Walter Mencken 4 p.m., May 3
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- San Diego Radio Views
Memories of Analog TV: The 90s and 00s
We now conclude my memories of the analog TV era.
In 1991, Cox finally began carrying WGN on its cable lineup. KTTV was dropped to make room for it.
Finally, a 24-hour Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite channel was seen at my house after years of complaining to Cox. I finally get to watch Ren and Stimpy and Clarissa Explains It All, as well as the entire Nick at Nite lineup. Cox was expanding its cable lineup from 36 to some 60 to 80 channels, but it took them in phases for many years.
Fox slowly expands its prime time lineup from two to seven days a week. Fox also adds a Saturday morning toon block, as well as weekday toon blocks.
NBC gives up on Saturday morning toons two years after Fox began its cartoon block and programs live-action teenage sitcoms and dramas. Geez, couldn't they have shown "Saved By The Bell" in prime time? Yup. They did when it was "The College Years", but bombed in the ratings in 1993.
In 1995, UPN and the WB began their prime-time programming lineups with one night of shows a week, and slowing rolling out more nights up to five for UPN and six for WB. WB adds a Saturday morning toon block. By the late 90s, UPN, WB, and Fox had two hours of toon blocks daily. UPN had a Sunday morning two-hour toon block.
In 1995, Disney buys ABC's parent Capital Cities Corp and the network hasn't been the same ever since. Disney overhauled KMPC 710 into a chick talk station that bombed after jettisoning its talk lineup including Tom Leykis to make way for the new format. In 1997, it flipped to Radio Disney teen top 40 hits. TV wise, Disney worked in some Disney product and theme park tie-ins in some of their programs on occasion.
KSKT channel 43 carries programs from Network One, which goes defunct a year later. It also carried the Los Angeles Laker games for a season. Cox 4 carried a couple of the games, but dropped the channel because the signal from KSKT was basically unwatchable.
UCSD channel 35 went on the airwaves.
XHUAA channel 57 signed on with progrmaming from Televisa 2. XHAS 33 began carrying programming from Telemundo. KBNT channel 19 signed on as a Univision affilliate. It took over channel 17 at the end of the 90s.
XHUAA caused co-channel interference with another channel 57 from Poway, KTCD, which moved to channel 46 later on.
Sometime in the 70s, a San Diego broadcaster got a permit to broadcast programming on channel 27. The station never made it on the air for one reason or another. In the early 1990s, TV Azteca from Mexico launches "7" and "13" on UHF channels XHTIT 21 and XHJK 27 respectively in the early 90s. Also then, XHBJ channel 45 was launched.
In 1999, XHTJB channel 3 signed in from Tijuana. It caused some interference with Cox subscribers in South County. That's because the converter boxes that were used at the time outputted its signal to channel 3, and before then, no channel in the San Diego or Tijuana area broadcasted on channel 3 due to the significance of the signal of KEYT 3 in Santa Barbara in the coastal San Diego county area. The converter boxes have since been replaced with those that outputted using composite video and audio signals instead of just from a channel 3 output. Newer TV sets finally had inputs for composite video and audio outputs from VCRs, video games, and converter boxes.
In 1999, the beginning of the end of analog TV was there as KGTV began its digital TV signal in September. Also during that month, KGTV had a contractual dispute with ABC and dropped some of ABC's shows until it was resolved.
Unfortunately for digital TV, they're not as much fun as analog signals, in fact, they're relatively boring. You either get it or don't with digital TV. There's no in between picture. With analog, you get some snowy and scratchy picture, but it's better than nothing.
In 1990, KHAX was launched from coastal North County. It carried TBN in the beginning.
More low power channels that were launched into the '00s were on channel 29, 36, 41, 9, 61, and another 43.
In 1998, KUSI channel 51 dropped programming from UPN due to poor programming. Viewers flocked to KCOP 13 from Los Angeles to keep up with WWF Smackdown.
During 1994 and 1995, KUSI tried to wrestle away the Fox affilliation from XETV the same way KCST did in 1972-73 in getting the ABC affilliation from XETV. Due to the passage of NAFTA and possibly Fox getting XETV the right to transmit live programming from the Fox network, which just began carrying the NFL, XETV won that war with KUSI.
The UPN network finally reappearred in San Diego when XHDTV (then XHUPN) channel 49 signed on in November of 1999. KCOP asked Cox and Time Warner to drop KCOP in favor of picking up XHUPN. UPN was on a second station.
In August of 1999, game shows would never be the same after the premiere of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on ABC. Hosted by Regis Philbin and with a setting from some sci-fi 23rd century stage, it was a hit. Other game shows in prime-time from Greed to The Weakest Link to Million Dollar Password ripped off the set into their own series. As for me, the best game show revival was Game Show Marathon which used the actual sets from the old game shows instead of giving them the sci-fi stage makeover.
