Remembering Z Channel, ONTV, SelecTV

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Zen Butler, Jul 10, 2004.

  1. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    Stemmed from a side conversation in the Hardcore DVD thread. My pre-teen and teen years would not have been the same.

    Felix, please post that pic [​IMG]
     
  2. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    Ah, ONTV...

    [​IMG]

    How many films did I discover on this channel? I lost count.

    Flipping thru the dozens of programming guides has provided an uncanny feeling of Deja Vu.

    I remember now the first day the service went up in our home: Wed, August 20, 1980. We saw Pete's Dragon and somehow made it thru Auntie Mame. Heck we'd watch anything that had no commercials. What a concept!

    In the pic above, I can now see where my absolute love for Richard Rush's The Stunt Man blossomed...
     
  3. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    "STAR WARS

    The greatest cinematic adventure of our time is here! ONTV presents the World Television Premiere of STAR WARS for a special one-time viewing on Saturday, September 25, 1982, at 8pm, simulcast in Dolby stereo on FM 97 A1A.

    This winner of six Academy Awards is being made available to pay TV for an additional fee of $8. For less than it costs two peopple to attend the theater, your family and friends can watch STAR WARS. See Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and the ever memorable special effects that changed cinema forever.

    STAR WARS will NOT be made available as part of our regular programming until sometime in 1983.

    Turn to the center insert and reserve your viewing now!"


    Well, it wasn't letterboxed, but what the heck! And in Dolby Stereo! The first time we married the TV and stereo system in our house. We've come a long way...
     
  4. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Top row, third from the left: this illustration was used in a Radio-Electronics magazine article on "Build your own over-the-air Pay TV Descrambler" at the time. It was then mistakenly reprinted the next issue instead of the first page of the article's second half. Then, in the succeeding issue, the correct page was printed, with a half scale reproduction of that same photo accompanying the editor's explanation. [​IMG]
     
  5. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    At a thrift store I found a Beta tape recorded from MovieVision, a subscription TV service that was here in Sacramento in the early 80's- by 1983 it had become ONTV, which already existed in other areas prior to then. The tape had a porno movie called "Dirty Lily" (they ran one X-rated movie nightly at 11), after the movie there is a text crawl saying that "You are breaking the law!" if you were getting the channel through a homemade descrambler, and that they had people canvassing the area looking for illegal installations.
    I've got a tape from KTLA in Los Angeles recorded sometime in 1980 that has a commercial for "ON", featuring Grease with no commercials. The movie "CHOMPS" (the one about the robot dog) from 1979 has a brief glimpse of a Z-Channel truck in one scene.
    Anyone remember scrambled movies on regular TV channels? Channel 26 (KTSF) in San Francisco, up to about 1984, would be a normal station during the day, but at night would change to a movie channel, and watching over the air looked like a scrambled cable signal with an audio message saying who to call to subscribe.
     
  6. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

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    I've still got some dusty old VHS tapes of movies I recorded off ONTV. By today's standards ON wasn't much, but it was pretty great way back when!

    Rob
     
  7. Robert Floto

    Robert Floto Supporting Actor

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    I had Select TV. I still remember getting about eight minutes into a film and seeing the caption, "IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS MOVIE, PRESS YOUR SELECT BUTTON NOW" (or something to that effect).

    I'd always panic and wish I had more time to decide whether to pay for that specific film or not. There was always that possibility that I would subscribe to something with a lot of nudity, and then have my mom come home and I'd have to change channels...and then still have it show up in the bill.

    Ah...the good old days...
     
  8. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    IIRC all the content after 11pm - "Adults ONly" (see my pic above - bottom row on right) - never was a full on X.

    In fact, this from one of the program guides:

    "Note: X-rated films are not shown on Adults ONly. However, Adults ONly films do include sexually explicit scenes that may not be suitable for younger viewers."

    Cheers,
     
  9. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    The tape I have (from MovieVision) is definitely a XXX movie [​IMG] I heard they first showed edited versions of porn flicks, but some people still complained about them since they were 'naughty'- however that ended up giving them free publicity and got them a few extra subscribers, so they basically decided "what the heck!" and started showing the unedited versions!
     
  10. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Here around St.Louis circa 1980/82 there were a lot of legal hassles regarding Cable (not enough money was changing in the right hands IMO) preventing it in the city for years, so in the interim there was an antenna based scramble service called Preview. They installed an antenna on your roof and put a huge descrambler box on your TV....with one big button on top.[​IMG]
    I still have some video tapes of S.O.B, Cutter's Way & Halloween II from back then, the reception was lousy.
     
