Thanks to Eric Vedowski at the Home Theater Forum for bringing this to my attention.
Chicago Magazine has a fantastic article online about Neal Sabin, executive vice president and programming guru for Weigel Broadcasting. In Chicago, Illinois Wiegel operates a handful of independent television stations. Its flagship station is WCIU-TV (The U). Of more interest to fans of classic television are WWME-CA and WMEU-CA, known as Me-TV and Me-Too — “Classic Television Defined.”
Both Me-TV and Me-Too offer classic television shows like Mister Ed, Dragnet, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Gidget, The Honeymooners and much more. Me-Too airs daily marathons. Here’s an excerpt from the article discussing the sort of programming seen on Me-TV and Me-Too:
The Me-TV lineup on a random Saturday—Get Smart, Black Sheep Squadron, the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Knight Rider, and The Greatest American Hero. Sabin excavated each from its Hollywood studio tomb shrewdly and furtively. “When I would buy a major acquisition for WCIU such as The Doctors, I’d also say, ‘Let’s look in the library,'” he says. “A lot of that stuff, I had to tell the syndicators, ‘It’s there! You own it! Find it!'”
“At one point, I was selling him the rights to King of Queens for WCIU,” testifies Tom Warner, formerly of Sony Pictures Television and currently executive vice president of Litton Worldwide Distribution. “He kept pushing King of Queens aside to talk about renewals on all of this library product as well as picking up obscure library shows such as The Flying Nun. I was thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’ But eventually all of that became Me-TV. I’ve told him, ‘You should be working for Warner Bros. because you know more about their library than they do.'” Sabin’s surplus of shows is such that in March 2008 he launched Me-Too. “That’s right; now there are two Me-TVs chock-full of classic TV day and night,” decree the promos.
Unfortunately, as the Me-TV/Me-Too website explains, the stations aren’t available outside Chicago. Another Wiegel Broadcasting venture, This TV, is available in many parts of the country as a digital subchannel network. This TV shows movies and television programs from MGM’s library.
There are, of course, national cable channels that focus on classic television. Well, there were. TV Land has become a “baby boomer” channel with lots of reality shows in addition to its stable of classics. I remember reading about a man who won a contest to program TV Land for a day. This was at least a decade ago when the channel wasn’t as focused on becoming a general interest destination for boomers. Can you imagine being able to pick a day’s worth of programming for TV Land?
Of course, even if I had the opportunity to program TV Land (or another cable channel focused on classic television) that doesn’t mean I’d be able to pick all the obscure shows I want. I doubt there are suitable copies of The New People available, even if all the episodes are at UCLA. Plus, there are financial considerations. When TRIO, the NBC cable channel, was still on the air I read an article explaining the difficulties of procuring shows. The channel wanted to get an episode of The Chevy Chase Show but whoever owned the show wouldn’t license a single episode — TRIO would have had to purchase the entire series at an extravagant price.
Now, I don’t live in Chicago and thus I don’t have access to Me-TV, Me-Too. Nor do I get This TV. I don’t even get TV Land (and Hallmark Channel and its reruns of The Waltons were recently taken away from me by my cable company). Nor can I watch the Retro Television Network or the American Life Network. I’m still wonderfully behind the times and don’t have digital cable, which might offer some of these channels or digital subchannels or whatever they are.
But enough about the television I can’t watch. Neal Sabin and Wiegel Broadcasting are doing great work in the Chicago area (and in Milwaukee where they’ve opened another Me-TV station). Anyone in Chicago or Milwaukee who hasn’t checked out Me-TV or Me-Too should.