SHOCKTOBER: New York's movie station, and the voice that came with it
October 1, 2019 11:50 AM   Subscribe

If you were a kid in New York City's broadcast area during the late 80s and early 90s, you may recall WPIX, or simply "Channel 11". A subsidiary of Tribune Media (which also owned the New York Daily News) since it's founding in the late 40s, WPIX resisted joining the major networks for a while and instead positioned itself as a home for local programming and movies shown during primetime nearly every night. Many years later, the network -- now Warner-Brothers-affiliated and called Pix11 -- were constantly fielding requests for one single movie promo...

Much like the Thunderbird photo or the unknown sitcom's paint roller, viewers who'd grown up in the early 90s remembered a promo for Raiders of the Lost Ark, where a resounding voiceover actor who'd become familiar in our ears sang along with John William's classic score, with made-up lyrics that underscored the action and humor of the film. But if everyone in the region remembered the promo's existence, why couldn't anyone find the video?

It took years of pleading for the network to dive into the archives, but in 2015 they eventually found their Holy Grail: A catchy 30-second jingle, sung with great gusto by veteran VO artist Doug Paul.

But the Raiders promo wasn't Mr. Paul's only contribution. He had been THE voice of Channel 11's movie promos and interstitials since the late 80s. Starting in 1991, veteran copywriter/producer Janet Muniz had used him in WPIX's locally-famous "SHOCKTOBER" promos to promote a slate of horror/fanstasy/sci-fi movies that WPIX would show every weeknight in October. The promos -- rather avant-garde for television -- proved popular enough for Muniz to bring back the idea in 1992.

In 1993, Muniz moved to a different branch of Tribune, and was part of the advertising team that made Xena: Warrior Princess the most successful syndicated program since Star Trek. Doug Paul and his wife purchased and moved to 184 acres in Georgia in 1995 and started one of the first successful vineyards of the region, but even on his estate he maintained a voice-over studio for rent, which he himself used to become the official voice of Jos. A. Banks television campaign while also making promos for Peachtree TV and GRIT TV. He lived there until his passing in 2017. More samples of the work he was proud of can be found on Doug Paul's Facebook page, which remains available.

Happy Shocktober 2019.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta (30 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I think I vaguely remember this but at the time singing made-up lyrics to existing melodies was normal (Loony Toons, Animaniacs, etc.) so I guess I didn't think anything of it. I wasn't Extremely Online enough yet to get the humor.
posted by bleep at 11:57 AM on October 1, 2019

I just realized that the Pix11 article that announces they found the clip also stupidly crops the video into a 16:9 ratio even though that wasn't the original. I don't want the link removed, but fortunately their YouTube version of the same video uses the proper ratio.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 12:05 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Same, bleep, but also it seems so much less likely a local station would do this now so it's more shocking in retrospect?
posted by smelendez at 1:12 PM on October 1, 2019

Much like the Thunderbird photo

Wait, what? This doesn't exist?

Dinosaur Home has a collection of fake 19th century pterodactyl images, and Photo #3 is close to what I remember, but it's still not right. This hazy thing is the closest to my memory.

Back to this post -- hurrah for a shared memory being actually discovered (sort of like the paint roller :))!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on October 1, 2019

I would be remiss at a mention of WPIX if I did not make reference to their call-in video game game.

Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix Pix

I think I just won a gift certificate to Carvel.
posted by jonathanhughes at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2019 [19 favorites]

Didn't they used to carry the Yankee games?
posted by Chrysostom at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm pretty sure The Yankees were on 11 and The Mets were on WOR 9.
posted by octothorpe at 1:46 PM on October 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

If it weren’t for WPIX and Buster Olney’s daily columns in the NYTimes (and Joe Torre’s managing) I never would have started following baseball.
I had a stupid little black and white tv and watched almost every game, because it was easy. The later turn to cable and the hyper-monetizing of the whole thing was a pretty big turn off, but it really made me a fan of baseball.
This is a great post, even for those of us who were already grown up in the 90’s and got to experience the city in all its fucked up ... I wanna say glory but really it was just a fucking misery.
A big part of that, though, was definitely watching channel 11.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:39 PM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

What’s your opinion? We’d like to know.
posted by dr_dank at 3:11 PM on October 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

I feel like WPIX, on channel 11, should have been WPXI.
posted by Merus at 3:20 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

The "Shocktober" concept seems to have been used in a few different markets.

