Retro tv: The Best in Classic Television

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Although MeTV and Antenna TV are currently the dominant national classic TV programming services, another company actually paved the way.

Retro Television Network launched back in 2005 under the RTN branding. The service was originally carried by a handful of stations owned by Equity Broadcasting, later expanding across the country as stations converted to digital and sought programming for their new subchannels.

RTN once aired a large number of programs from the NBC Universal library (including Dragnet, Leave It To Beaver and The Rockford Files), many of which are now carried by MeTV.

Due to a series of financial problems, RTN wound up changing hands and brands. They switched to the RTV name in 2009 and to Retro TV in 2013.

Although they have lost many of their early affiliates to competing services, Retro TV survives to this day. They offer an interesting mix of classic and more recent shows, along with a heavy schedule of overnight infomercials to help pay the bills.

Here’s a list of the classic TV shows on Retro tv as of January 2014:

Adventure & Drama Series
The Adventures of Robin Hood, Highway to Heaven, I Spy, Movin’ On, Naked City, Route 66, The Saint

Comedies
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Colgate Comedy Hour (comedy-variety show), The Joey Bishop Show, The Real McCoys, The New Soupy Sales Show

Cartoons and Kids Shows
The Archies, BraveStarr, Harveytoons, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Lassie, Mr. Magoo, She-Ra: Princess of Power

Westerns
The Adventures of Jim Bowie, The Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy

For more information and to find out if there’s an affiliate in your area, please visit the Retro tv website.

Classic TV Birthdays: January 25

Dinah Manoff leads off today’s list of classic tv stars celebrating a birthday. The now-58-year-old starred in the 1970’s comedy Soap, then later played one of the daughters on the sitcom Empty Nest. Manoff is the daughter of actress Lee Grant and the late screenwriter Arnold Manoff. He penned episodes of classic TV shows The Defenders, Naked City and Route 66.

Other January 25 birthdays: Leigh Taylor-Young (Peyton Place) is 68, Gregory Sierra (Barney Miller, Sanford & Son) is 73 and Dean Jones is 83. The Disney movie star (Herbie The Love Bug, That Darn Cat!) starred in several short-lived sitcoms in the 60s and 70s (Ensign O’Toole, The Chicago Teddy Bears).

Classic TV stars born this day but since passed: Ernie Harwell (legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster), NBC newsman Edwin Newman and Sally Starr (popular children’s TV host in Philadelphia).

Diana Hyland was also born on January 25. She had major roles in 1960s series’ Peyton Place and Young Doctor Malone, later playing the original wife/mom on the family drama Eight Is Enough. Sadly, she only appeared in the first 4 episodes and passed away at age 41.

Character actor Christopher Allport died on this day. He was a regular on the daytime drama Another World and guested on shows including Harry O and M*A*S*H.

Classic TV Birthdays: January 24

Celebrating a birthday today: Michael Ontkean is 67. Ontkean starred on the 1970s cop drama The Rookies, then later resurfaced on the quirky 1990s Twin Peaks.

Character actor William Bogert, who guested on shows including Barney Miller, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Quincy, turns 78. Bogert’s largest role was on the syndicated 1980s sitcom Small Wonder.

Another birthday boy: Jerry Maren is 94. Maren appeared on 70s era classics The Gong Show and The Odd Couple, along with some McDonald’s commercials. He is best known as the last surviving Munchkin from The Wizard of Oz.

Other classic TV stars born this day but no longer with us: John Belushi (Saturday Night Live), Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy, Airwolf) and Jack Brickhouse (legendary Chicago Cubs broadcaster from 1948-81).

A few more January 24 birthdays: televangelist Oral Roberts, actress Sharon Tate and character actress Ann Todd (guested on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Playhouse 90, Thriller). Tate had guest roles on classic 1960s shows The Beverly Hillbillies and Mister Ed, but her life ended tragically when she was murdered by the infamous Manson Family.

Classic TV stars passing on this day: James Farentino (The Bold Ones, Dynasty), Larry Fine (The Three Stooges), J. Carrol Naish (Life with Luigi) and Pernell Roberts (Bonanza, Trapper John M.D.). We actually missed including Naish on his birthday, which was January 21.

Classic TV Birthdays: January 23

Several classic TV stars are marking birthdays today. Gil Gerard, star of the 70s sci-fi series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, is 71. Character actress and cartoon voiceover artist Arlene Golonka is 78. She guested on a number of classic shows (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Naked City, later King of Queens) but is perhaps best known as Millie on The Andy Griffith Show and its successor: Mayberry R.F.D.

Also born this day: Chita Rivera. She was a cast member of The New Dick Van Dyke Show.

Classic TV stars born January 23 but no longer with us: Frances Bay, a Canadian character actress who appeared on such shows as The Dukes of Hazzard and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. One of her more memorable roles was on Seinfeld…she was the woman Jerry robbed of her marbled rye bread.

Others born this day: Myron Cope (legendary Pittsburgh Steelers commentator and one-time local TV sports anchor), Dan Duryea (star of China Smith in the 1950s, later guested on Bonanza, Naked City, Twilight Zone) and Ernie Kovacs. The actor-comedian was an early TV star and influenced numerous future comedy programs and hosts including Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.

One more January 23 birthday: Larri Thomas. She was best known as Henrietta Hippo on the 1970s children’s series The New Zoo Revue.

A number of classic TV icons passed away on this day, including late night legend Johnny Carson, Bob Keeshan (Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody, later Captain Kangaroo) and fitness guru Jack LaLanne.

