The Golden Age of Independent TV
Before the rise of The Little Three (UPN, WB, and FOX), there were once independently-owned television stations in the United States. If you were an American born in the 1980s or later, you probably either never saw them or never even heard of them, but they actually existed — no network, no affiliation — and they were wonderful!
My favorite as an occasional resident of Massachusetts was WLVI-56. (They are now a WB station as of the early-90s — check here for proof.) Channel 56 was THE indie TV station of the 70s and 80s for me, and the entire concept of non-affiliated TV programming was one of the first inspirations of mine to enter the worlds of video production and broadcasting.
They had the best cartoon shows long since cancelled. They had “Creature Double Feature,” three hours of Saturday afternoon horror and sci-fi fun a la Godzilla, Hammer films, weird 50s science fiction and more. They had post-10pm movies unedited (and this was not a cable station, mind you). They had Benny Freakin’ Hill, for cryin’ out loud! Needless to say, they did not follow the rules of conventional network TV, broke a few of them on occasion, and had some truly creative programming ideas as well as shows not shown on the other stations.
Uncle Dale, where are you?! Bring back your wacky voiceovers and loony show segues now! And while you’re at it, bring along The Mighty Heroes, G-Force, Hill’s Angels, Peter Cushing, The Banana Splits, That Girl, Ludwig von Siegfried of KAOS (and Hymie, too), and those cute miniature Japanese girls who sing about Gamera. Friend to all children, indeed.
But, as with everything, it got co-opted into the System and paved over for the likes of “Top Model” and “One Tree Hill.” Writing this, I feel like one of those elderly guys in the park ranting about the good old days of radio serials. Was “Creature Double Feature” my own “Green Hornet” or “The Shadow?” Maybe. Okay, probably. There. End of rant.