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8 Very Short-Lived TV Channels

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While some cable networks like HBO are approaching their 40th birthdays, other channels came and went so fast that you may have never accidentally discovered them by pressing the wrong button on your remote. Here are eight channels that until now had been mostly forgotten.

1. CABLE MUSIC CHANNEL (OCTOBER 26, 1984 - NOVEMBER 30, 1984)

As a way to get into the emerging 24-hour music television business, on October 26, 1984, Ted Turner launched the Cable Music Channel, which was marketed as a more wholesome alternative to the "satanic" MTV. MTV countered with the announcement of an upcoming sister network that would play the same innocent, adult contemporary, MOR music that filled up the Cable Music Channel's playlist: Video Hits 1. Turner also had trouble getting the rights to popular videos because MTV allegedly put pressure on musicians to adhere to an exclusivity agreement. When cable operators weren't putting CMC on their systems, Turner gave up and sold his brand-new channel to MTV for $1 million, just 34 days after it launched. Cable Music Channel signed off permanently the very next day.

2. SATELLITE NEWS CHANNEL (JUNE 21, 1982 - OCTOBER 27, 1983)

It was notable that Ted Turner, known in the early '80s as "The Mouth of the South," had failed in attempting to create a new network to compete with—and copy—an existing network that had a specific format all to itself, because he had been on the other side of things just two years earlier. After CNN surprised most media experts by being a 24 hour news channel that people actually watched, ABC and Westinghouse combined to create the Satellite News Channel, an around-the-clock news network of their own. SNC's hook was that the news would be updated every 18 minutes. Once he had discovered ABC and Westinghouse's intentions, Turner quickly launched CNN2 on January 1, 1982, more than five months ahead of SNC's debut. CNN2 updated its news every 30 minutes; it would eventually be renamed CNN Headline News. Satellite News Channel couldn't manage to get on enough cable systems, whose operators figured one to two news networks were enough to begin with, and folded after 15 months.

3. THE OVERMYER NETWORK (MAY 1, 1967 - JUNE 1, 1967)

Warehousing mogul Daniel H. Overmyer got his start in television in 1966 when he created WDHO-TV Channel 24 in Toledo, Ohio (the call letters are Overmyer's initials). After acquiring five other UHF stations, Overmyer tried to use those and other willing potential affiliates to create a fourth major television network just one year later to rival CBS, NBC, and ABC, attempting to succeed where the DuMont Network had failed after ten years of broadcasting in 1956. Even though he employed former ABC president Oliver Treyz, and the broadcasting rights to the new Continental Football League (defunct as of 1969), he quickly got into money troubles before the intended launch. Eleven businessmen purchased a majority share of the network, renamed it the United Network, then watched its single program, a two-hour late night show called The Las Vegas Show, fail to make it a profitable investment. The prospect of a $400,000 AT&T bill for the June lease on telephone lines led to the cancellation of both the show and Overmyer's dream.

4. HAWKVISION (OCTOBER 1992- APRIL 1993)

Under the belief that it "wasn't fair to season ticket holders," and because he felt that it was ultimately costing him money, Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz decided after the 1992-93 NHL season that his franchise would be the only one out of the four major American sports to purposely not have its home games televised. This decision came after the headstrong, unpopular owner canceled all traditional broadcasting offers and offered Hawkvision, a pay cable service. Hawkvision existed for the sole purpose of televising Blackhawks games played at Chicago Stadium to fans' living rooms for a fee. When that proved to not be profitable after one season, Wirtz refused all television offers for the remainder of his life. After his passing in 2007, the home blackouts were finally lifted.

5. THE PUPPY CHANNEL (1997- 2001)

Created by a retired advertising executive who was tired of watching the O.J. Simpson trial and the daytime TV alternatives, The Puppy Channel was a 24/7 network that showed nothing but puppies doing puppy things, accompanied by light instrumental music. It lasted four years and was on just as many cable systems, ending in 2001 when the entirety of the internet was beginning to provide all of the cute animal content that would ever be necessary. The Puppy Channel returned on said internet in 2008. DogTV launched in 2012 as a 24/7 channel with sound, colors, and camera angles attempting to appeal to dogs themselves.

