Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fright Night on Channel 9

Back in the late 1970's our cable system simply carried two stations from the USVI. Then by 1978, a real breakthrough occurred. We suddenly had three superstations from the US mainland in our system. They were WTBS, WGN and WOR. These were basically small independent stations that sent their signal via satellite to cable systems everywhere. These channels really changed the way we viewed cable tv and offered a great alternative to local tv.

Even though WTBS carried the best programming. I always had a soft spot for WOR from New York. WOR was the lowest rated tv station in the Big Apple, offering a fare of reruns, Benny Hill, NY Mets games and old movies. And old movies was the reason I loved this station. For the first time I was able to enjoy all the old RKO classics which were the bread and butter of the station. (Channel 9 was owned by RKO General, so they owned these wonderful movies.)

But of all their movie shows, the most amazing, unpredictable and thrilling was something they would show at midnight on Saturdays (1am our time). It was called "Fright Night". It hard to describe the truly eclectic and downright bizarre movies WOR would show at that time. Being at that late hour, the combination of weird movies and sleepiness one felt made for a completely surreal experience. One in which reality, tiredness and maybe an alcohol buzz would meet in a truly awesome manner.

So I was thrilled to buy the book "Fright Night on Channel 9" by James Arena. This books describes the behind the scenes dealings that resulted in this wonderful tv experience. It explains how the channel, in its aim to get the most inexpensive movie packages possible, ended up with a combination of horror movies that included Euro horrors, movies from the Philippines, sexy independent movies and much more.

The book also describes in detail every movie shown on 'Fright Night" from 1973 until 1987.Something that made me search for some of these movies on DVD or on Netflix streaming.Of course, it is impossible to truly replicate the experience of seeing these movies on WOR, but it was a nostalgic thing to do, nevertheless.

Of course, all things must come to an end, and when WOR was sold to Universal, they changed the station from a small, quirky one to your average, generic station full of talk shows and infomercials. At that moment WOR also stopped being a superstation.
WOR became respectable, I guess.

But it's really special to have this book that takes one to a time when small tv stations were unique, when they were not looking for respectability and just wanted to entertain. A time when turning on the tv at midnight could result in a truly weird, fun time.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

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