  11. chris*b

    chris*b Stunt Coordinator

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    Ah yes. ONTV. ONTV gave me my first viewing of Star Wars as a young boy and my first viewing of boobies.[​IMG]
     
  12. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I actually made cassette tapes of the stereo simulcast that Saturday in 1982. I remember the simulcast being on 91.5 KUSC, and I still have the tapes - I really don't need them anymore, but nostalgia has a strong pull. One point of interest was that in the Tarkin/Vader scene just before the Falcon arrives at Alderaan, the audio jumps to the end of the scene, and then jumps back. I don't know what happened on the screen at that time (I didn't have ON Tv, I had Z Channel), but it was very strange to hear over the simulcast.

    As for Z Channel, I probably still have a couple of Z Magazines up in the attic somewhere. I may even have an earlier black & white Z magazine from mid 1978. (They didn't even have color magazines until around 1979. And initially, Z Channel was, I think, only on three or four nights a week, with showings at 5PM, 7PM, and 9PM. As time went on, it eventually went 24/7, but this took a long time. I remember the idea of Cult Cinema at Midnight being a big thing on the channel when it started around 1979 or 1980 - the first movie on it was Rocky Horror.)

    It was truly a shame to see how Z Channel eventually wound up, but I suppose it was inevitable. It's just that Z had a lot of really cool features over the years that were never really duplicated - Charles Champlin's uninterrupted interviews, the annual Academy consideration showings, the Cinemascore movie review show with Steve Arvin, Ed Mintz and Ed's computer predicting whether the typical viewer would like the movie. And the magazine itself was cool - although it got kind of old to hear that EVERY movie was the best thing you'd ever seen. (This thankfully stopped when Jerry Harvey let FX Feeney take over the reviews and the writing edged closer to the work seen at that time in the LA WEEKLY. Feeney actually reprinted his WEEKLY reviews, albeit with some curse words taken out here and there.) Does anyone else still have their old Z Magazines?
     
  13. Nicholas Vargo

    Nicholas Vargo Second Unit

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    If you guys miss The Z Channel, you need to track down the original IFC documentary "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession." It's an excellent doc that's availible on DVD. I bought it blind, and I thought it was money well spent.
     
  14. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I have the "Manificent Obsession" DVD and I agree - it's a great documentary. They include a miniature version of a mid-80's Z magazine, as well as a gallery of old magazine covers and review snippets on the 2nd disc. I was just wondering if anyone else had collected those magazines or had subscribed to the channel back in the day.

    A friend of mine reminded me last night that when it started, Z Channel was on 5 nights a week - Wednesday through Sunday, showing 2 movies a week, with a 7PM and a 9PM showing on each night. On Fridays or Saturdays, they would add a 3rd showing at 11PM, which repeated the 7PM movie.

    And this was in the days before even betamax was out, so if you missed the movie that week, that was it. You could either go to the movie in the theater or wait for it to show up on TV in an edited form or panned and scanned to death. And God help you if you tried to watch it on the ABC 330 Movie in Los Angeles... (At 330PM during the week, ABC would run truly butchered versions of contemporary movies that had already aired on network TV. I once saw PLANET OF THE APES on it, and they turned the sound off when Heston does his famous yelling at the end...)
     
  15. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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  16. Eric_Connelly

    Eric_Connelly Second Unit

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    We only had ONTV here in the Detroit area.

    I remember my parents, $20 a month for what I believe was 8 hours of TV a week.

    It was on Sundays from 2pm to 10pm I think on Channel 20 in Detroit. They broadcast it over a regular station and you needed a decoder.

    My brother in law was making the things like crazy [​IMG]
     
  17. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    I remember seeing this documentary on IFC Channel a few years ago. A very fascinating and good documentary.
     
  18. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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    What, you didn't discover them like us Canadians by accidentally flipping to the CBC French channel? [​IMG]
     
  19. Jeff_CusBlues

    Jeff_CusBlues Supporting Actor

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    In May of 1984, after graduating, I moved to Ft. Wayne to start work. I lived in an apartment complex that had it's own private cable network. Their movie channel was SelectTV. I was a little pissed because I wanted HBO and Showtime, but since it was all they had, I paid the extra $10 a month for SelecTV. This service showed a wide variety of movies and I still have a lot of VHS tapes of movies I recorded. At around 11:00 each night, the content was for adults only and I would classify it as X or soft core. My friends who lived in houses or other apartments thought it was pretty wild that there was a cable network in conservative Ft. Wayne, IN that showed soft core stuff. I bought a house and moved out 5 years later, but will always remember SelectTV.
     
  20. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    Really? This is one piece of Rocky Horror trivia I have never heard. It would make sense as a source for bootleg videos throughout the 80s.
     

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