thirty Cases of Major Zeman) also returns, portraying real political events through a biased detective lens.

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