Friday, July 1, 2011

80s TV

I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday. I couldn’t give you the name of the last girl I made out with. I often forget how to spell simple words without the help of spellcheck. The other day in class, I misspelled the word “rock” on the white board. I don’t remember the name of Britney Spears’s former husband, and I used to make fun of that guy all the time (I want to say Jason something, but I refuse to google it). Once, when doing a crossword, I forgot Julia Roberts’s last name. I used to forget things other people said mid-conversation, now I often forget things that I said. It’s clear I’m getting dumber by the day.

I remember the important things, of course. Things like the names of the starting offensive linemen on the 1991 Kansas City Chiefs (Alt, Lutz, Grunhard, Szott, Baldinger), or all of the control cities on Interstate 70 (I’ll spare you), or the fact that John J. Pershing lead the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. I can quote every line of Airplane or Rocky IV. I know the hub airports of airlines that no longer exist, like USAir (Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia; Phoenix and Vegas after the merger with America West) and Northwest (Minneapolis, Memphis, Detroit, Amsterdam, Tokyo). I know the Konami code, and I wasn’t even a Konami guy outside of Castlevania games, which of course don’t use said code.

One complete waste of space in my brain is my continuing memory of the Sunflower Cabelvision channel configuration in the mid 80s. Hopefully, by taking on these demons now, I can finally forget this worthless information to make room for, say, the fact that “rock” has a silent “c.”

Channel 2 - MTV. I wasn’t allowed to watch it. Of course, the second my parents left the house or the room, I switched over to it. As we had a cable box with a button for each channel, I couldn’t use the remote to watch MTV, or anything for that matter. I had to get up and walk to the box and hit the “2” button. Obviously, I had to hover around the TV and watch, so that I could hit another channel if I heard my mom coming downstairs. I still don’t know why MTV was forbidden fruit. How corrupted was elementary-school Jaehak going to become by watching a Los Lobos video? By the time I had my own TV when I was 12, MTV was channel 35 and TNT was channel 2.

Channel 3 - The channel for using the VCR or later, the NES. Also, this was KSMO-TV 62, an independent channel that largely ran syndicated episodes of The Brady Bunch. In the 90s, this channel was the home of The Wonder Years and Saved By the Bell reruns, so good times. Though Sunflower Cablevision often changed their channel numbers as they gained new channels, KSMO stayed on channel 3.

Channel 4 - WDAF out of Kansas City. This was NBC when I was a kid, and became a Fox affiliate in the 90s, but always as WDAF. Phil Witt did the news on both networks.

Channel 5 - KCTV 5, a CBS affiliate. Even today, Channel 5 on Sunflower is KCTV/CBS. The Price is Right was here.

Channel 6 - Lawrence’s own Cable 6. Back in the day, Cable 6 never had any shows except the 6 o’clock news. It was just a news crawl all day. It was a good channel to watch for people that didn’t own a thermometer or a clock.

Channel 7 - PBS. This was Kansas City’s PBS affiliate, channel 19 over the air, I presume it still is. In theory, I would have watched Sesame Street here, but it was on at the same time as The Price is Right.

Channel 8 - KSNT 27, an NBC affiliate out of Topeka. Other than local news, they generally showed the same thing as Channel 4.

Channel 9 - KCMO, Kansas City’s ABC affiliate. I pressed this button to watch Mr. Belvedere, Growing Pains, and of course Perfect Strangers.

Channel 10 - TBS. Seemed to be mostly Atlanta Braves games that I didn’t care about, and non-stop Flintstones episodes. All of the shows started at 5 or 35 after the hour. I never understood this marketing strategy. If their shows started at a normal time, I may have watched it more.

Channel 11 - KTWU, the Topeka PBS station. If I were to watch Sesame Street, it was on this channel. Usually, even as a little kid, I preferred watching “sophisticated” Kansas City channels rather than “provincial” Topeka channels, even though they were often showing the exact same thing. PBS was the exception to this. I can’t tell you why.

