I’ve been thinking a lot lately about classic television and my kids. I’ve been amazed that they know (and can cite) particular gags or episodes from the 1950s comedy, I Love Lucy. It’s humor that still manages to resonate with kids born in 1997 and 2001.
This is a show that’s always been ahead of its time in many ways. The primary actors on the show, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, formed their own production company, Desilu. They insisted on filming on quality film and allowed the show to be syndicated (which is how I watched it as a kid…as reruns). The company was later sold to Paramount. But the show is still made available to modern viewers as the rights holders put the entire series on Hulu to stream (which is how my kids watch it).
Another famous redheaded comedienne, Carol Burnett, isn’t known at all to my children. That’s because whoever is in charge of the rights for that show (from the 1970s…twenty years after Lucy), decided to go in the direction of DVD sales instead of streaming. That decision appears to have prevented a new generation from becoming acquainted with the series.
Some classic television shows haven’t moved in this direction. Many of the shows that I watched in reruns as a kid, like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, My Three Sons, or Petticoat Junction, aren’t available to stream on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Consequently, my kids have never heard of these shows.
What does this have to do with our books? I think it’s the fact that we need to remain open. We need to continue thinking of new ways to reach out to the next generation and meet them where they are. Whatever direction books go in, we need to be prepared to move in that direction ourselves. That may mean experimenting with different opportunities like Wattpad.
It may mean just a concerted effort not to have our books available to only one channel, like KDP Select. Most likely, though, I think it means that we simply need to keep evaluating our options as time goes on…to analyze new opportunities as they open up. To remember that our books aren’t just meant for one point in time.
It’s also worthwhile, if our goal is to retain an element of timeless appeal, to write our books with that in mind. I make a concerted effort not to date mine with too much technology (we can now, however, always make updates to our text). And there are elements that seem to work better than others in terms of timelessness. I do think that humor especially translates between generations well.
Are you thinking of ways to connect your books with future generations? Have you noticed any classic television or movies that are reaching new audiences by adapting to new technologies/viewing methods?