I wanted to bring readers' attention to a new broadcast channel I've stumbled upon. It's called This, or ThisTV, and I have no idea where the channel calls home or who is involved in creating it. I do notice that the promoters love puns on the word "this." A typical self-promotional spot will include, "This is very cool," and other puns, so that at times you feel trapped in an Abbott and Costello routine. But the programers make interesting choices within their limited means.
I came upon the channel two or three weeks ago on a weekend when I converted my iMac into a television via EyeTV, which to my surprise receives the new digital feed. In any case, in my town, Portland, Oregon, the digital end of the spectrum sends out two local NBC affiliates (though one is a weather channel), four PBS feeds (though one is the local radio station's audio over a slide show of seven numbingly rotated Oregon landscape pix), and about eight religious channels. ThisTV, the channel, is broadcast as the secondary feed of the ABC affiliate, and it must have gone on air the same day I activated my new set up. It seems new.
A possible website was not live the last time I looked so there's no info there, but I did find "this" programing guide. What I did glean from dropping in on the station over a few weeks was that the station appears to own a huge package of MGM-Orion-UA movies and TV shows. Within these limitations, the programers do some interesting things. For example, Cotton Comes to Harlem was followed by Across 110th Street, as if Quentin Tarantino were in the booth. The Poitier drama Pressure Point was followed by the racially-themed noir Odds Against Tomorrow. Alice's Restaurant was followed by Hair. One Saturday This offered three beach party movies in a row (well, the third was a ski party movie, but it did have Frankie Avalon in it, with a cameo by James Brown trying to dance in a space the size of a bungalow's foyer). Another Saturday was a westerns day, so the schedule included Support Your Local Sherif, Hawks's Red River, Man with the Gun (with Robert Mitchum, music by Alex North), Sam Whiskey, and The Scalphunters. The next day was war movies day. This has also shown two Ossie Davis movies in a row and two William Schallert films on the same day, no doubt unintentional mini-festivals.
Late one night, when I woke up with a touch of insomnia, the channel was airing the old The Outer Limits (which is why I think the channel is brand new ... the first episode that aired was the first in the series), Mr. Ed, and The Patti Duke Show, followed by early morning broadcasts of some shrill old '70s or '80s cartoon shows like the Paddington Bears.
This all may sound good but a problem with the station is that there are lots and lots and lots of commercial breaks with a limited, repetition-injury-enducing number of ads and PSAs. Worse, the movies are truncated, panned and scanned, and censored. And they show the same movies over and over again. I also have a feeling that though some of the movies aired are good, the programmers think they are all bad, as if they are dealing with a pile of junk only the unemployed and meth addicts would watch. Partially, the programers are right about their product. I've sat through some truly bad films on This: a third rate gumball rally film called Safari 3000 with David Caradine, Stockard Channing, and Christopher Lee; a bad Australian "thriller" with Sam Elliott as a private eye; a blonde-dyed Michael Madsen at his mannered worst in an incoherent drive-in type movie called Dead Connection; and a somnambulistic Burt Reynolds in Malone (there are a lot of Burt Reynolds movies on This).
Those of us without cable or satellite are the lowest of the low as far as broadcasters are concerned. Our movies are bleeped and laden with advertising. And what advertising! This, like the local Fox affiliate during the day, offers up endless ads for gouging technical schools, storage devices, and health treatments, commercials that are all loud and frequent. This is not the ideal way to view old movies, especially if there is a video store just down the street. However, if you only have television from the air and don't mind having truncated movies selected for you in sometimes interesting combinations, This is adequate as a free version of AMC.
[This text originally appeared in a slightly different form as a posting on the Mobius Home Video Forum. Kenneth Warner wrote in to say that, "MGM co-owns ThisTV, actually, with Weigel (which owns a number of indy stations in the Midwest)."]