Sunday, October 4, 2015





Get-TV, a SONY antenna movie network, or digi-net, has doubled-down on their Saturday Western series offerings.  In September they premiered NICHOLS, HONDO, and A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH (you can read my coverage HERE.)

On Saturday, October 3rd, they added three more Western series to their schedule: THE TALL MAN (1960-1962), WHISPERING SMITH (1961) and LAREDO (1965-1967).  While LAREDO played on Encore Westerns a few years ago, the other two have rarely been seen since their brief initial runs.  All are from Universal Studios

THE TALL MAN tells stories about Billy the Kid (Clu Gulager) and Pat Garrett (Barry Sullivan) when they were still friends (you can read some of Clu’s memories of the series – and a lot of other memories – HERE .) .   In WHISPERING SMITH, Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier of the Second World War, takes on the role of the railroad detective popularized by Alan Ladd in the 1948 Paramount feature of the same title.  Based on the Frank Spearman novel, four earlier WHISPERING SMITH films was made starting in 1916, with the character variously portrayed by H.B. Warner, J. P. McGowan and George O’Brien.  In the series, Guy Mitchell plays Smith’s right hand, George Romack.  LAREDO, sort of a GUNGA DIN out west, is the story of three Texas Rangers, played by Peter Brown, William Smith, and Neville Brand (also one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War II), plus Robert Wolders in season two (read my interview with star Robert Wolders HERE ), and their long-suffering captain, played by Philip Carey.  

Earlier this week I had the chance to talk with Jeff Meier, get-TV’s Senior Vice President of Programming, about all of the exciting recent additions to the get-TV line-up. 

Audie Murphy and Guy Mitchell in

Q: Most of the talk about ‘cord-cutters’, dropping satellite or cable service, is about people who decide to get all of their TV from the internet.  But there’s a whole other kind of cord-cutter, folks who are switching from cable back to antenna TV, and Sony’s Get-TV is a big part of that.  Why do you think it’s happening?

A: Well, the technology in the last few years has enabled the birth of a whole new group of channels, and that technology allows all the local (channels) to have the capacity to air three or four digital channels in addition to their regular feed.  Because there were already many millions of people who were just getting their television through the antenna, it created a market for these channels to develop, and it feeds upon itself.  Once you have another dozen channels available over the air, it makes people feel comfortable about using that as their main way to get entertainment.   

Q: How long have you been on the air?

A: get-TV’s been on the air since February of 2014.  So it’s been a little over a year and a half. 

Q:  I would classify you as a classic movie channel.  Initially, what audience were you aiming for? 

A:  We were looking for a classic movie audience.  We had looked at the landscape of digi-channels that had already launched, and it felt like there was a hole in the market for a classic movie channel.  And we were working at the Sony lot, and it’s something that I felt we could do really well.  We had always thought of the possibility of adding series to the channel, being generally classic across both TV and movies.  Now we’re at the beginning stages of adding some series to the mix.

Q:  Who watches – is it a rural or city audience, older or younger?

A:  Interestingly enough, our demographic information is not too extensive.  We gather a lot of our understanding of our audience by both social media, and by who writes to us.  I would imagine that our demographic is on the older side of the TV demographic.  It’s no surprise that when you’re airing classic TV and movies, the people who are most interested in that are people who experienced some of that content when they were growing up.  I wouldn’t make a guess as to whether we’re more rural or urban.  We’re carried in all of the top twenty-five markets, so we’ve got a lot of coverage in major cities.  By default, the most rural of places don’t get these stations because there’s not a local channel to carry our feed.

Q: Thus far you’ve drawn your content primarily – maybe exclusively – from the Columbia Pictures library, owned by SONY.  And you’ve had a particular focus on Westerns, both As and Bs.  Why?

A:  There’s such a passionate audience for Westerns.  When you look around the dial, whatever channels air westerns, they always get a tremendous audience.  So I knew there was a hunger there.  And I knew we had the potential to explore some Westerns that don’t get seen as often.  Since the very beginning of the channel we’ve been airing the Durango Kid movies, the Tim McCoys.  And those movies are a little bit on the older side, so they’re not the every-day fare of most of the channels that are airing Western content.  It felt like we could offer something new to an audience that was really hungry.  And that’s proven to be the case; we get a lot of great response about all of the Westerns that we air.

