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On the edge of Aquarius, I'm living on the edge
July 20, 2005 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession. In the late 1970s to the end of the 1980s, LA's Z Channel was a pay-TV cable channel that would play loads of esoteric films. It'd been credited with starting the trend of "director's cuts", bringing passed-over directors and films to the public's attention, and in some cases, was directly responsible for Oscar Nominations -- and was basically the work of one man, Jerry Harvey. Unfortunately, Z Channel folded shortly after Jerry Harvey killed his wife and then himself. Xan Cassavetes' film tells the story of Jerry Harvey and Z Channel through interviews with filmmakers and those involved, including an archival interview with Harvey himself.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Ah, I just taped it on IFC the other day but haven't watched it yet. Cool set of links.

When I was a kid in the late 70s I remember getting something called ON tv. It was a giant cable box that got one channel, the ON tv channel. If I remember correctly, it only played content from 5 or 6 pm until 11 or midnight, too. Like two movies and that was it for $20 a month. It wasn't until 1983 or 84 that multichannel cable came to my neighborhood.
posted by mathowie at 5:42 PM on July 20, 2005


I caught this last night -- my SO got it via NetFlix (I guess they've got a special deal to rent this one since it's not out on DVD otherwise), and loved it -- it's really well done. In one of the interviews, she mentions a 5 hour cut -- I'm not sure if I could watch all of that, but I could have certainly seen a bit more. It's really intersting, but then again, I'm a complete media junkie, particularly film and TV. (I am a person who, growing up, would pretend to have a TV station, so in a way, this is like someone living my fantasy... erm, save the end bit.)

Anyway, though -- it was a really impressive documentary, although they didn't show any footage from Z Channel itself, which I thought was odd, but presumably rights issues got in the way. It's actually surprisingly hard to find anything on Z Channel that's not about the film. Pretty much everything I could find is in there.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:56 PM on July 20, 2005


Tangentially... in my neighborhood, OnTV wasn't cable at all. It was broadcast over the normal airwaves (UHF), but scrambled like pay cable channels. You still had to have a decoder box. Didn't last too long after cable started making inroads!
posted by xil at 6:52 PM on July 20, 2005


I saw this recently, it's very good. Being from the east coat and slightly too young to know much of a world before HBO, I'd never heard of Z Channel. It's pretty odd to imagine that there was a time when directors who couldn't get wide distribution were basically stuck without a venue for their work until Z Channel and its ilk came along.

One of the films mentioned in the doc that I'd love to see is Overlord. Anyone seen it and care to offer some thoughts?
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:14 PM on July 20, 2005


There's an interview with Xan Cassavettes about the documentary here.
posted by rdr at 7:47 PM on July 20, 2005


I grew up in LA. We didn't have cable - but my rich friends had Z Channel cable boxes - there were like 26 channels. It was killer.
posted by commonmedia at 10:35 PM on July 20, 2005


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