Ruth Newell 8:48 p.m., Feb. 7
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Memories of Analog TV: The 70s
Memories of Analog TV: The 70s
The 70s were a groovy time for TV when I was growing up from childhood to my late teens.
There were game shows, variety shows, sitcoms, comedies, reruns from the previous decades, sketch shows, action crime dramas, stupid disco shows, shows with catch-phrases that repeat in every episode, and even the first glance of reality shows when they were once interesting.
The 70s saw the local UHF stations KCST (now KNSD) and KPBS grow into full-schedule stations going from about six hours to over 17 hours a day. Back in the early 70s, before KCST signed on cable channel 3, I could hear the audio for KEYT 3 out of Santa Barbara on the old Mission Cable system.
In about 1971, Mission Cable experimented for a month by shifting KPBS 15 from cable 12 to cable 4, displacing KNBC from Los Angeles, and carrying XEWT 12 on cable 12. That was to solve a problem with XEWT's ghosts leaking into cable 12 where KPBS was carried. I guess the viewers complained about missing KNBC loud enough to have the cable company reinstate KNBC on 4 and KPBS on 12.
In 1971, KCST started carrying some of the network programs that XETV (ABC), KFMB (CBS), and KOGO (NBC, now KGTV) didn't carry on their stations. It carried "Glen Campbell's Goodtime Hour" Tuesday nights at 7:30pm when KFMB chose not to carry it. It also began carrying ABC's "All My Children" at 1pm a year after it debuted, but XETV chose not to carry it for reasons unknown. Through April of 1971, XETV carried "Dark Shadows" at 4pm along with KABC until its cancellation, afterwards, XETV bumped the kid shows back 1/2 an hour and began carrying at 3pm "General Hospital" which it pre-empted for "The Banana Splits and Friends Show" earlier that season. XETV never carried "One Life to Live", which was a 3:30pm show. I'm not sure if KCST carried it in the few months before it became an ABC affilliate in July of 1973.
During the time, KCST was petitioning the FCC to get the ABC affilliation from XETV because they claimed that it wasn't appropriate for an American television network to affilliate with a Mexican television station (XETV) when there was a viable American station available (KCST). In 1972, the FCC agreed with KCST and revoked XETV's permission to carry ABC's programming, but for reasons unexplained, the ABC affilliation didn't move to KCST until July 1, 1973. During the month before that, KCST ran station ID stills with a toy 18-wheel truck with one of the names of an ABC show printed on it (such as "Let's Make a Deal", "The Brady Bunch", or "Monday Night Football") and announcing that "[the name of the show] moves to KCST, July the [date]."
XETV became a full powered independent, while KCST, being on UHF, covered most of the San Diego area that XETV covered, but in La Jolla, they couldn't be seen there until a UHF translator on channel 62 was launched in 1975. I remember Bob Dale announcing the translator saying to forget about 39 if they're in La Jolla and to tune into channel 62 to get KCST, and it was about the year that KFMB fired Dale and KCST hired him for its late afternoon movie and their newscasts.
In August of 1975, KCST boosted its power to 5,000,000 watts, and adopted a brand "39 Alive."
XETV survived and thrived as an independent station during the mid 70s onward, and picked up Captain Kangaroo, Match Game '74, Lotsa Luck, and some other CBS, NBC, and ABC shows the other three network affilliates didn't carry.
Saturday morning cartoons used to be long blocks, with CBS running from 8am-2pm, NBC running from 7am-NOON, and ABC running from 7am-NOON, with American Bandstand at NOON. Sundays had CBS from 7-8am, but only on channel KNXT 2. KABC 7 ran cartoons from 10:30-11:30am. There were so many good memories of that decade that it deserves a topic of its own, but that's all about it for now.
Prime time was transformed into a teenage-driven time period when ABC (then on 39) began airing more youth-oriented shows such as "Happy Days", "Welcome Back, Kotter", and "Eight is Enough" to get those viewers that didn't care much for older-skewing CBS and NBC networks in order to rise from third to first place. ABC's strategy worked, also in concert with revamping its daytime schedule and replacing its dog game shows with more hours of soap operas for the college audience.
