Two, four, six, seven, nine. Not prime numbers. Not factors of any particular product. These were the channels we received at my home in Boulder, Colorado back in the 1970s. When we were gifted with an Atari 2600, we knew that we had nothing but dead air on channel three to play Tank, Breakout, and more. Over the next few years, twelve and thirty-one joined that mix. It should be noted that this was a period that saw cable television becoming pervasive. More channels. More choices. Over the past forty years, that original handful became dozens. Enough for Bruce Springsteen to pen a little ditty entitled, "57 Channels and Nothin' On."
That was way back in 1992. Fifty-seven channels would be your bargain basement package for most cable systems. What? No shopping? No gardening? No garden shopping? What sort of selection is this? All those empty spaces have been filled in. Oprah's got a channel. National Geographic has a channel. Arts and Entertainment have one, and so does Science.
I remember when Science Fiction, pardon me, Sci Fi got its own spot on the dial. It was promoted with weeks of a dark, swirling void on screen, with periodic ghostly voices letting us know "it's coming for you," naming all manner of sci-fi luminaries from in front of and behind the camera. This was the most interesting thing on the channel initially, since it became a conduit for reruns of old movies and TV shows that Universal had in its vaults. Original programming came along later, as did relative success, so much so that a few years back they changed their name to SyFy and people could still find them to watch new stuff on an old channel with a new name.
And still the choices grew. Spike and Nick and at least half a dozen ESPNs. This made it more and more difficult to flip through all those stations grumbling, "There's nothing on." Truth is, there is probably too much on, making choices burdensome and tiring. What's the good news?
Esquire Network stopped broadcasting on Wednesday morning. They finished up an episode of Friday Night Tykes, and then the screen went blank, except for a message: Esquire Network has ceased operations.
One down, seven hundred fort-something to go.