If you got WKBD from Detroit in the mid 80s, you might remember Shocktober with Count Scary:

Count Scary WKBD 50 Shocktober bumpers 1986 #1

Count Scary WKBD 50 Shocktober bumpers 1986 #2

The first time I saw Night of the Living Dead was the colourized version, thanks to these guys. It really is better in black and white, as I later learned.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:30 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Chuck McCann and Let’s Have Fun for the afterschool win!
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 3:34 PM on October 1, 2019

That Indiana Jones promo is pretty great.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:47 PM on October 1, 2019

No, shit! The cartoons were with “Officer Joe Bolton.”
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 4:22 PM on October 1, 2019

feel like WPIX, on channel 11, should have been WPXI.

That's the call letters of channel 11 here in Pittsburgh.
posted by octothorpe at 4:33 PM on October 1, 2019

One of a series of WPIX Twilight Zone Marathon bumpers.

Bonus: Sly early ‘90s Beavis & Butt-Head reference in the first few seconds.
posted by dr_dank at 5:21 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

That shocktober clip is awesome. Thirty-eight year old me feels like scared 13 year old me when I watch it!

This also reminds me of a recent tweet from a friend about how she remembers to this day the 90s tv promo set to the song “Rawhide” that announced that Empty Nest was switching timeslots. Cant find the link but man, talk about an earworm.
posted by Kemma80 at 5:46 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Cookie Puss on line 2.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:34 PM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I, too, first saw NotLD in that colorized airing on ch. 50, mandolin conspiracy. Later that same year on Thanksgiving weekend, they showed It's a Wonderful Life – also colorized – and I watched that one for the first time too that way, while recovering from a tonsillectomy.
posted by non canadian guy at 6:50 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh man as soon as I started reading about this I heard the voice in my head. I can't believe reality is real.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:45 PM on October 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

Funnily enough, I have no memory of the Indiana Jones bit, but "Channel 11's 8 o'clock movie will return after these messages" is deeply embedded in my subconscious.

Even in my mind, it has that slight little emphasis on "will".
posted by madajb at 8:54 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

We lived under a ridge, and the local tv and radio broadcasts wouldn't reach us. We were some of the first cable customers as a result. We had a very basic package that included the three majors, a local station, and 3 Canadian channels (was on the border). Around 1982, they added WPIX and WOR. A few years later, they added TBS. We were a tiny upstate population, surrounded by people who had no idea what we watched. Given the NYC-centric nature of the broadcasts (news), we didn't either.

Also, that dude's voice had some serious umami
posted by sensate at 9:04 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

We used to have WPIX in the 80’s in central New York! I vaguely remember the Indy commercial but I guess it didn’t impact me as much..
posted by Tandem Affinity at 4:03 AM on October 2, 2019

I feel like WPIX, on channel 11, should have been WPXI.

WPIX was owned by the NY Daily News, which for a long time promoted themselves as New York's "picture newspaper."

WPIX was also the originator of the beloved Christmas Yule-log broadcast.
posted by Umami Dearest at 8:18 AM on October 2, 2019 [7 favorites]

I grew up watching PIX and I follow them on Facebook where they like to share old commercials and promos. I watched the Yankees, but the real draw was that PIX was the station that showed syndicated Star Trek episodes. For a while they were on at dinner time and we watched Star Trek while we ate. (Dad joke--the Enterprise appears on screen at the start of almost every episode--"Oh, we've seen this one.") Here's a commercial for a showing of The Menagerie.
posted by ceejaytee at 3:08 PM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yes! Watching star treks on WPIX on my lil black and white TV in my room during middle school was what made me a scifi fan. They showed episodes Sunday nights, at 11:30 right after the news.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:51 AM on October 3, 2019

Same here with Star Trek on channel 11. I was ten or eleven before we got a color TV so I watched all of them in glorious B&W for years before finally seeing them in color.
posted by octothorpe at 7:09 AM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I lived in central NJ, so in the early '70s I watched Star Trek on Channel 11 from 6 to 7PM... then on Channel 48 out of Philadelphia from 7 to 8. The independent stations made their own edits for time to allow for more commercials, so I had to watch both in order to see complete episodes.
posted by Devoidoid at 12:55 PM on October 3, 2019

OK, I know it's bad etiquette to necropost our own stuff, but an offline friend pointed me at another song promo that Doug Paul did for WPIX, where the lyrics for The Patty Duke Show are re-written to be about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins.

He... he sings it in a fake Arnie accent, you guys.

I'm so glad I made this post.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:00 PM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

aaaah i loved the twins promo so much
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:45 PM on October 6, 2019

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