Q: How should viewers communicate with you, if they want to get in touch to say they’re enjoying something?

A: If you go to the get-TV website, on the bottom of the home page, there’s a section called ‘contact us.’  You can get in touch that way, if you want to reach us directly.  And on Facebook you can go to the get-TV page, like us there, and join that community – we have a very strong social media community, and we’re always looking to see what people say there.  And you can also engage with other viewers about the channel, and share your opinion.

Q: You’ve introduced an exciting new Saturday Line-up, Saturday Showdown, featuring NICHOLS, HONDO and A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH.  And now you’re adding three more: LAREDO, THE TALL MAN, and WHISPERING SMITH.  Why did you choose these particular shows?

A:  I had both an overall goal and some specific goals.  I’m really interested in the whole area of how popular culture gets passed down from generation to generation.  It often seems like only a few big hits ever make it through the clutter.  Whether that’s a few big Beatles songs that make it through the clutter of music, or whether it’s things like BONANAZA and GUNSMOKE – they’ve made it through the clutter of Westerns, and they’ll be here forever; and those are great.  But there’s a lot of other really good stuff out there, and nobody’s let it see the light of day.  And I really think that there’s a lot of rabid interest, particularly in the Western content arena, and I thought that (viewers) deserved to have a few more options.

Then with each of the specific shows, there were different things that sold me on them.  In some cases it was star power: you can’t go wrong with James Garner in almost anything he does – he’s just wonderful.  So NICHOLS was important to me for that reason.  Others of the shows, because these are the first series we’re putting on the air after being primarily a movie channel, I wanted to have connection to movies.  HONDO is based off a movie; WHISPERING SMITH is based off a movie.  And WHISPERING SMITH stars Audie Murphy, who has been in a ton of movies, so I liked that connection.

Q: I suspect you’re going to be introducing Audie Murphy to a lot of people, because although he was a very big star in his day, his movies are very rarely shown.

A:  We’ve actually had some experience with Audie Murphy, because at one of the other channels we work on here at Sony, The Sony Movie Channel, we’ve aired a bunch of Audie Murphy movies, and they do really, really well for us, so I already knew he had that potential.  Frankly I hadn’t known he’d done a series, and when I discovered that he had, I crossed my fingers that it would look good, that we could get the materials, that we thought it would be a good hit for the channel.  And we were really happy that we could get it.  I was really interested in LAREDO because there are not that many Westerns series in color from those later years of the Western.  It’s important to me to have a mix of black and white and color on the channel, and this series has a sense of humor, and was well-regarded.  For all of the series we looked through information on-line that fans had written.  And we watched them and we tried to figure out which held up over time, and these all made the cut.  It’s an interesting mix, and it’s one that we expect in the future to be folding new series in on.  Viewers, if they have some particular favorites, they can use that contact information.  We’d love to hear their ideas of what they’d like to see, that they haven’t seen in a long time.

Clu Gulager, center, Barry Sullivan, right,

Q: What in particular attracted you to THE TALL MAN?

A: What I liked about TALL MAN was it’s Billy the Kid and sheriff Pat Garrett.  And even though it’s a series people have forgotten about, they’re iconic Western characters that people can still tap into now.  It provides an entry point that isn’t obscure, and allows Western fans of today to have a context with which to watch the show.   It’s a different take on that relationship.  And on A MAN CALLED SHENANDOAH, Robert Horton is from WAGON TRAIN, so he’s an established Western star.  This show didn’t fit a lot of my other parameters: it wasn’t based on a movie, it wasn’t in color, it wasn’t with a movie star.  But we watched it, and we just thought it felt like such a quintessential Western story that we couldn’t not try it out.  It also has a lot of great guest stars, and a great creative pedigree, and felt like it would be a fun show to watch.

Q: Does the smaller number of episodes in these series concern you?

LAREDO stars William Smith, Peter Brown,
and Neville Brand

A: No actually.  Because we’re airing our Saturday Showdown once a week, having a smaller number of episodes is fine.  If we were trying to air these episodes Monday through Friday for two years running, then I think they’d burn out pretty quickly.  But in the context of how we’re using them, I think they’ll be just fine.  And we hope to refresh the line-up and mix it up from time to time, too, so I think it’s just the right number of episodes.

