Photo of Burt Ward and Herbie J Pilato from Dan Holm Photography
Amazon Prime has recently become home to Then Again with Herbie J Pilato. Hosted by Herbie J Pilato (a prolific historian of popular culture), each episode is a discussion with legendary figures of television and film about a specific show. The first season is still rolling out on Amazon Prime but it will have three episodes dedicated to old school science fiction, fantasy, or related genre shows. Of these three specific episodes, one features Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and David Selby of Dark Shadows (1966 – 1971); another stars Robert Conrad of The Wild Wild West (1965 – 1969); and the third features Burt Ward of Batman (1966 – 1969).
More Than Nostalgia: Understanding Entertainment Escapism
One of the many things that stood out to me about this series is that in an era of never-ending reboots and sequels, fans rarely get a moment to reflect on and thoroughly explore what shows in the 1960s and 70s were like. In addition to Then Again with Herbie J Pilato offering a nostalgia trip, it is also dedicated to exploring why certain television programs have stood the test of time. As Herbie J Pilato explained, “Beyond the homespun/nostalgic element of classic TV shows, there is a certain clarity in their presentation. The storytelling has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and most of those endings are happy. The characters are more distinguished from one another; more defined. They don’t all look alike, sound alike, or act alike, which is the case with much of new TV shows. The majority of classic TV characters are not sarcastic, mean-spirited, or edgy, as they are today. And when it comes to the actors and their performances on the classic series, the likability factor is huge.”
Building on Pilato’s words, Joel Eisenberg (one of Then Again’s executive producers) added that the show’s that Pilato is covering have remained important because they represent pure escapism that many wanted in entertainment during the 60s and 70s. “The shows we feature from our first season were from the 60s and 70s. Turbo-charged times that called for escapism in its entertainment,” Joel explained to ScifiPulse. “The shows we’ve featured still stand out as they remain some of the most purely entertaining shows on TV.”
This mindset also provides an insight into why so many of these classic shows are becoming popular again. As Lorie Girsh Eisenberg (a producer for Then Again) shared, “Many of them take us to a ‘comfort zone,’ escapism to a time when we thought the world was a better place but in reality, we were reeling from Vietnam, Watergate, changing times. Fifty years later we want that feeling again of security, comfort and a time when the world was easier.”
With political tensions at an all-time high again, understanding the creation of the shows explored by Then Again with Herbie J Pilato can help modern viewers understand why apolitical shows like The Big Bang Theory were so popular.
An Education for Those New to the Entertainment Industry
While television shows specifically and the entertainment industry in general have gone through massive changes in the last few decades, Then Again explores classic shows in a manner that is educationally valuable to people now wanting to enter the entertainment industry.
For Pilato, a key lesson he learned was how storytelling has flipped from the 1960s to present day. “Many shows today involve story arcs. Back in the day, what happened in a half-hour comedy or one-hour drama/adventure show concluded within that half-hour or one-hour, and didn’t continue for a series of episodes. And the A-Story, which involved the main plot, was front and center, and the B-Story, which was character-driven, was second place. Today, the B-Story is the A-Story, and the A-Story is the B-Story, or nonexistent altogether,” Pilato explained. An example of this narrative evolution can be easily found in the Star Trek franchise. “The original series, which was more adventure-oriented, stayed with the A-B format, The Next Generation, which became more character-oriented, expanded ever so slightly on the arc-way of storytelling, with slight mentions or references of previous episode experiences in subsequent episodes,” Pilato said. “And then Deep Space Nine, which evolved into a dynamite series that might not necessarily be defined as a Star Trek series at all, just took the entire arc-way of storytelling to a new level. And television, across the board, then followed suit.”
Lorie Girsh Eisenberg highlighted that another lesson to be learned from exploring these classic shows is the value of research. As Lorie Eisenberg explained, “Know your demographics and do research. Ask yourself these questions: Why am I doing this show, what is the show’s goal and how are you going to achieve it?” While these three questions seem simple on their surface, thoroughly answering them is foundational to any show becoming a success.
In addition to offering insights into how the television industry has evolved, Then Again with Herbie J Pilato offers behind the scenes insights into building a life in this industry. For Lorie, the insights gained from Then Again reinforced her belief in the importance of “running ‘happy sets’ where for the most part people got along.” Having a positive working environment is crucial to the production of these shows being “well-oiled machines that ran well.”
“So many shows end poorly behind the scenes where the cast and crew can’t stand each other,” Lorie shared. “As you can see in Then Again, many of our actors really enjoyed working with their fellow actors and are still friends today. Many are still doing projects together all these years later, entertainment-based or otherwise.”
Working on Then Again also provided Joel with an insight into the human experience of working in entertainment and what happens after the spotlight is turned off. As Joel told ScifiPulse, “when that show ends…that’s when real life begins. How does one go from being one of the most recognizable stars ever, to a sometimes out of work actor that needs to pay bills? What happens then? That’s a whole other ballgame that we cover in the show.”
The Future of Then Again with Herbie J Pilato
So far only one season has been produced and everyone involved in the show is waiting to hear good news about another season being made. In the meantime, Pilato and the Eisenbergs each have a dream list of shows they want to explore with Then Again. With pillars of science fiction and fantasy programs such as The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, all of Star Trek’s shows, The Twilight Zone and dozens of more shows as potential topics, Then Again with Herbie J Pilato is and will remain a fantastic show for genre fans who want to revisit and learn more about some of their favorite properties.