Channel 68 Memories

Maybe it’s due to writing about some video rental store memories in my last post or maybe it’s just nostalgia for the “the old days” sparked by my dissatisfaction with the place I’m currently stuck in, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my past lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about Channel 68 (aka WABU).

I lucked into finding an in-depth Wikipedia article about the history of the station, which has far more history than I had previously realized. For those of you who are too lazy to click that link, I’ll provide a brief summary: The station I refer to as Channel 68 started out as WQTV in 1979 and changed ownership and programming styles numerous times over the years. I started watching in 1996, when the station was known as WABU and owned/run by Boston University. I can vaguely recall that it was actually channel twenty-something on our city’s cable service, but the “68” logo that would occasionally pop up in the corner of the screen has cemented itself in my mind as the channel’s true name.

Now some of you might wonder why a self-described Opie and Anthony fan like myself would have fond memories of WABU. After all, WABU canceled O&A’s Real Rock TV over a woman’s nipples being visible through her shirt (despite being fine with stuff like that when playing Baywatch reruns) and that led to the infamously awful “bra bombing” revenge sketch.

It’s really quite simple: I never knew WABU and Channel 68 were one and the same at the time and I’m a sucker for monster movies. And boy, did WABU ever play those! Cult horror movies (especially ones made by Troma) were regular staples of Channel 68’s programming lineup. As this was an over-the-air station, many of the films were edited for content (which was never mentioned prior to the movie playing, unlike on other stations). Humanoids from the Deep worked quite well despite the editing, presumably since all the nudity and gore scenes were (allegedly) added in by another director after the original cut of the film was found to be not exploitive enough. As you can imagine, Troma fare like Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and Monster in the Closet got similarly “cleaned up” for broadcast. But, seeing as how I’d usually only catch bits and pieces of those particular films due to my high amount of homework whenever they were on, it all evened out in my mind.

And come December, WABU would always play Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (and the non-horror, but horrible, Santa Claus: The Movie with Dudley Moore). Events like that later evolved into theme weeks, which combined a group of movies loosely linked by genre playing out over the course of a week and a short promotional film clip or “bumpers.” Said bumper would be played during commercial breaks to advertise the event and would also play before the start of (and during each commercial break for) each movie. I still remember seeing the scaly-fonted “Godzillathon” bumper (which played over some scenes from Rodan that night) while my brother and I set up a haunted house for trick-or-treaters in our living room.

Most of the bumpers were just footage lifted from one of the movies with a special title graphic and voiceover added on, although there was at least one occasion where WABU produced its own original bumper. “Scream Week” (a collection of random horror movies) used a shot-on-video clip of someone in a store bought Scream costume talking on a phone and peeking through some blinds. Amusingly enough, they electronically altered the announcer’s voice to make it sound like Ghostface himself was promoting the event. These events and bumpers had a large influence on me, which eventually led to my doing a “Fright Fest” October promotion for my college’s TV station. I just might do an entry on that one of these days if I’m able to get my hands on the master tapes (and some video capture equipment)…

Getting back on point, the popularity of those events (and the horror movies they played in general) led to the creation of a “show” called Attack of the B Movies, not to be confused with the Attack of the Killer B Movies special starring Elvira. The “show” itself was just a title sequence made from various film clips that played before the showing of two horror movies. Still, it was fun to tune into stuff like Zontar, The Thing from Venus and Robot Monster every week.

This culminated in an “End of the World” marathon on New Year’s Eve in 1998. The four movies that played were:

Night of the Living Dead
Godzilla vs. Monster Zero
Plan Nine from Outer Space
The Last Days of Planet Earth

As you can see, they cheated a bit with the “end of the world” theme. Only one of those movies truly involved the end of the world and the rest only dealt with the world being in danger (although one could make an argument for NOTLD counting if you factor in the events shown in the sequels). Still, it was a lot of fun to watch and it did expose me to my favorite zombie movie and its amazingly powerful ending. I’ve long since forgotten the exact order those films played in, although I do know that The Last Days of Planet Earth was probably the last one since I missed seeing the ball drop in Times Square while watching it!

In addition the the above movies, they also played homemade music videos which combined clips from the above movies with R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine)” and Prince’s “1999.” Sadly, this was Channel 68’s (as I knew it) last hurrah. In a particularly cruel twist of fate, 1999 was the year that the channel was bought out by the owners of family-friendly PAX (now Ion Televison), with the old “Channel 68” logo only appearing during the airing of Red Sox games. Its appearance there gave me false hope that the channel would go back to the old way I loved so much, but it was just not meant to be. But as time and homework went by, I focused on Sci-Fi and AMC as my go-to sources for horror movies on TV (back before their programming choices went downhill). Still, Channel 68 will always have a special place in my heart and will be missed.

R.I.P
WABU
1993-1999

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