In the winter and spring of 1975, KCST did something odd. It ran a late-night show "Wide World of Entertainment" from 3:30pm-5pm, and signed off before midnight. It did run "The ABC Afterschool Specials" every other Wednesday, and ran "In Concert" late Friday nights though. I guess ABC wasn't happy about that.
I guess what ticked ABC off in 1975 was when in June of 1975, KCST decided to drop two soaps that they aired from 2:30 to 3:30pm at the time: One Life to Live and General Hospital. The TV Guide listings showed that XETV (which lost Match Game when KFMB picked up the show again) was going to pick up the two soaps. KCST was launching the Bob Dale hosted late-afternoon movie at 2:30pm. Viewers complained, and the next week, KCST ran catch-up episodes of the two soaps for a week in marathon showings, and the week after, scheduled them to run from 9:30-10:30am before The Brady Bunch.
Also in mid-1975, KCST started a midday news show at 11:30am, dropping "Rhyme and Reason", and later shifted it to noon, dropping "You Don't Say", then "Edge of Night", and "$10,000 Pyramid" in the noon slot as ABC changed its schedule often. KCST picked up "Edge of Night" when ABC changed its schedule in July of 1976 when it moved that soap from noon to 3pm and "Pyramid" from 2pm to noon, which KCST pre-empted for news.
ABC wasn't happy about is the way its San Diego affilliation ended up on KCST, and didn't like how its shows were treated by KCST as I have witnessed. It seeked the first opportunity to get back on a VHF station. Sure enough, NBC's ratings were tanking while ABC's were rising. When KGTV's contract with NBC was nearing its end in July of 1977, either ABC contacted KGTV or KGTV contacted ABC about moving its affilliation to channel 10 on July 1 of that year. KCST ended up taking the NBC affilliation on that date.
In the two months before ABC and NBC switched stations, KGTV started carrying ABC's "Happy Days" at 10am, and KCST started carrying NBC's "Wheel of Fortune" on April 25, 1977, which was also the date ABC expanded its schedule by 1/2 an hour due to expanding "All My Children" to one hour from 12-1pm (its West coast feed time). KCST debuted the hour-long "AMC" on a one-day delay from 12:30-1:30pm a day afterwards on April 26 (my 17th birthday) and dropped "Ryan's Hope" (a 1pm show) so it can run its noon news.
After the second ABC affilliation switch in the decade, some daytime NBC and ABC shows were dropped between the two stations, forcing viewers to tune into L.A.'s 4 and 7 for some network shows. Sure enough, KCST ran its popular "Phil Donahue" show from 9-10am, pre-empting the first hour of NBC's daytime shows. In its first few months as an NBC affilliate, KCST ran "Hollywood Squares" (a 9:30am show) and "Gong Show" at 4 and 4:30pm, but didn't reschedule "Sanford and Son" that ran at 9am until a few months later, but dropped it in early 1978.
In January 16, 1978, ABC expanded its "OLTL' and "GH" soaps from 45 to 60 minutes apieace from 1-3pm, moved "Family Feud" from 11:30am to 11am, and moved "Ryan's Hope" to 11:30am. KGTV moved "All My Children" to 11am-NOON, ran the noon news, then "Family Feud" at 12:30pm. In August of 1979, KGTV moved its noon news to 11:30am and ran FF and AMC in network pattern.
During that crazy decade with ABC and its three affilliates, Mission Cable TV was introducing more channels to its system. It sold my parents something called "Channel 100", a pay TV service that ran two different movies a week. It also added KMEX channel 34 on cable 14, and KPBS 15 on cable 15 in addition to the ghost-interferred cable 12. It also added XEWT 12 on cable 16, but later started running KWHY 22 when it was once a business news channel until 2pm daily on cable 16.
