Though I don’t have cable and rarely watch network television online, there’s definitely programs and artists of enduring value I’ve discovered through television. One prime example is “Night Flight”, a carefully curated block of late night programming reminiscent of a YouTube channel for a counterculture blog (long before blogs and YouTube existed). It aired every Friday and Saturday at 11 pm on the USA Network and was probably the best source of fringe culture on air at the time (outside of local public access programs).
A typical Night Flight episode would consist of clips of varying length played nearly back to back separated only by short voice-over introductions. Though the content of each episode was often unpredictable and featured clips from varying sources, they sometimes had recurring themes which would appeal especially to college-age crowds (ie. drugs, punk rock, experimental films, etc). On a single episode one might see a short avant-garde student film followed by a stand-up comedy clip, a drug documentary and music videos (first aired on June 1981, Night Flight preceded MTV by two months). Shows also featured hilariously re-dubbed serials, profiles of comedians, musicians and video artists, archive footage, and cult movies such as Fantastic Planet, Reefer Madness, and Music of the Spheres.
Night Flight was created by Stuart Shapiro who, judging from his wiki page, has long had an eye for comedy and music/cult cinema. The show’s programing director was Stuart Samuels, author of the classic cult film book Midnight Movies (and director of the documentary based on it). Night Flight has an informative fan page (that’s unfortunately plagued by spammy ads) which provides the following info:
In July of 2001, DirecTV started airing Midnight Rider. Created by Night Flight originator Stuart Shapiro, Midnight Rider was similar to Night Flight but only shown on Pay-per-view partially because of its adult content. Midnight Rider was a 2 hour show featuring standup comics, animation and of course music videos and was narrated by Night Flight veteran, Pat Prescott. Apparently the show didn’t do too well because less than a year later, in June of 2002, their web site (www.midnightrider.tv) was gone and a Best Of Midnight Rider was being released to video stores.
Dailymotion members jeffdevil1 and philodrummond have kindly uploaded large chunks of Night Flight for our enjoyment (complete with cheesy commercials).