A year and a half ago, the sister to this column noted and graded what was then a growing new trend in the offline preservation of classic TV media. Namely, the addition of at least half a dozen extra free digital airwave channels to fit the tastes of baby boomers who grew up with feel good boob tube innocence and scorn or scoff at modern prime time TV full of dystopian series, reality shows and a host of toxic network programming for millennials. This alternative TV for fans of classic media gave throwback options to mature folks whose nostalgia has had enough of new dark age hipster showbiz.
The standard among the first indie stations covered (see last review for reference) has stood the test of time and stayed faithfully true to the common theme of past quality. Most of them today do well but some of the new ones on the scene leave much to be desired in trying to take lackluster advantage of a growing senior media consumer market. This update review acknowledges their inclusion but tries to separate the pretenders from those with promise. While there aren't many of them for a peak resurgence, pointing out their strengths or weaknesses helps renew the demand.
AMG TV 6.4 D-
This the newest in the oldtime TV crop has programming that is a letdown as the station appears to be an excuse to host senior health medicine infomercials which air both in early and late night prime time slots. Aside from the daily Highway to Heaven treat, the shows otherwise seem to be lifted from PBS type content or obscure filmfare that doesn't make the grade for a serious retro network. You get the feeling effort put out is cheap content filler for a station supported by nothing but health aid ads. Don't be surprised if it comes and goes when older viewers get tired of the age specific message.
GRIT TV 46.4 C+
Promoted and publicized as TV with backbone, Grit is John Wayne film central. That is, it features the fighter and war movie style content he was known for. It's a novel concept sure to catch on. With under 200 film and TV credits to his legendary name, there is plenty enough material to draw from to keep roughneck fans tuned in. But then as is the case with many oldie stations that stereotype older audiences, too many health med ads tend to downgrade the tough guy rep this aspires to. Take a wait and see approach to see if it leads to more Hollywood star TV in the future.
ESCAPE TV 46.3 C-
Though it encourages viewers to slip away---via its schedule lineup, this is a retro station with an identity crisis. While offerings like this indeed provide an escape from the reality show generation, its heavy dose of violent adult content which is supposed to appeal to women as a counterpart to Grit, is an ill entertainment definition its target focus group can do without. Boasting hundreds of flicks from the Paramount celluloid backlog, the slick thriller package is more conditional than escapist. So this confusing entrant may want a name change or a subject matter makeover.
GET TV 46.2 B
This is the easy going retro station that provides a steady stream of B movies. Nothing special, but a consistent schedule of oldie reruns. Some perennial indie TV faves, others lost gems. With too many westerns and film noir picture shows, lighter hearted films fill only a third of its schedule and most movies are in B&W. While there are some musicals and fluff flicks, most are from the 50s and date this station in a conservative decade time warp. A little more diversity in its selection would turn this wannabe into a ranked contender vs. the competition. Almost hits the mark but could be more colorful.
THE WORKS TV 56.4 B-
A station still in transition, this one includes too many infomercials in between the movies to be considered a full fledged mainstay in the indie TV category. Yet the wide range of eclectic content inclusive of any and every film genre could make it a digital retro choice to reckon with if the programmers decide to downsize commercial time and go all out with a 24/7 lineup. Like with many other newbies, their intent may be to lure audiences with rarely seen movies as a bait and switch for advertisement timesharing. Whether their cool film selection influences a change of heart remains to be seen.
Along with stations that refuse to vary content and sponsorship that limits the potential of the growing genre, the biggest hurdle classic TV faces is still the ever-lying tendency to insult the viewer with endless commercials that insist everyone over the age of 50 is sick and in need of healthcare. This narrow-minded marketing campaign ruins the content and devalues the audience as a disrespected, misunderstood demographic. Which is why most ads either sell toxic meds or offer legal help for side effects of bad drugs. And the dual combination would almost be comical if this were not an ageist society.
As we reach the mid 2010s with standard media still leaning towards retro TV that hasn't forgotten Mr. & Mrs. Old School and won't let go of the good old days, the insight to take away is that a lot of the stations new and old do an ok job but don't aspire to greatness in the ranking. Many stations have too many westerns and crime dramas and not nearly enough family friendly content as a rule. The best sitcoms and sci-fi shows are limited to once a week schedules while ubiquitous, overused and cheap programs air daily. In short, retro TV has not peaked and won't do so until some new station finally does it right.