6. THE COMEDY CHANNEL (NOVEMBER 15, 1989 - APRIL 1, 1991) / HA! (APRIL 1, 1990 - APRIL 1, 1991)

Both Time Warner/HBO and Viacom wanted to bring more laughter into the world, but their noble deeds were thwarted by the fact that they both attempted to do it at roughly the same time. HBO's The Comedy Channel launched first, with shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Higgins Boys and Gruber and a Jon Stewart-hosted Short Attention Span Theater that combined bits and sketches with clips from old movies, TV shows, and stand-up. Viacom's Ha! premiered on April Fools Day 1990 with a couple of original sketch shows (The Unnaturals, Random Acts of Variety) and a game show (Clash!), but mostly relied on reruns of SNL, sitcom classics like I Love Lucy and The Phil Silvers Show, and sitcoms meant to be forgotten (All is Forgiven? Occasional Wife?). Because some cable providers didn't want to choose sides between the two powerful companies, in some cases they ended up not adding either channel to their lineup. As a result, viewership numbers were disappointing to both media conglomerates. Even though there was a $2.4 billion antitrust suit ongoing between the two, Time Warner and Viacom merged their two comedy channels together to form Comedy TV. By Comedy TV's April Fools Day 1991 relaunch it was rechristened as CTV: The Comedy Channel. Two months later on June 1st, it was Comedy Central.

7. CBS CABLE (OCTOBER 12, 1981 - DECEMBER 17, 1982)

CBS founder William Paley oversaw the creation of CBS Cable, the network's first foray into the then relatively new and unfamiliar land of cable. A reported $10 million was initially spent on the channel, which produced several of its own highbrow, cultured programs that focused on classical music, drama, films, jazz, and interviews with artists of those walks of life, as well as a quiz show with kid contestants hosted by Norman Lear. CBS Cable continued to create 60 percent of its own daily schedule every day until its last, when it presented a new production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. Paley was forced to shut the channel down because Bravo and ABC/Hearst's Alpha Repertory Television Service (ARTS), which later became A&E, took a sizable chunk of CBS Cable's desired demographic.

8. AMERICA'S TALKING (JULY 4, 1994 - JULY 15, 1996)

From the mind of CNBC president and chief executive Roger Ailes came the 24 hour talk show channel America's Talking. Ailes himself hosted a celebrity interview show on the channel called Straight Forward. A psychologist and behavioral therapist co-hosted the program Am I Nuts?. Break a Leg was hosted by contest winner Bill McCuddy. The morning show, America's Talking A.M., was co-anchored by Steve Doocy, one of a few America's Talking personalities that followed Roger Ailes when he left the company in 1996 to help Rupert Murdoch start the Fox News Channel. Ailes' departure, low ratings, and a partnership with Microsoft led to America's Talking taking a permanent vow of silence, paving the way for MSNBC. The lone America's Talking show to survive the change was Politics with Chris Matthews. Also surviving, in the form of a YouTube supercut, is Tony "The Prodigy Guy" Morelli, the man who was tasked to read selected posts from the Prodigy America's Talking bulletin board out loud during A.M. and Am I Nuts?:

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Warner Bros.
19 Shadowy Facts About Tim Burton's Batman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are bigger than they’ve ever been before, but we arguably wouldn’t be here at all without 1989’s Batman. Produced at a time before comic book movies were considered big business, Tim Burton’s dark look at a superhero then best known for a goofy TV show is a pop culture landmark, and the story of how it was made is almost as interesting as the film itself. So, to celebrate Batman—which was released on this day in 1989—here are 19 facts about how it came to the screen.

