Far and away reserved from the bad rap reality TV generation, a multimedia marketing shift among standard networks is that they are adding extra digital channels to attract the tastes and viewing habits of mature folks disillusioned with millennial pop culture who want more traditional TV show alternatives. For entertainment consumers lucky to have grown up when story lines, writing and casting were more lighthearted and content was not so dark and depressing, retro TV may prove to be an oasis of comfy rerun programming that reminds some of youth and the so-called good old days.
This is no mere media trend on a whim or lark. What it is is a baby boom backlash in a day and age when we have so many digital cyber choices and formats that media moguls are losing high end audience market share by forgetting older viewers. Since those who have more money and free time to devote to media leisure pastime can no longer be ignored, this review serves as a critique of the stalwart and fringe indie oldie TV stations that have finally bridged the gap and provided 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s time capsule entertainment for those on in years who still rely on the airwaves and not web e gadgets.
KDOC TV 56 (Grade C)
This was the last original indie TV hold out from the days of metro media when extra channels aside from the major networks were true independents and not corporate affiliate extensions of the big movie studios. Stationed in the OC, it was the spot on the dial for conservative politics and PA style talk shows. When it was bought by the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, the program schedule reverted to an Endless Classic format and was licensed to an outside broadcast subsidiary to maintain and build upon an old school show lineup. However, it has since sold out to modern media taste and is no longer king of indie TV.
ME TV 56.3 (Grade B-)
This digital incarnation of the latter was a consolation for its having given up on its retro roots. It is dedicated to various cult TV shows that range from the decades of the 50s to the 70s. There is enough variety to satisfy its core audience but an overload of daily westerns, PI shows or sitcoms and not enough prime time scheduled family programming. Its revolving lineup also includes many tiresome reruns like MASH and Lucy. But its saving grace is that weekends feature sci-fi, fantasy adventure or horror like Star Trek and Svengoolie's monster movie of the week. Me TV rocks but its weekday schedule needs a balanced timeshare makeover.
Antenna TV 5.2 (Grade A)
The digital version of KTLA/WB channel 5, indie throwback to folks who remember it as the independent movie all nighter. Mostly devoted to sitcoms of the 60s and 70s, they throw in the occasional oldie movie treat. But overall ATV is true to its audience, does not waver from its content and has dumped the dull infomercial programming that used to haunt most indie wee hour time slots. This station is filled with lighthearted shows like Gidget and The Partridge Family and less crime drama which makes it the go-to choice for more fun family friendly programming. 5.2 is an indie leader to watch with others to follow.
This TV 5.3 (Grade B+)
Yet another entrant in the digital 5 plus lineup, this one specializes in 70s and 80s films but also boasts a late night early morning good old day TV series schedule. Here you can see B movies hard to find on DVD, TV shows like Mr. Ed or cartoons like Inspector Gadget that have not been seen in generations. The juggling mix of retro media is more balanced and diverse here than on most independents. This TV switches from series TV to movie melodrama anytime of the day or night and does not ruin its daily schedule with sitcom marathon filler. Its welcome inclusion makes the digital 5 spinoffs the best indies to get classic TV right.
Cozi TV 4.2 (Grade D)
With KNBC getting in on the classic program bandwagon with digital 4.2, comic talk and cooking show leftovers give it an identity crisis that dogs it as an indie pretender. Moreover, having second rate 30 something comics do promos for a retro lineup of 70s bionic kid shows that aired before they were born is patronizingly cheesy. And the constant reruns of grainy public domain B&W films in between adds insult to injury. While there's the occasional McMillan & Wife PI jewel in the lineup, it's not nearly enough to save CTV from mediocrity. This mature TV wannabe gives itself away with its hipster hosts trying to sell old school media to millennials.
Retro TV 8.1 (Grade F)
Once promising and well named, this indie TV contender predates a lot of the latest digital channels but settled for limited affiliation and fledgling status. An early bird in a classic TV market that knows there is media gold in mature viewers who live in the past, Retro TV tried hard with a decent lineup, then bailed out on a full 24 hour schedule by reserving late hours for overnight infomercials. On RTV, you can see rare game shows like Crosswords and 50s TV noir. But despite a weekend movie effort, the daily grind is not varied enough to go to bed with via missing late night content and local antennae seem to diss the weak signal.
So there you have it, a brief review sample of what is becoming a welcome revolution in media. And as other major networks get the message and air their own versions of digital retro TV heaven, the number of new stations dedicated to classic shows are sure to grow and expand. Special Disclaimer: Watch commercials on these oldie indies at your own risk. The majority of ads presume a depressing target demographic as if the advertisers think those of us who are 40 and older are all sickly or ready for a bucket list. To answer their ageist conclusions, mute the volume or change the channel. But keep living in the TV past to stay young.