Sunday, January 27, 2008

The cartoon wonders of UHF & independent tv comes to Omaha

The cartoon wonders of UHF and independent tv comes to Omaha (Prepare to get your nostalgia waxed...)

Omaha didn't get it's first commercial independent tv station until March 13, 1986. To most people a UHF station wasn't much to get excited about. But to a 10 year old cartoon junkie, it was a big-time.

We had moved to Omaha from Oklahoma City, OK, a town with 3 independent stations (channels 25, 34 and 43). That meant wall-to-wall syndicated cartoons, both old and new. Mornings and afternoons fed my brain a with a healthy diet of Looney Tunes, Hanna Barberra, Terry Toons, Spider-Man, Speed Racer, Battle of the Planets and others. Not to mention reruns of old sitcoms, the Batman tv series and the Adventures of Superman. All critical elements in proper development.

Imagine my shock when flopping down in front of the tv that first snowy afternoon in Omaha to find no cartoons, aside from one station showing 30 min. of Tom & Jerry shorts. The horror. Luckily basic cable was there to ease some of the pain (USA Cartoon Express, Nickelodeon, WGN, etc).

I was such a cartoon junkie that any summers or holidays spent back in Oklahoma City required my grandma saving a copy of that Sunday's tv guide from the Daily Oklahoman. This was so I could map out my "watch list". Those summers would offer a glimpse of a world missing from Omaha. Mornings and afternoons filled with He-Man, Voltron, Transformers, GI Joe, Go-Bots, Tranzor Z, Thundercats, M.A.S.K. and Robotech.

It seemed like this feast or famine cycle lasted forever. Gradually, Omaha picked up a couple of shows, He-Man and the GI Joe mini-series, but they aired at 2:30, usually missed thanks to school. But that all changed in the spring of '86 when KPTM went on the air. Finally, cartoons were on everyday. There wasn't the variety from having 3 stations like OKC, but it was pretty great.

The station had that classic UHF staple of cartoons (old and new), syndicated reruns of sitcoms and dramas and movies. Here's KPTM's schedule from the first week they were on the air:

KPTM became a Fox affiliate in September of 1988. The station had a good stable of syndicated cartoons through the early 90s, but gradually the Fox packaging took over. Time slots for syndicated shows shrank and you'd only find new cartoons during the early Saturday and Sunday hours when there was no Fox programming slated.

In 1998, all Fox children's programming moved the sister WB (now CW) affiliate. Now, aside from the occasional animated educational show, KPTM is a cartoon ghost town. The time slots that were home to cartoons have been taken over by infomercials and paid programming. And any sitcom reruns shown are the same ones shown on every other Fox & CW affiliate across the U.S.

I know it sounds lame, but alot of that UHF magic is gone. There is no variety on local channels. Since most local UHF stations are Fox and CW affiliates, they all have a unified look and programming. And In recent years, repetition has really taken hold on cable networks. Numerous hours of programming are now occupied by blocks of the same show. Instead of having 40 different shows throughout the day, now you might have a dozen. Scooby Doo is fun, but I don't need 6 hours of it a day.

I truly miss that wild card landscape that independent UHF stations like KPTM offered. When Bugs Bunny and Popeye were on before the sun came up. Or you'd stay up really late Saturday night and might see "The Avengers". There was something exciting to me about that variety of old shows, the chance to see something new and unexpected.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sir, you rock. KPTM nostalgia at it's best.