1. AN EARLY MOVIE IDEA RELIED ON THE CAMPINESS OF THE CHARACTER.

As development of a Batman movie began, studio executives were still very tied to the campiness embodied by the Batman television series of the 1960s. According to executive producer Michael Uslan, when he first began attempting to get the rights to make a film, he was told that the only studio who’d expressed interest was CBS, and only if they could do a Batman In Outer Space film.

2. IT TOOK 10 YEARS TO MAKE.

Uslan lobbied hard for the rights to Batman, and finally landed them in 1979. At that point, the fight to convince a studio to make the film ensued, and everyone from Columbia Pictures to Universal Pictures turned it down. When Warner Bros. finally agreed to back the film, the issue of developing the right script had to be settled, and that took even more time. In 1989, after years of battling, Batman was finally released, and Uslan has been involved in some form in every Batman film since.

3. AN EARLY SCRIPT FEATURED BOTH THE PENGUIN AND ROBIN.

When Uslan finally got the chance to develop the film, he drafted legendary screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a consultant on Superman, to write the script. The Mankiewicz script included The Joker, corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, a much greater focus on Bruce Wayne’s origin story, The Penguin, and the arrival of Robin late in the film. The script was ultimately scrapped, but you can see certain elements of it in Batman Returns.

4. TIM BURTON WASN’T THE FIRST POTENTIAL DIRECTOR.

Though Warner Bros. ultimately chose Tim Burton to helm Batman, over the course of the film’s development a number of other choices emerged. At various points on the road to Batman, everyone from Gremlins director Joe Dante to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was in line for the gig.

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.

The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

6. TIM BURTON HAD TO FIGHT TO CAST MICHAEL KEATON.

At the time, Michael Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in films like Mr. Mom and Night Shift, so the thought of casting him as a vigilante of the night seemed odd to many. Michael Uslan remembers thinking a prank was being played on him when he heard Keaton’s name pop up. Burton, who’d already worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, was convinced that Keaton was right for the role, not just because he could portray the obsessive nature of the character, but because he also felt that Keaton was the kind of actor who would need to dress up as a bat in order to scare criminals, while a typical action star would just garner “unintentional laughs” in the suit. Burton ultimately won the argument, and Keaton got an iconic role for two films.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.

From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

8. TIM BURTON WON JACK NICHOLSON OVER WITH HORSEBACK RIDING.

When Nicholson was asked to discuss playing The Joker, he invited Burton and producer Peter Guber to visit him in Aspen for some horseback riding. When Burton learned that was what they’d be doing, he told Guber “I don’t ride,” to which Guber replied “You do today!” So, a “terrified” Burton got on a horse and rode alongside Nicholson, and the star ultimately agreed to play the Clown Prince of Crime.

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.

Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role. 

10. SEAN YOUNG WAS THE ORIGINAL VICKI VALE.

Burton initially cast Blade Runner star Sean Young as acclaimed photographer Vicki Vale, who would become Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Young was part of the pre-production process on Batman for several weeks until, while practicing horseback riding for a scene that was ultimately cut, she fell from her horse and was seriously injured. With just a week to go until shooting, producers had to act fast to find a replacement, and decided on Kim Basinger, who essentially joined the production overnight.

11. TIM BURTON WASN’T OFFICIALLY HIRED UNTIL BEETLEJUICE BECAME A HIT.

Though he was basically already a part of the production, Burton wasn’t officially the director of Batman right away. Warner Bros. showed interest in him working on the film after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but according to Burton they only officially hired him after the first weekend grosses for Beetlejuice came in.

“They were just waiting to see how Beetlejuice did,” Burton said. “They didn’t want to give me that movie unless Beetlejuice was going to be okay. They wouldn’t say that, but that was really the way it was.”

