(1974–1978)

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Dual Nostalgia
gvb09079 April 2003
`The Way it Was' series appeared on PBS in the mid-1970s. The idea then was to showcase many famous sports events from the 40s, 50s, and early 60s. Today the show has turned up on ESPN Classic and is nostalgia in its own right.

Then and now the program's major appeal is the game footage, usually grainy black and white film. Although the quality varies, it's always fun to watch games played in what many regard as the golden age of American sport. Events covered include the 1950, 1953, and 1960 NFL championship games, the 1946 and 1947 World Series, the 1951 Giant-Dodgers playoff game, and the 1962 NBA finals.

Unfortunately, `The Way it Was' also features EIGHT talking heads in every 22 minute show. Host and Head No. 1 is the insufferable Curt Gowdy, then at the peak of his fame. Head No. 2 is always a man who actually broadcast the featured event. The other six heads are players, three from each of the opposing teams. Some of their recollections are interesting, but most don't rise above the usual cliches. One player from each team would have been enough.

Almost everyone looks ridiculous. Leisure suits, orange and red sport coats, Beatle-mania haircuts on guys who were born to sport buzz cuts - it's 1974 and you are there. Even worse is the show's theme, a sappy-rendition of `Happy Days Are Here Again,' a tune associated with the Depression, not the post-war era.

`The Way it Was' is primarily for old-time sports fans who recall the days before Monday Night Football. Younger fans probably will be disappointed by the quality of the footage and the inanity of the banter. Non-fans will be bored stiff and will move on before the end of the first inning.
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