Other January 23 deaths: Freddie Bartholomew, a child film star in the 1930s (David Copperfield) who went on to work as a producer/director on several TV daytime dramas, Nell Carter (Gimme A Break, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, Ryan’s Hope) and Jack Oakie. He was a film actor who guested on classic TV shows Daniel Boone and The Real McCoys.

Obit: Ben Starr

Veteran TV comedy writer and producer Ben Starr has died at 92.

His writing career began on early TV shows like Duffy’s Tavern and I Married Joan, later working on such classics as Mister Ed, The Brady Bunch, All In The Family and Diff’rent Strokes. He went on to become co-creator of The Facts of Life and Silver Spoons.

Starr passed away January 19 in Los Angeles.

Classic TV Birthdays: January 22

Among those celebrating birthdays January 22: Linda Blair. The star of The Exorcist also appeared in several made-for-TV movies back in the 1970s, including Sarah T.- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic. Blair turns 55 today.

Former cop turned author Joseph Wambaugh is 77. Two of his books were adapted into 70s era cop shows: The Blue Knight and Police Story.

Character actor Seymour Cassel is 78. He guested on Batman, The FBI and The Lloyd Bridges show and remains active to this day. According to IMDB, Cassel has seven new entries on his filmography in 2014.

Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, is 80. Piper Laurie, who appeared on shows like The Naked City and Murder She Wrote, later went on to star in the offbeat series Twin Peaks. She is perhaps best known as Sissy Spacek’s mom in the original Carrie. Laurie turns 82.

Several classic TV stars who have passed away also share January 22 as a birthday: Bill Bixby (My Favorite Martian, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Magician, The Incredible Hulk), Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet, which originated in the 70s) and Ann Sothern. Sothern was a film actress who later starred in three sitcoms: Private Secretary, The Ann Sothern Show and My Mother The Car (she was the voice of the car, the reincarnated mother of Jerry Van Dyke’s character!)

Classic TV celebs who died on this day include Parker Fennelly, a character actor who is best remembered as the longtime spokesman for Pepperidge Farms. Stage and film star Ann Miller guested on Love American Style and The Love Boat.

Also passing on January 22: Telly Savalas (Kojak), who died one day after his 72nd birthday and Jean Simmons, a film star who appeared on Hawaii Five-0 and a memorable episode of The Odd Couple. She played The Princess, a visiting royal who stole the heart of sloppy Oscar Madison.

Book ‘Em Danno!

Amazon has a great deal this week on Hawaii Five-0: The Complete Series. List price is $350, it’s on sale now for $140 (a 60% discount). The next best price I could find is $215.

This box set includes 283 episodes on 72 DVDs. According to the reviews on Amazon, there is one episode missing from the second season.

The episode in question is called “Bored, She Hung Herself.” Apparently someone reenacted what they saw and died, hence the show has never aired in syndication or home video. Kinda strange they would pull the episode, given all the violence on TV and movies these days.

Since there is one episode missing, we’ll call this Hawaii Five-0: The ALMOST Complete Series. Still a great show…enjoy!

Cozi TV: The Easiest Decision You’ll Make All Day

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I’ve written earlier articles on Antenna TV and MeTV. Today I will profile another national classic TV programming service: Cozi TV.

Cozi is owned by NBCUniversal and launched as a digital subchannel on NBC owned-and-operated stations in December 2012. It replaced a local news/lifestyle format called NBC Nonstop.

Cozi now airs on approximately 40 affiliates across the country. It runs a mix of classic TV, movies and original lifestyle programming.

Some affiliates pre-empt network programming for local news, including WNBC New York which airs an hour of news from 7-8PM weeknights.

Here’s a look at the classic TV shows currently airing on Cozi TV:

Adventure/Crime Drama
The Adventures of Robin Hood, Banacek, The Bold Ones, Charlie’s Angels, I Spy, Magnum P.I. (1980s show), McCloud, McMillan & Wife, The Name of The Game, Run For Your Life, Sherlock Holmes

Comedies
The Real McCoys

Dramas
Fantasy Island, Highway To Heaven (1980s show), Lassie, Marcus Welby M.D.

Science Fiction
The Bionic Woman, One Step Beyond, The Six Million Dollar Man

Westerns
Alias Smith and Jones, The Deputy, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Maverick, The Roy Rogers Show, The Virginian

Although they don’t air a 24/7 schedule of classic TV (and movies) like MeTV and Antenna TV, Cozi offers a nice selection of vintage shows, especially dramas and westerns. For more programming info and to find an affiliate near you, visit the Cozi website.

Classic TV Birthdays: January 21

Classic TV stars celebrating birthdays today: Jill Eikenberry is 67. She starred in several made-for-TV movies in the 1970s, then later joined the cast of L.A. Law, along with real-life husband Michael Turner.

Mac Davis is 72 today. The country singer had his own variety series back in the 70s, The Mac Davis Show. Also celebrating birthdays: Audrey Dalton (guested on Wagon Train and other series) and Ann Wedgeworth, best known for her role as Lana on Three’s Company. Dalton and Wedgeworth both turn 80.

A number of classic TV stars were born January 21 but sadly are no longer with us: British comedian Benny Bill, Telly Savalas (Kojak), Ann Sheridan (Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats) and Carl Switzer (Alfalfa in the Little Rascals).

Celebrities passing on this day include Jack Lord (Stoney Burke, Hawaii Five-O), Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis Presley’s manager) and character actress Susan Strasberg. Strasberg appeared on Broadway and film, later guesting on classic TV shows like Bonanza, The FBI and The Rockford Files.