Video: Old Habits, New Formats

Anthology shows come back as the networks gear up for fall

From Archie Bunker's weekly tantrums to J.R.'s endless scheming, familiarity on TV has usually bred contentment. TV viewers are creatures of habit--or so, at least, network programmers have staunchly believed since Lucy's heyday. As the new fall season gets under way, however, that time-honored maxim is being challenged. The reason is the sudden re-emergence of a format virtually left for dead a couple of decades ago: the anthology show.

During the 1950s, TV series without continuing characters or story lines, such as Playhouse 90 and The U.S. Steel Hour, provided some of prime time's most illustrious moments. In 1985 this kind...

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