Memories of WPIX Channel 11

WPIX, local affiliate TV station. Before the disappearance of individual, regional flavor, during my youth on the east coast, this station was king. They aired movies like Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science, Critters, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, and, apparently, The Octagon.

They broadcast local sports games and were “the home of the Yankees,” a contract that they must have fought hard to win. They played syndicated shows, gaining a similar coup in winning the right to air Seinfeld. Now, Seinfeld is on multiple stations in every television market, but there was no such saturation at the time. In 1990s New York, only Seinfeld (even in syndication) could outrank all network news in the ratings.

I think my favorite part of their programming was the 24 hour marathons, on New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July, of The Twilight Zone or The Honeymooners. Later, they also started doing marathons of Star Trek (The Original Series).

WPIX may not have originated all of these wonderful things. Most have certainly been replicated by now on other channels. One thing they did invent is the yule log. (People who did not grow up with it may recognize a similar
from Beavis & Butt-head.)

TV-PIXxx games ended in 1982, and my family moved to the WPIX broadcast area in 1985, so I never got to experience the games firsthand. But I cannot think of anything more exciting for a sugar cereal fueled TV nut kid in the late 70s and early 80s. The games were part of a franchised system called “TV POWWW”, which was based on Channel F and Intellivision consoles. Brits might claim their TVs had games with Teletext, but how can those boring quizzes compare with this?

WPIX rebranded the games as TV-PIXxx and marketed them very successfully. A postcard sent to the station was your chance to get the phone call to let you play. While watching the screen, players had to shout “PIX!” into the phone to fire shots. The games were played four times a day on afternoons between kids’ shows. There were prizes like “11 Alive!” t-shirts, savings bonds, and movie tickets.

Another exciting thing commonly seen on WPIX was commercials for Crazy Eddie.

Discount electronics was a magical, impossible concept. But here was this guy surrounded by all manner of wonderful devices, hollering about low prices. It seemed like such an adult thing, but there it was, right in the middle of Saturday morning cartoons. Crazy Eddie escalated the wild pitchman from the carnival midway and sidewalk stand to television, much like The Dick Van Dyke Show brought borscht-belt humor and vaudeville stage performances.

Since it is October, I’d like to close out with some October movie themes. Chiller Theatre was originally used from 1961 to 1982 and has been undergone multiple revivals.

But the theme when I was growing up was Shocktober. I would like to thank forum poster Mr. Sweet for reminding me about it.