Friend of the Site Ivan at TDOY is thrilled to finally get ME-TV in his area, and with good reason; the programming service hearkens back to the old days of Nick at Nite in TV Land in many ways, and thanks in large part to its CBS/Paramount library deal, it offers an impressive roster of classic series. Heck, "Honeymooners," "Sgt. Bilko," and "The Odd Couple" alone make a channel impressive.
I'd love to get ME-TV in my area, and in an ideal situation, it would get its own distinct channel. But in markets around the country, Memorable Entertainment is not supplementing Retro TV, but supplanting it. The fact is these digital subchannel slots are filling up as outfits like Antenna TV get into the game, and while it would be great if we all had access to a good handful of these classic-oriented services, we can't count on it.
RTV certainly can't count on keeping its clearances, and if the technical problems that plagued it for so long have abated, so has the initial excitement and buzz that surrounded its big rollout. RTV has leaned heavily on the Universal library, and really only certain selections of that library, and its lineup has been quite stale for some time now.
Well, according to my on-screen programming guide, things are about to freshen up beginning Monday. Only "fresh" does not always equal "good," and in this case, there is some good news and some really, really bad news that makes me despair over the long-term viability of RTV as a legitimate vintage-centered outlet.
First the good news: In my area, at least, "Route 66," one of the all-time greats joins the weeknight lineup. I have an--ahem--alternative set I haven't finished of this one, but I'd be glad to see uncut, better-looking versions on RTV, particularly because years after starting the project, Infinity still hasn't completed the task of putting out a decent full collection of "Route 66: on disc.
In other good news, here comes "Celebrity Bowling." I'd be more excited about that if I hadn't seen dozens of episodes last year on ESPN Classic. Plus there's an imminent DVD release of the show; I prefer to see RTV add the really rare shows. But you know what? Just because I just saw the show doesn't mean it's not rare, and it's cheesy fun and a great time capsule of the 1970s. Note that I was not alive for much of the decade, and watching "Celebrity Bowling" often makes me glad for that.
But speaking of the really rare shows, in the "Well, that's random" department, RTV adds "The Comedy Shop" with Norm Crosby! Wow, I would not have guessed that one.
But let's get into the not-so-good news. Another addition is "The New Zorro," which may be of interest to some folks but is too recent, in my opinion, for RTV. I like the Zorro character, but I'd rather see the old Disney version or even the Filmation cartoon than this early-nineties version.
These additions are no doubt due to RTV's deal with the Peter Rodgers Organization. These are some nice additions, none played out nor widely available elsewhere. BUT there is some really, really bad news, too, and I don't want to condemn RTV yet for this because I think it may just be the local affiliate going off the reservation.
Here are two shows joining the weekday lineup. So that's 5 times a week--5 TIMES--for the following shows: Da Vinci's Inquest and Cold Squad. "Inquest" is a recent Canadian import that ain't bad, but it was seemingly on 10 different channels on my cable system a few years ago. As a matter of fact, it runs on "the mothership" of my local RTV affiliate, WJLA, right now. So now that it cycled through all those stations, RTV picks it up. It is way out of sync with a vintage-programming lineup. As for "Cold Squad," it's been running on MAV-TV, and I submit to you that anything on MAV-TV--check it out--has no place on RTV. An impish part of me would like to see the reaction of the average RTV viewer if "Bikini All-Stars" suddenly came on after "Rockford Files," though.
I did a little research before writing this post (for a change!) and found this article, which announces RTV is not only adding those shows I am getting, but also "The Saint" and "Movin' On" with Claude Aikens, both of which would make better additions than "Inquest" or "Cold Squad." I'm really, really hoping that this is some kind of cruel hoax perpetrated by my unreliable program listings.
Look, Peter Rodgers Organization is not as big a deal as CBS/Paramount. But I like that RTV is partnering up with a smaller distributor. More variety equals more shows, as long as the cable companies carry these channels. If RTV adds generic shows and strays from the classics, it may actually become MORE susceptible to usurpation from competitors. Let the likes of ION show "Da Vinci's Inquest," for crying out loud. I'd rather see a show like "My Favorite Martian," also syndicated by PRO.
Another odd aspect is what is leaving the current lineup. I'm sorry to see "Bachelor Father" go; while I look forward to "The Comedy Shop," I believe RTV needs more sitcoms, not less. "Emergency" and "The Incredible Hulk" leave, but "Quincy" and "Simon and Simon" stay. And though I'm not a big fan of "Cisco Kid" nor "Daniel Boone," I have no problem with them being on RTV--but in primetime? And I shed no tears for the loss of "The A-Team" and "Black Sheep Squadron," but it's curious that RTV, or WJLA's RTV, is running "Comedy Shop" and "Celebrity Bowling" on weekends as well as weekdays. Why overplay those new additions when you could have space for more programs on those Saturday and Sunday schedules?
I've given up on wishing my local would air "Kojak"--maybe someone at the channel heard Telly's eponymous album and enjoyed it a lot less than I did--but maybe RTV could dig a little deeper into those Universal archives to spruce things up. How about something like acclaimed short-lived cop show "87th Precinct"? Or "Name of the Game"? If they want to venture into more recent fare, how about "Six Million Dollar Man" or "In Search Of" And though I own the DVD box set, "M Squad" would make a great late night half-hour addition.
Jeez, or at least put "Emergency" back on. I don't watch it, but it's better than "Cold Squad."
(Disclaimer: As of this writing, Zap2It and TitanTv listings both have the same standard local RTV schedules for next week and beyond--hey, I told you I did research--so it's possible that this post is totally misguided. However, the news story I linked to indicates something is up. So I welcome "Route 66" and the other shows and cling to the hope that there is just an error regarding the two newer shows I just dissed.)
(UPDATE: As of Monday, the old schedule is still in place, yet my own on-screen programming guide still reflects the "new" lineup. Is this a colossal screw-up, or just a major one--i.e., did someone just put up the next schedule a little too early? Stay tuned. Unless it's "Cold Squad," in which you can turn the channel.)