Channel 12 - KSHB 41. I watched the hell out of channel 12. It started as an independent channel where I could watch syndicated Diff’rent Strokes and Jetsons. When Fox started out, KSHB was the Fox affiliate for Kansas City. I watched Married With Children and Tracy Ullman here, and then The Simpsons once it started. Channel 12 also became the place for Simpsons reruns, and even after WDAF and KSHB swapped networks and KSHB became NBC, they still ran The Simpsons every day. For a UHF channel, they really brought the goods.

Channel 13 - WHB Topeka, a CBS affiliate. Topeka’s oldest channel, which you can tell by the fact that it’s name only included 3 call letters, and that they started with a “W.” I still generally stuck to Channel 5 when I watched CBS. The best part of WHB - sometimes they would show a different NFL game or NCAA tourney game than Channel 5.

Channel 14 - KTKA 49, an ABC affiliate from Topeka. This is the last of the over-the-air networks on Sunflower Cable in the 80s. KTKA featured Lori Hutchinson on the 10 o’clock news, an anchor who was hot enough to work in Kansas City rather than Topeka. Years later, I would work there. Sadly, as I worked mornings, I never got to meet Lori, but she was a little long in the tooth by then anyway.

Channel 15 - Cinemax. We didn’t get it at my house. Bummer, because there was a pretty glaring lack of nudity in my life at the time.

Channel 16 - HBO. We did have this. Best part of HBO in the mid to late 80s - I got to see every Tyson-in-his-prime fight (except Michael Spinks) live.

Channel 17 - CBN, or whatever Pat Robertson’s channel was called at the time. I never watched it.

Channel 18 - ESPN. Because I didn’t care about tennis or biathlon, I rarely watched it, at least until later in the 80s or early in the 90s when they started showing NFL Primetime and College hoops games.

Channel 19 - Nickelodeon. Given my age at the time in question, I watched this all the fucking time. When Nick started, it signed off at 7 PM and became A&E, which was the opposite of awesome when I was 8 years old or so. Nick used to run a show called Pinwheel, which was like a poor kid’s Sesame Street. Pinwheel was 5 hours long, 7 a.m. to noon. After Pinwheel came a Canadian import called Today’s Special, where I first heard the words “aboot” and “soory.” After this came You Can’t do that on Television, another canuck import. My mom had the same opinion of this show as she did of MTV, so of course it was my favorite.

Channel 20 - USA Network, USA mattered to me for one reason - USA Cartoon Express. Cartoon Express featured lots of shitty 60’s era cartoons like Grape Ape and Jana of the Jungle and Clue Club. Generally, these shitty 60’s cartoons had an 11-episode run, yet USA would air them all the time. It’s safe to say that I saw every episode of Jabber Jaw at least 14 times, yet enjoyed it 0 times. Further proof that less channels didn't equal less TV, just worse TV.

Channel 21 - CNN. Not my bag then.

Channel 22 - WGN. Lots of Cubs games. Also, the home of Bozo the Clown, which my cousin once appeared on. I liked all the Chicago-based commercials. 5-8-8, 2 three hundred, Empire!

Channel 23 - Showtime. We didn’t have it. Whatever, I’d rather watch late 80s Tyson fights than late 80s Holyfield fights anyway.

Channel 24 - The Disney Channel. At the time, this was pay cable too. I felt pretty awesome bragging to my friends about watching Dumbo’s Circus or Donald Duck Presents. Yes, even in grade school, I was kind of a douchebag.

Channel 25 - No such thing. 24 was the end of the line on our cable box. Once TVs advanced a bit and we didn’t need a cable box (and could change the channel with a remote), 25 and 26 were the end of the line, at C-Span 1 and 2.

I feel purged now. I finally got that out there. Now I can start to remember important things. Sadly, after writing this, the first piece of lost information that came back to me was... Federline.

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