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Friday, May 20, 2005

Slippery affiliation

I was going to request a tape of the season finale of Gilmore Girls on this blog, but I’ve already been helped by a certain blogger.

It has been one of the very few shows that Carol and I watch religiously, ever since we caught it in summer reruns during its first season. It’s a soap opera, and I don’t mean that pejoratively at all. (N.Y.P.D. Blue, ER, Hill Street Blues – all soap operas.)

I had set the VCR to tape at home. But I neglected to tell Carol that she needed to put in a FRESH (just like the WB!) tape and the incumbent tape ran out of space about 20 minutes into the show! (I would have changed it myself except that I was still in Lake Placid.)

And since I was still in Lake Placid Tuesday, I went up to my room after the SBDC awards banquet at about 10 p.m., turned on the TV, flipped through the channels and came across an episode of Gilmore Girls. Initially, I assumed it was a rerun broadcast on ABC Family cable, but it soon became evident that it was THAT NIGHT’S episode, which I watched.

Most of the buzz about this series has about the rapier-quick dialogue between Lorelei and Rory, the relationship of Lorelei (and Rory) with Lorelei’s parents, and the Luke and Lorelei relationship- Will they? Won’t they? They did – now what? (An aside: I’ve long wondered if their names are nods to Luke and Laura from the daytime soap General Hospital.)

But the best thing about this show is about the parallel construction that the show tends to provide. I don’t always pick it up until the show is over. This season ender was about quitting. Will Rory quit Yale? Will her best friend Lane Kim quit her band? Where they each end up, and how they got there, was a real treat.

But why was it on at 10 p.m.? Was there some (amazingly rare) Presidential news conference or some major catastrophe that backed up the programming?

Nah.

In the Plattsburgh, NY/Burlington, VT television market, there is no WB affiliate, so WFFF in Burlington (actually Colchester), FOX 44, broadcasts the 8-10 pm WB shows from 10 pm-midnight!

Those of you in large markets may not appreciate this fully. When I was a kid, there were 7 stations in New York City, 2 (CBS), 4 (NBC), 7 (ABC), 13 (PBS), and 5, 9, and 11 (all independents). Eventually, 5 became a Fox affiliate, 11 became the WB’s outlet, and 9 went with UPN (and moved to New Jersey).

(Incidentally, this numbering is the reason most fictional TV stations in those days were 3, 6, 8, or 12, the remaining numbers on the VHF dial, or some upper number on the UHF dial, Channels 14-83. Most notable is WJM, Channel 12, Minneapolis, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And if you don’t know what the heck I mean by VHF and UHF, look here.)

But in a smaller market, such as Binghamton, NY, where I grew up (and at a time when there were only the three "major" networks), there were only two stations, WNBF, Channel 12 (CBS) and WINR, Channel 40 (NBC).

Then one Saturday morning in the fall of 1962, I turned on the TV just before 7 a.m. to Channel 34. Where there had nothing, suddenly we had a third station! It was WBJA, an ABC affiliate. My TV viewing choices had just increased by 50%!

What I didn’t realize until later is that Channel 12 (and perhaps Channel 40) were broadcasting some ABC programming before
Channel 34
came on the scene. I specifically remember Lawrence Welk, an ABC show, showing on Channel 12 Saturday nights at 6 or 6:30 pm. I recall that other ABC shows such as Bachelor Father, The Flintstones, Hawaiian Eye, Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie & Harriet, The Real McCoys, and Top Cat would show up on the schedule, often on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, outside of prime time (which was usually 7:30-11 pm in those days.) I remember these shows quite clearly, and most of them were off the schedule by the fall of 1962. I must have seen theme SOMEWHERE. Cable didn’t exist and I didn’t go to New York City that often.

Apparently, shows broadcast by one network appearing on the affiliate of another network was common in most small markets, going back to the days when there was a fourth network, Dumont, in the mid 1940s to the mid-1950s.

You big-market folks just don’t understand the confusion…

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