The recent acquisition of the Roku in the House of Yesteryear has been both a source of welcome entertainment (for your humble narrator) and amusement (also for your humble narrator, because his mother is now calling it the “Yoko”). I mentioned in this last post that I am fast becoming a fan of some of the public domain TV channels that can be accessed with the device, chiefly 24/7 Retro and TCT Kids.
TCT Kids aired at 9pm EDT over the past two days a couple of features from the Hal Roach Studios that have slipped into the public domain, Topper Returns (1941) and Road Show (1941)—which you may remember was reviewed here on the blog recently (as one of three features on a Sprocket Vault release). For the time being, they’ve been unspooling B-westerns at 10:30 (the Buster Crabbe -”Fuzzy” St. John oaters have been getting a real workout) and then it’s one of the sixteen public domain episodes of Private Secretary, followed by Medic. I don’t see Secretary making the rounds too often on regular TV so it’s definitely a bright spot for me even though TCT Kids’ inventory is comprised of the same episodes that can be purchased at Oldies.com. I also get a tremendous kick out of Medic, the series created by Jack Webb crony James E. Moser, and which provided Richard Boone with one of his early boob tube showcases.
But I think 24/7 Retro is my favorite of these channels because they offer a bit more variety (and don’t fill their viewing hours with the religious content as much as TCT Kids)—including kinescopes of classic live TV series like The Colgate Comedy Hour (with Martin & Lewis), Lights Out (watched an interesting one with Francis L. Sullivan—”the poor man’s Sydney Greenstreet”), and Studio One. I wish some of their offerings (Boston Blackie, Mr. and Mrs. North) were in better quality but many of the shows are presented in reasonably good prints, like Passport to Danger and Man with a Camera. They’ve also got a big honkin’ library of programmers and B-Westerns (hello, Three Mesquiteers!).
One channel that I didn’t mention in my inaugural “Yoko” post was Spydar TV, which offers a mix of public domain programming and movies/TV shows that (I’m going to assume) are paid for. They offer several homegrown series that showcase feature films: Six Gun Theater (westerns), Pale Moonlight Theater (horror movies), FrightMare Theater (even cheesier horror movies), etc.. I was fortunate to catch an edition of Whodunit Theater (mystery films) this past Saturday (the Shreve family patriarch decided to go down for a nap) where the menu included Chapter 5 of The Green Hornet (1940) and a Charlie Chan Monogram outing, The Scarlet Clue (1945). Mom and I watched the final hour of Pale Moonlight when the soup of the day was It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958). I’m pretty sure those two flicks are not in the public domain, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt as far as the fees go.
Their daylight schedule in March included 12 O’Clock High at 11am EDT…and I know you’re going to think I’m making this up, but I watched on Friday (March 29) and they showed “I Am the Enemy”—the episode I wrote about for the Shatnerthon back in 2010. What was even more freaky was that their copy was a videotape version of the same History Channel repeat I have in the dusty TDOY archives (you could even see the channel’s logo in the lower right-hand corner). April’s schedule has removed High from the lineup (they were also airing Felony Squad and Adventures in Paradise in March, and I wish I could have checked those out but Squad aired at noon…a.k.a. Local News Time for Dad), so I’m curious if someone called the copyright police. Spydar still offers reruns of Highway Patrol, Sea Hunt, and Mr. Lucky—I hope there aren’t any shenanigans going on.
Spydar also gave Mom her first opportunity to see her favorite actress, Beverly Garland, in her TV series Decoy (good looking print, btw) while I’ve been entertained by the likes of The Mickey Rooney Show (Hey Mulligan!), The Invisible Man, and One Step Beyond. I’m having a lot of fun with the Roku, and I’ve decided I’m definitely going to sign up for a free trial of The Criterion Channel (if you’re thinking about doing the same, you need to do so before April 8 to get the special pricing deal). Oh, and I just noticed today that Folk TV is now available—more classic TV public domain goodness!