Greetings from Utah! I know it’s been a while since any blogging took place here, but things have been…busy. And crazy. The last blog entry here was in May. That was before the move to Utah…and sadly, it’s still before I’ve found even so much as a semi-permanent address in Utah. Me and the kids and the critters are now in week three in a hotel room – a very expensive proposition to be sure, and one that’s undoubtedly more expensive than finding a place. Other factors, however, have fought against landing even so much as a tiny apartment, so here we remain for at least another day or two. (I hope that’s all it is.) The room contains two queen size beds, a bathroom, and a television. It also now contains two bored kids and five cooped-up cats and one confused lazy dog. This is a recipe for a pressure-cooker environment in which everyone gets sick of everyone else rapidly. One of the few saving graces: we’ve discovered southern Utah TV station KCSG, a flagship station for the Heroes & Icons Network.
Established just a few years ago, Heroes & Icons is built entirely on “library” programming – i.e. the network produces no new material itself (except for some really clever promos – as a former TV promo guy, my hat’s off to them), leaning entirely on shows now considered ancient reruns: a daytime block cycles through, depending on the day of the week, multiple episodes of cop shows such as Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Nash Bridges, and so on, while mornings are devoted to westerns such as Cheyenne, The High Chaparral, and Have Gun, Will Travel.
Evenings, however, belong to Star Trek. Starting at 6 o’ clock (mountain time), H&I boasts a five-hour block of “all five Star Trek series” (a number that omits the animated series – which used to be on H&I’s schedule, but isn’t anymore – and Discovery, which obviously isn’t available in reruns until CBS decides it is). The original series hits at 6:00, TNG at 7:00, Deep Space Nine at 8:00, Voyager at 9:00, and Enterprise at 10:00. Then, at 11pm, the first of two back-to-back episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess begins, followed in the wee hours of the morning by two back-to-back episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
A comic-book-inspired schedule takes up most of Saturday, with shows such as the George Reeves Superman series, 1960s Batman, Swamp Thing, and The Incredible Hulk. Throughout the week and weekend, the schedule is littered with shows I remember from my time in the control room trenches during the heyday of 1990s syndicated television – Real Stories Of The Highway Patrol, Renegade, and so on. Really, all that’s missing is Highlander, or late ’90s fare such as Earth: Final Conflict, Nightman, or Team Knight Rider. (In claiming that these shows are missing, I’m simply commenting on their absence from a schedule that otherwise seems to cry out for their presences, rather than implying without hard evidence that anyone actually wishes to see them again.)
Now, H&I isn’t the only Trek game in town. BBC America, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, shows TNG and Voyager, while the original Star Trek has shown up everywhere from MeTV to Retro TV – as was the case in the series’ post-cancellation strip-syndicated salad days, TOS is on sale to anyone who’ll pony up for those 79 timeless episodes. But the schedule on which H&I indulges its Trek audience is unique – and something I’d idly wondered if someone would do since the 1990s, a time when it seemed as though there would always be two simultaneous Star Trek series on the air.
And H&I might be meeting with some success here, as CBS All Access has indicated that the Star Trek universe will be expanding into new territory (dare I suggest strange new worlds?) on that streaming service, exploring multiple avenues of new content encompassing ongoing series, miniseries events, and even animated shows. If an audience is steadily tuning in for five straight hours of Star Trek on a network whose affiliates are mostly showing it on a subchannel, that can only embolden a streaming service whose signature show thus far is another Star Trek iteration.
On a purely practical level, H&I has been a real salve to our otherwise confined existence of late. Everyone, even Little C, looks forward to the marathon every night. Sometimes, by sheer coincidental scheduling, an unexpected throughline will emerge (one evening contained not only Voyager, but Ethan Phillips’ guest shots as Ferengi on both TNG and Enterprise). And it’s also become a clock of sorts: I time loads of laundry in the hotel laundromat by it. Start a wash load at the beginning of TNG; when the act one credits in DS9 finish rolling, it’s time to go move that load to the dryer, and then to go get the load out of the dryer around the time Voyager’s end credits roll.
“But Earl,” I hear you saying already, “you could practically duplicate this channel’s schedule from your media server.” Which is true. And I could pause for bathroom breaks, call it a night early, or shake things up by throwing in some Stargate or Doctor Who, shows that are confined to other cable and second-tier broadcast subchannel networks. But the media server is in a box, waiting for us to find a home, at which time we can get back to watching whatever we damn well please, which some nights may not be Star Trek at all.
But until then, it’s a nightly smorgasboard of TV comfort food. Believe me…we need that right now. And even once we’re in our own place – very soon, hopefully – we might still sample from H&I’s feast just for the bad-infomercial-level advertising between acts of each show and the sheer randomness of the schedule. And hey, H&I, when I do land…if you need another producer to come up with more neat Trek promos…I was doing that back when these shows were brand new, and I can do it again.