Memories of WPIX Channel 11

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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
program
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.


14 Responses to Memories of WPIX Channel 11

  1. The Retroist says:

    It really was a well run local station. I have only positive memories of it. In fact, when I finally did get my first personal TV one of the channels I was relieved to be able to tune into was WPIX.

  2. Carole says:

    My love for Channel 11 WPIX is endless. I grew up in NY and watched eagerly as child after child yelled PIX into the telephone. My sister’s and I would yell at them, “YOU SAID IT TOO SOON” or “YOU SAID IT TOO LATE”. And the yule log was a Christmas morning favorite. *sigh*

  3. Carole says:

    Almost forgot….MAGIC GARDEN!!!!! Sherlock, the joke sharing daisy patch, Carol and Paula, the storybox. I also remember Time for Joya. A kids school program. I don’t remember much about that one though.

  4. Mr. Sweet says:

    “Phil Rizzuto here for The Money Store!” I love all things retro, but the old WPIX is one of those things for me, personally, where the nostalgia hits so strongly and is so palpable that actually I feel it well up in my chest. The bumpers/commercials, the programming, Ralph Lowenstein’s voice, everything.

  5. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Terrific article, shakin steak!
    We weren’t lucky enough to get WPIX around here (though we’re just miles from the border), but it takes me back to a time where our local stations had individuality and personality.

    The phone-in video game contest is genius!

    And also, I now wanna watch The Octagon.
    With original commercial breaks.

  6. The Retroist says:

    I loved Magic Garden, I watched it with an attentiveness that would later be described by my Mother (when I was an adult) as “insane”.

  7. manny says:

    I loved WPIX and the MAGIC GARDEN was one of my favorite shows. Had a crush on Carol, the one with the pigtails and brown suede vest. They also used to air a lot of WOODSY OWL commercials as well as YOUNG PEOPLES DAY CAMP which I always dreamed of going to but my mother couldn’t afford. Anyone remember that?

    Much later it was the home for some of my favorite cartoons like G.I.JOE and VOLTRON.

  8. Awesome article about a huge part of my childhood!

  9. Wow.
    GREAT post.
    Brought back great memories and I had COMPLETELY forgotten about TV Pixx! Holy cow. Totally forgot. So thank you for that feeling of “Ohhhhhh YEAH RIGHT! I totally forgot that!”

    And, of course, a big smile on my face for the Shocktober promo.

  10. Fantastic! So many memories.

  11. My favorite promo was the big Hollywood dance number, although I suppose today it would be hard to use the Twin Towers as a huge 11.

    We lost the station when CT insisted cable companies focus on local channels. Yet for some reason we get the NY NBC channel as well as CT’s.

  12. JTD says:

    Back in the 1970′s (11) RULED!

    Saturday nights alone was Chiller with all those great SF/Horror flicks which made me the person I am today!

    Star Trek was Heavily syndicated on (11), particularly Saturdays… 4, 5, 6 PM whenever. We also got Space: 1999 during the mid-70s here. It was my source for SF series…

    Sunday mornings/early afternoons they ran back to back Abbott and Costello movies, too.

    (11) had everything!

  13. logan says:

    Growing up in the Bronx during the 70s, I have fond memories of watching the Yankees (77, 78 series), Chiller Theatre, Abbott and Costello, The Bowery Boys, Space 1999, F-Troop, The Honeymooners, and much more on WPIX. I remember always thinking their 11 logo was for the world trade center buildings. Thanks for the trip back!!

  14. Shaun F says:

    Does anyone remember this show called “2nd Generation” in the early 90′s ?
    It was a show that played music videos mostly Freestyle and HipHop.
    They used to give it on saturdays around noon/1pm or 2pm on Pix11.
    Are there any clips of that show online somewhere ?

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