12. DANNY ELFMAN THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE FIRED UNTIL HE PLAYED THE MAIN THEME.

Danny Elfman is now considered one of our great movie composers, but at the time Batman was released he didn’t have any blockbuster credits to his name. He recalls meeting with Burton (with whom he had worked on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and producer Jon Peters to go over some of the music he’d already written for the film, and feeling “a lot of skepticism” over whether he should be the composer for Batman. It wasn’t until Burton said “Play the march,” and Elfman went into what would become the opening credits theme for the film, that he won Peters over.

“Jon jumped out of his chair, really just almost started dancing around the room,” Elfman said.

13. THE JOKER WASN’T ALWAYS GOING TO KILL BATMAN’S PARENTS.

In the final film, The Joker (then named Jack Napier) is revealed to be the gangster who guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents in the streets of Gotham City. It’s a twist that some comic book fans still dislike, and according to screenwriter Sam Hamm, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

“That was something that Tim had wanted from early on, and I had a bunch of arguments with him and wound up talking him out of it for as long as I was on the script. But, once the script went into production, there was a writer’s strike underway, and so I wasn’t able to be with the production as it was shooting over in London, and they brought in other people.”

Hamm also emphasizes that it was also not his idea to show Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

14. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WAS WRITTEN MIDWAY THROUGH SHOOTING.

Though much of the film is still derived from Hamm’s script, rewrites continued to happen during shooting, and one of them involved the final confrontation between Batman and The Joker in a Gotham City clock tower. According to co-star Robert Wuhl, the climax was inspired by Jack Nicholson and Jon Peters, who went to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera midway through filming and watched as the Phantom made his final stand in a tower. Together, they somehow determined that a final fight in the tower was what Batman needed.

“The next day, they started writing that scene … the whole ending in the tower,” Wuhl said.

15. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN MOVEMENTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE COSTUME.

Batman fans still love to make jokes about the original costume, and Michael Keaton’s inability to turn his head (there’s even a dig at that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), but the restrictions of the costume actually inspired how Keaton performed as the Dark Knight. In 2014, Keaton revealed that his performance as Batman was heavily influenced by a moment when, while trying to actually turn his head in the suit, he ended up ripping it.

“It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big f***ing hole over here,” he said. “So I go, well, I've got to get around that, because we've got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, 'You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!’”

“I'm feeling really scared, and then it hit me—I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect! This is perfect.' I mean, this is, like, designed for this kind of really unusual dude, the Bruce Wayne guy, the guy who has this other personality that's really dark and really alone, and really kind of depressed. This is it.”

16. GOTHAM CITY WAS REAL, AND IT WAS EXPENSIVE.

Production designer Anton Furst put a lot of work into the incredibly influential designs for the film’s version of Gotham City, and the production was committed to making them pay off. The production ultimately spent more than $5 million to transform the backlot of London’s Pinewood Studios into Gotham City, and you can see the dedication to practical effects work in the final film.

17. PRINCE WAS PART OF THE PRODUCTION EVEN BEFORE HE JOINED IT.

Batman famously features original songs by Prince, who wrote so much new material for the production that he basically produced a full album. Even before the Purple One was drafted to write for the film, though, he was influencing it. Burton played Prince songs on set during the parade sequence and the Joker’s rampage through the museum.

18. THE FILM’S MARKETING WAS SO EFFECTIVE THAT IT INSPIRED CRIMES.

By the time Batman was actually on its way to release, it was becoming a phenomenon, and the marketing for the film was inspiring a frenzy among fans. People were buying tickets to other films just to see the first trailer, and selling bootleg copies of the early footage. The poster, featuring the iconic logo, was so popular that, according to Uslan, people were breaking into bus stations just to steal it.

19. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE LANDMARK.

Though studio executives resisted the idea of a “dark” Batman movie for years, the film ultimately set a new standard for box office success. It was the first film to ever hit $100 million in 10 days, the biggest film in Warner Bros.’ history at the time, and the box office’s biggest earner of 1989—and that’s not even counting the massive toy and merchandising sales it generated.

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