Can we talk about network TV?

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To kickstart this ongoing series, I’d like to talk about the joy of over-the-air TV or broadcast TV. I used to call it, and still do, antenna TV. But because there’s a channel by that name, I’m calling it network TV to clear up any confusion.

As a kid, this is what we had. The neighbor kids had cable, and one even had satellite TV! Sheesh, talk about major sci-fi shiz right there! For years, I used to wish we had it too, and I’d soak up ever second of TV time at their places.

As I got older, cable more or less fell off the radar screen for me. The magazines I read in middle and high school talked about cable shows, and it was enough to fill me in. Whatever shows they covered that aired on network TV were ones I didn’t really care about either way.

The shows that rocked my world back in high school were The Oblongs (damn, what an underrated, short-lived show!), The Guardian (Simon Baker’s character was a major jerk, but he sure was cute. Gotta admit, Alan Rosenberg was quite a looker, and still is, btw), Law and Order SVU, Jeopardy!, and Supermarket Sweep. Sometimes I’d watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS, and I’d watch Oprah after school.

Seasons changed, and we got cable. It didn’t take me long before I saw how overrated cable and satellite TV really is. The climbing costs, paired with so many instances of cable companies treating their longtime customers like crap (won’t say names here), and the declining quality with some providers was enough for me to say one thing to cable:

Hasta la vista, baby.

I got me an antenna with a claimed radius of 80 miles, but I don’t get all the channels listed due to the terrain where I live. I get most of them, and the first thing I noticed was how network TV’s come a long way in recent years.

My broadcast market has Dabl, which isn’t even listed in the TV Guide’s app. Neither is Biz TV, which airs on a super-low power frequency. [EDIT: As of January 2021, Biz TV seems to have left our broadcast market, and The Country Network has taken its’ place.]

Cable? Satellite? Never heard of her.

But in all seriousness, network TV’s where it’s at for me. The picture and sound quality varies among channel groups, and the weather can affect the reception. Aside from the upfront cost of the antenna itself, it’s free.

I get to watch my shows when they come on, like the Chicagoverse on Wednesdays, Law and Order SVU on Thursdays. After tonight, it’ll be holiday specials and reruns, so that’ll free up the schedule for other shows and channels.

Like Dabl’s Kitchen Nightmares airings. I swear, I’ve seen all the episodes officially, and I’ve even forgotten about some of those places.

Or Hogan’s Heroes on MeTV. At first, I turned the channel to it, and I instantly saw the SS uniform and the hooked cross armband on someone’s jacket and freaked out. I was like, “why tf are they airing this crap?!” When I googled the show, I saw that it wasn’t like what I’d assumed it was at all. I read about it, and saw that for a couple of the cast members, Germany under the Third Reich hit close to home for them. Like Robert Clary, for instance. He was a kid at the time, and if I remember right, he was one of the only members of his immediate family to survive the camps. Werner Klemperer’s family defected to the U.S. shortly after Hitler came to power, but he lost relatives in the regime. Very tragic indeed, to say the least.

Home Improvement on Laff was another show I remember seeing on a regular basis as a kid. I caught a few episodes, and a lot of what that show talked about went over my head back then. I’d hear that quintessential laugh track at some parts, and wonder why.

Without a Trace airs on Bounce, and that was another favorite show of mine in high school from junior year up until it ended its run when I was in college. I saw an episode of it recently, and the lack of technology in the show took me by surprise in comparison to what it probably would be if there was a reboot. Yeah, let’s not even go there. Let’s leave this show in the 2000s where it belongs, imo.

On Fox, there used to be a block of cartoons called Kids Click. They even had an app, which no longer even works or opens up on my phone. But for those of us morning cartoon lovers, MeTV’s coming out with one early next year. [EDIT: They have, and it’s public domain cartoons of Popeye, Tom and Jerry, and Looney Tunes.]

Over to you, readers. Do you like network TV? Have you had it before? Got plans to ditch the paid stuff and find an antenna instead? Sound off below!

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