Man, I could lose days browsing this site, Network Awesome. The site editors pour through YouTube finding the best retro videos that bring me back to my prime video viewing years as a teenager and young adult in the 1980s and early 90s.
Home video and cable television were just becoming mainstream in those days. Cable-only channels were a relatively new phenomenon, as were premium channels like HBO and Showtime. Commercial basic cable channels were low-budget affairs, desperate to fill a 24-hour programming grid in the days before infomercials became the default late night program stream. The boom in home video also meant that video stores were similarly desperate to fill their shelves with content to supplement limited supplies of expensive Hollywood blockbusters.
What this all added up to was a goldmine of b-, c-, d- and f-movie grade schlock pushed onto our screens. The kind of stuff a teenager with a VCR and cable just eats up. But also amid all the low budget dreck was the truly experimental and weird. To programmers and buyers it kind of didn’t matter as long as it was cheap.
Thanks to the widespread bending of copyright laws and YouTube much of these riches have been mined and uploaded to the interwebs. The problems for middle-aged geeks like me is sorting through the videos of cats, backyard wrestling and other truly low-effort detritus to find the real gems. That’s where a good curator like Network Awesome comes in.
Copping an early 80s aesthetic for its bumpers, “station IDs” and title intros, Network Awesome feels like watching Night Flight or late night HBO in 1982. The short programs, culled from YouTube, feature everything from old Space Ghost Coast to Coast episodes to trailers for awesomely bad and weird movies.
Going to the site is truly like tuning in a fantastic underground cable channel, because the videos just start up in a program stream, just as if you’d tuned in a TV channel. Nothing is started in progress, and you can jump around. But it’s better to experience it as a video mix tape, enjoying the short Network Awesome teasers, promos and bumpers sprinkled interstitially.
Complementing the TV channel is a magazine that I’ve only started to check out, featuring essays considering the programs and themes found on the video stream. Network Awesome is definitely one of those sites that is so well conceived and executed that I really wished I’d thought of it first.