Karen is firing up the Wayback Machine for a trip to TV Land with this Assignment:
During my childhood, I lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut, less than an hour’s drive from New York City (traffic being favorable, that is). Most of the TV stations we picked up broadcasted from New York. My town had one AM-radio station of its own, and no television. If atmospheric conditions were right, we might get signals from stations in our own state (New Haven sometimes, and occasionally from Hartford), but the New York stations were more powerful, in more ways than one.
The thing that strikes me now is that when your “local” TV stations are in a Major Media Market – a concept defined by New York City – it can be hard to know what’s truly “local” TV, except for the news. And when you’re being raised outside of New York City by parents who are natives of New York City, it can be really challenging for a kid to grasp that the world centered on NYC isn’t really the whole world.
This is a roundabout way of saying I don’t remember very much in the way of locally-hosted TV shows or movies when I was a kid. I know there was a host for the “Dialing for Dollars” movies, but I didn’t usually watch them and have no idea who it was. Most of the TV I watched as a kid was reruns, game shows, and cartoons. My sister and I did watch Wonderama on Channel 5 whenever we could on Sunday mornings. For years, I wasn’t sure whether that was a local NYC show or not, since I rarely met anyone from outside the Tri-State are (NY/NJ/CT) who had ever heard of it; as it turns out, it originated from New York, but it was only broadcast there and in five other cities (one of which was LA, which explains why my SoCal native husband and brother-in-law remember it too), so I’m going to count is as local.
We watched the show during “the Bob McAllister years,” which are nicely detailed in Wonderama‘s Wikipedia entry. I actually remembered most of the segments mentioned, including the tunes to the goofy songs, and we used to have fun dancing along during “Wonderama A-Go-Go” (re-named “Disco City” in the mid-’70’s), which was like American Bandstand for kids. I never knew about those goody bags for the audience, though – considering all the junk food in there, good thing they threw in a toothbrush!
When my family moved to the Tampa Bay area in 1977, we lost Wonderama, and we definitely lost Major Media Market status as well. I was 13 then, and pretty well past kids’ TV anyway. But I do wish I’d had the soft spot for absurdity, camp, and really cheap/bad moviemaking then that I have now, because then I might have appreciated Creature Feature more. I think quite a few local stations had a showcase for drive-in-type horror movies that ran with that title, actually; we’d even had one in New York, but it wasn’t hosted. St. Petersburg’s edition, which ran on Saturday afternoons on Channel 44, was hosted by Dr. Paul Bearer. He also made personal appearances at the city Halloween carnival, but the only really scary thing about him was his bad puns, like his signoff, “I’ll be lurking for you!”
(On a related note, I’m hoping that if Tall Paul does this assignment, he’ll write about the local horror-movie host he remembers – Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Yes, that Elvira. She got her start here in LA. Where else would she come from, really?)
If you have any recollections about TV shows from your childhood – particularly the local variety, and the cheesier the better – I’d love to hear about them!