Q: With adding these series, with adding THE JUDY GARLAND SHOW and THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW, are you redefining get-TV away from being a ‘movie channel’?

A: I think we are trying to redefine it a little, to be a channel that runs classics, and the classics can be classic movies or TV, but in no way are we going away from the core of being a classic movie channel.  Later this month we’re working with the Bogart Film Festival in Florida.  We’re always trying to figure out some classic movies we could help preserve, or premiere again.  And that remains very important to us.  We just wanted to add the extra elements and see how it goes.

Q: Did you grow up watching westerns?  Did you have favorites as a kid?

A: I’m probably too young for the core era of the Western.  I very specifically remember watching BRET MAVERICK, which was a sequel to MAVERICK, probably in the early ‘80s, with my father, who was always a James Garner fan – I remember that very vividly.  And we also watched a year-long mini-series called CENTENNIAL (1978-79), based off of the James Michener book.  I would say that was my first really big experience with an epic Western, and I thought that was a phenomenal show.  But like I was telling somebody yesterday, I’m from the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE era of Michael Landon, not the BONANZA era of Michael Landon.

Q:  The kinder, gentler Landon.  What are your favorite western features?

A:  Oh gosh, it’s too hard for me to pick.  The most famous, classic ones, I fall in line with those:  HIGH NOON, SHANE, some of the big John Wayne ones.  Not an atypical general fan kind of point of view.   I have people here on my team who help us program all this, who are more specialists in Westerns than I am.

Q: What was your first job in television?

A:  I was an assistant in the scheduling department at Comedy Central before it was Comedy Central, when it was Comedy Channel in New York. 

Q: Are you a New Yorker?  I’m a Brooklyn boy myself.

A: I actually grew up in southern New Jersey, near Philadelphia.

Q: Anything else I should know?

A:  We’ll have more shows on the way, and more movies on the way.  And I hope people keep on watching, and let us know what they like.

Here’s the Saturday Showdown line-up:

2 & 3:15 p.m. – LAREDO
4:30 p.m. – HONDO
5:45 p.m. – NICHOLS

You’ll notice that the half-hour shows are in 40-minute slots, and the hour shows are in 75 minute slots.  That’s because the episodes are being show with commercials, but uncut.


As part of the Beyond Fest the much-anticipated new Western with horror overtones (if you consider cannibalism horrible), BONE TOMAHAWK, written and directed by Craig Zahler, and starring Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Sean Young, Matthew Fox and many other notables, will play at 7:30 pm at Hollywood’s famed Egyptian Theatre.  Director Zahler and star Matthew Fox will attend.  For more information, go HERE.  

On October 23rd, the limited national release will begin. 


WESTERN RELIGION, James O’Briens’s exuberant Western fable about a gathering of high-rollers for a legendary poker tournament, kicks off its national release with a private red-carpet opening on Friday, Oct. 9th, followed by six days of screenings at the Arena Cinema in Hollywood, at 1625 North Las Palmas Ave., 90028.  It will also play dates in Austin, Iowa City and New York City.  Go HERE to buy tickets.   .  Go HERE  to read my review, and interview with James O’Brien.  Go HERE here to read about my on-set adventures: 


Thanks to author and ‘Dances With Wolves’ soldier Bill Markley for passing this on to me!  Recently I wrote that the historic TRIPLE U RANCH, location for much of ‘Wolves’ was up for sale.  Good news: it has been bought by the man who created Turner Classic Movies, Ted Turner.  Details HERE.  


Angie Dickinson & John Wayne in RIO BRAVO

I’ll be at the openings for BONE TOMAHAWK and WESTERN RELIGION this week, and report back.  And hopefully I’ll have part two of my SILVER SPURS coverage in the next Round-up.  And speaking of the Spurs, Wednesday was the 84th birthday of Angie Dickinson.  At the Spurs I had the chance to interview the talented and beautiful actress about her work on GUNSMOKE, RIO BRAVO and her other Westerns, and she could not have been more charming and funny.

And Monday was the 81st birthday of Brigitte Bardot, a fine actress and eye-popping delight in VIVA MARIA, SHALAKO and FRENCHIE KING, and a lifelong advocate for the protection of animals!

And Friday would have been the birthday of the great singing cowboy, actor, filmmaker, sports lover, visionary Gene Autry!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright October 2015 by Parke – All Rights Reserved

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