In the fall of 1978, KCST tried a different approach to late afternoon/early evening scheduling. They scheduled syndicated programming from 5-6:30pm, then ran the local news from 6:30-7:30pm then NBC News at 7:30pm.
In the first years of KPBS, instructional TV courses were offered in the daytime usually from 9am until 4:30pm. In the fall of 1969, KPBS carried "Sesame Street" three times a day at 7pm, 11:30am, and 4:30pm. In 1969, during the summer when it wasn't carrying instructional TV shows, KPBS didn't sign on until 4 or 4:30pm, but in the summer of 1970, KPBS carried "Sesame Street" at 10am-11am, then signed off, then returned at 4pm for "Sesame Street" and the rest of its schedule.
Later on, ITV got its own cable channel on 23 on Mission Cable, which soon added a public access channel on 24. Another local cable channel launched on 4 sometime in mid 1970s, and it was "The Christian Communications Network", which carried local religious shows and some shows from what is now KTBN from Los Angeles. In the summer of 1979, it began running 24 hours a day on cable 26, and ran on cable 4 whenever KNBC had the same shows as KGTV (through June of 1977) and KCST (from July of 1977 afterwards).
In early 1970 or so, Mission Cable launched an independent cable origination channel called "Mission Cable 2", which ran old reruns of TV shows such as "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Lassie." It ran whenever KFMB carried the same CBS shows that KNXT carried. I could usually watch cable 2 at 3pm for "Tattletales" and "Musical Chairs", two shows KFMB passed on. TV Guide carried the listings for Mission Cable 2, and showed MC2 carrying some of KNXT 2's shows in the listings as well.
There was a cable 7 channel around 1971 on Mission Cable that ran during prime-time, but that was short-lived.
In about 1976, people started buying Curtis Mathis TV sets in droves. I didn't know why they were being talked about in town until my neighbor invited me to watch Channel 100 for free at his house. Huh? He showed me the TV, which had 12 fine-tuning presets that let you set any channel on it. He turned to the channel 7 preset, which was KABC, then he tuned it back several times until he landed on what was really cable 21, the frequency that Channel 100 was broadcasting. So he got to see the movies for free.
Later on, Mission Cable later found out why people were dropping their subscriptions to Channel 100. Everybody was watching it for free, and they couldn't do anything about it for now. So sometime around late 1976 or early 1977, they decided to drop the channel and replace it with HBO, but move it to cable channel 20. When Channel 100 disappearred, and Mission Cable started advertising HBO subscriptions, they thought that they would fool the viewers into thinking that they would have to get a converter box and pay for the channel. Some people figured out that they can get cable 20 by tuning in the channel 7 preset fine tuning back one more channel to get HBO in the clear for free!
So in 1978, Mission Cable solved that problem by getting new converter boxes that descrambled pay channels, and scrambled HBO on cable 20. It was a rotary-dial converter box that tuned in 35 cable channels. Problem solved, but some viewers figured out that they can at least listen to HBO for free on cable 99.9 FM, as well as hear the audio on cable 20.
Later in 1978, Mission Cable added AP News on 17, Electronic Program Schedule on 18, and Local Weather on 19. In March of 1979, Mission Cable began carrying C-SPAN on cable channel 25.
On March 15, 1977, something really weird happened that literally changed the course of my life. I built a VHF receiver that I bought from Radio Shack so I could get police, air, and weather. At 8:30pm, I hooked up the antenna wiring from the kit antenna coil to the 300-ohm cable (which was illegally hooked up to another TV in the house as at the time, Mission Cable charged extra for an additional outlet), and I got the sound of HBO on 162 MHz on the dial! I was networked into the world. I turned around the dial and got some cable channels on the radio. It tuned as high as 180Mhz where channel 7 was broadcasting audio. Mission cable 7 aired something like AP News or Shopper's Guide (comparing grocery item prices) when KABC aired the same progrmaming as KCST (through June of 1977, then KGTV afterwards). I disconnected the wire from the cable and hooked it to a pair of rabbit ears and got the sound of teenager kids and some actor who acted in some Gene Wilder movies instead of "Laverne and Shirley", which was on Tuesdays at 8:30pm. I tuned into KABC on my TV over the air with its own antenna and, well, it was the premiere of "Eight is Enough", premiering on ABC-TV. It was also on KCST during its final months as an ABC affilliate. I put together a radio for police calls and I get the sounds of Nicholas, Tommy, five young women, and an actor who's better known for Luke Skywalker on it? The Force must have been behind this! Guess that's when I quit electronics as a major in high school.