ABC got a bit greedy and expanded the show to more nights a week. When it expanded it into Friday nights, ABC dropped its TGIF franchise, but the WB picked it up for its Friday night franchise when "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" moved to the WB on Friday nights to join its other two witch shows on the lineup, "Charmed" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." In 2001, "Buffy" moved to UPN for the remainder of its series.
In 1998, Ion, which was once Pax, was launched as another broadcast network. It wasn't seen over the airwaves, but it was carried on Cox two months later. Finally, viewers in the Los Angeles area could watch reruns of "Eight is Enough" again.
The 90s and 00s also produced some other shows that I watched, but as the years wore on, fewer new shows got my attention as the quality went down and the quantity went up. The Internet replaced the hours I used to spend watching prime time TV, as well as listening to broadcast radio. Some of the shows I watched were "Home Improvement", "Baywatch", "Nash Bridges" (just the years Yasmine Bleeth was part of the cast), "Seinfeld", "Roseanne", "That 70s Show", "The Simpsons", "Futurama", "Family Guy", "King of the Hill", "Beverly Hills 90210", "Melrose Place" (in one episode of Senfeld, Jerry finally owns up to watching the show), the three witch shows named earlier, "Married With Children", "Parker Lewis", "Baywatch", "Blue Collar TV", and "Grosse Pointe."
In February of 2009, KGTV, KFMB, and KSWB dropped their analog signals and broadcasted only in digital. For the past two months, my time spent watching TV went down since I can't watch them in my car on my portable TV set in my car when between my job shifts, and nobody is yet selling portable digital TV sets. Instead of that, and since my VCRs can't pick up the signals from the local Fox, ABC, and CBS affilliates anymore, I have to rely on hulu and youtube to watch some of the shows that I can't watch anymore. My home digital TV can pick up KSWB, but not KFMB and KGTV. At least someone is nuts enough to illegally post episodes of "All My Children" and "General Hospital" on youtube since I can't watch it any other way. Hey, I can even watch some episodes of "Eight is Enough" on there.
Yes, I still have analog cable, but that may be a thing of the past in three years. Cox may go entirely digital and render my VCRs useless. I can't find any digital video recorders that don't require a monthly subscription, that don't require a converter box, and can record on alternate media such as hard drives, USB drives, and SD cards. Recording on DVD-RW discs are just too hard to use. I hate them. I prefer VHS tapes, but nobody makes a video recorder that records digital signals on VHS tapes, which is a shame.
As the days of analog TV fade into the sunset, rendering analog TV and VCRs useless, more people are going to be flocking over to the Internet to get some of the network programming anytime they want. They can watch whatever they want anytime without the need of a VCR or digital video recorder.
When the airwaves go all digital, hardcore DXers will be screwed as they'll be unable to get as many channels they used to get when they were analog channels. Lotsa luck getting signals from 120 miles away, even signals from 15 miles away as KGTV and KFMB's signals are so low that they're unreceivable in more places than they used to be. Signal boosters are sorely needed in obstructed signal areas. More power may be the solution. Getting an outdoor antenna may be banned in some dwellings. Satellite and cable TV providers bring in some of the channels, but not all of them from a local market.
The current lineup of electronics stores are a joke. We used to have better quality electronics sold at Dow/Tweeter and the like, but thanks to Wal Mart, we're stuck with just Wal Mart, Best Buy, and Fry's Electronics. Where are all of the stores with helpful employees that can demonstrate the TVs and HD radios for you so you can see how they perform? Out of business, thanks to Wal Mart. Circuit City is gone. Comp USA is gone. Computer City is gone. Target and Radio Shack don't carry quality digital video recorders like the other three don't; just cheap machines that are hard to learn and use. There's nobody that knows electronics working at those big chain stores today; just a bunch of part time college students majoring in other fields pointing where the TVs are at, and that's all they'll do for you.
So to be sure, analog TV in the '10s will be nothing but static unless you're lucky to live in Mexico where it will live for another 11 years. Digital TV will reign as the only way of watching TV over the airwaves for decades more.
So for all practical purposes, it's the end of the era of analog TV, an era that has brought us everything from Milton Berle to Life on Mars. Fortunately for me, the number of shows that I used to watch has dropped from about 27 in 1979 to about four in 2009. As fewer celebrities with charasmitac appeal began to dominate the airwaves, shows went from fun to boring and from exciting to mundane. It may seem fortunate for me that TV is sucking now instead of back in 1979 when it was once a metropolis full of entertainment to choose from just the 16 cable channels on the dial.
In 2009, with tumbleweeds, dust, and abandoned buildings dominant, broadcast TV has lost its appointment appeal and has been replaced just in time as its analog signals are beginning to fade off forever into space. TV town, is nothing but a ghost town.
Karla Peterson, enjoy your prime time TV writeups. Too bad I'm a happily retired (or recovering) prime time TV watcher and just don't care about TV today. I'm almost 49 and just about out of the age bracket for the medium which caters more to young adults than the audience as a whole.
RIP analog TV. 1941-2009.