Broadcasting from the Distant Reaches of UHF!

Station IdentificationIn the mysterious days before cable, television sets came with two channel knobs.

The bottom knob, with thirteen channels, was where you found your three network stations; if you were in a major metro area, you might have also had a fuzzy, low-power public broadcasting station.

But the upper dial tantalized us with the promise of oh so much more — for that is where channels 14 through 83 lived. Channel 83! What a magical sound for young ears. Imagine a world with 83 channels! Surely, a world in which kids fly to school on their personal rocket belts and communicate via pocket video telephones.

How many hours did I spend exploring the snowy wasteland of UHF, eager to glimpse the occasional ghostly image from a distant station sent my way by a fluke of solar flare activity from some unknown region and caught momentarily by my antenna like an exotic fish nibbling on a cheap lure? One particularly fine day I was able to watch most of The Beatles’ Help — without sound, and maddeningly blizzarded by static — from a mysterious station three or four states away.

UHF stations were the repository of all the great low-budget TV shows and movies that the “lower 13” channels disdained: the leftover movie serials, monster movies, gumshoe detective thrillers, radioactive mutant alien invasion horror films, and — way past your bedtime — the movies that your parents said were only for mommies and daddies who loved each other very, very much.

* * *

By day, I’m a freelance writer and editor. Way past my bedtime, I’m an aspiring SF writer who had the great good fortune of growing up with two such stations nearby. Although I appreciate and enjoy most forms of SF, thanks to those channels the warmest cockles of my SF-lovin’ heart are devoted to the glorious movie and TV products of the 1950s through the early 1970s.

Partly as a writing exercise, partly as an homage, I have created Channel 37 as a place to re-create my ideal UHF channel of my youth: a place where, by simply turning the dial, I can once again find the clunky tinfoil robots, rubber-suit monster menaces, spaceships dangling on strings, and quippy jut-jawed heroes battling it out in front of smoke-filled cardboard sets accompanied by really bad organ and Theremin music.

And maybe, if I stay up late enough, one or two of those mommy-and-daddy movies too.

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