I also got a walkie-talkie and began broadcasting my voice...to who knows who. It appearred on 107.7 FM. I built an AM radio from a Radio Shack kit and broadcasted on an open AM channel that was heard for about, hmm, 100 feet.
The TV that I had in my room had a cable-antenna switch so I could watch over-the-air shows that Mission Cable didn't carry. I watched Spanish-language news, cartoons, and dubbed "Starsky and Hutch" shows on XEWT when I flipped the switch from cable to antenna on channel 12.
I started picking up some Los Angeles-based UHF stations on the TV. I managed to pick up a scratchy KLCS 58 on it, as well as a scratchy KBSC 52 (now KVEA). KBSC ran children's shows from 3-8pm, then signed off when it began its pay TV channel "On TV." I could sometimes get KEYT 3 from Santa Barbara on it, so my TV could pick up 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 39, 52, and 58. I couldn't get any of the other Los Angeles UHF channels.
Some crazes came and went as the decade went on. There was the Jesus Christ superstar craze in 1971, motorcycle Evel Knevel craze in 1973, the Kung Fu craze in 1974, the CB Radio craze in 1976, the Star Wars craze in 1977, the disco craze in 1978, and the video game craze in 1979. TV shows began mimicking some of the crazes with shows such as "Thrillseeker", "Hong Kong Phooey", "Battlestar Galactica", and "Disco 10", which was a local dance show hosted by "Shotgun" Tom Kelly, who was really big on KGTV and B100 (100.7 FM) during its late 70s heydays.
Sometime around the late 1970s, KCOP started carrying a funny British comedy variety show that was the rage of late night. It was "The Benny Hill Show." KPBS began running episodes of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" sometime around then. Late night TV was being transformed into a fun time as the networks introduced "Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special", "Second City Television", "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert", "NBC's Saturday Night", "SCTV", and "In Concert". It wasn't just for Johnny Carson anymore. Newcomers Jay Leno, Paul Shaeffer, David Letterman, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Steve Martin, and Robin Williams were up and coming during the 70s and they would become legends as they are today.
Addenda: Johnny Downs used to host a kids show on channel 10 called "Magic Key" at 4:30pm weekdays. Between segments, he ran cartoons, usually "The Flintstones."
I met Johnny Downs at the opening of Toys R Us on Jackson Drive in August 7, 1970. Also there were Fred and Barney, H.R. Pufinstuf, and The Banana Splits, shows that were carried on channel 10 during the time.
I didn't have another celebrity meeting until November 18, 1979, when I saw Dianne Kay (Nancy of Eight is Enough) as the grand marshall of the Mother Goose Parade. Also there were the San Diego Chicken, "Shotgun" Tom Kelly (who hosted Disco 10 and Words A Poppin' on 10), and Jan Smithers and Tim Reid of another show I watched, WKRP in Cincinnatti, which in a part got me interested in radio. Kind of weird how TV and radio influenced my life, and the 70s were a formative period for what was to come later in life.
On channel 6, Jackie Lynn Taylor and Jack Fries from the Our Gang/Little Rascals comedies hosted a local show where they introduced and talked about the films of the kid series. Knockoffs of the Gang/Rascals included "The Magnificient 6 and a Half" that was seen sometimes on "The CBS Children's Film Festival" and "Channel 100", and "Here Come The Doubledeckers," which was on ABC from 1970-72.
The 70s in local television were a mouthful. Wait until I get to the 80s next time whenever that is!