Faster Than Light Newsfeed
March 15, 2023 2:31 AM   Subscribe

I've mentioned it in past posts, but now there's a Youtube list of 633 30 to 60-second episodes of the first SyFy Sci-Fi Channel original series, FTL Newsfeed (IMDB), a commercial-length glimpse into the future, from the past when cable networks could actually be cool in their attempts at branding. It begins with an hour-long video containing the Sci-Fi Channel's pre-launch promo footage, so you'll have to fast forward to get to the first episode. After that each is over quickly, and it's easy to watch several in a row. FTL lasted for over four years, and the entire run does not appear to exist online, but transcripts of all the episodes exist on a pretty extensive fan wiki.

Note: it was the nineties, and some attitudes, not to mention caricatures, from that time show through these clips. So, here are some semi-randomly selected episodes, from a future time full of very broad characters:

"Starved to death by VR", Pope Thelma Louise II, Chef Henri de Pouissant, Bruce Wayne Bobbit, Gilbert Gottfried (clone), Halloween 2145, "I feel stupid", Benjamin Droid, member of FLAKE, Keva Handley, a young girl who turned her brother into a lizard and isn't sorry, Caren Ginjerbu, Late Net with Jay Cypherman, and Captain Tripps (Dr. Timothy Leary).

It seems that FTL's creators wrote in 2021 a two-part history of the program, for sale on Amazon on high-tech bleached cellulose pulp embossed in ink. (I have not gotten copies of my own yet, so I can't vouch for their contents.)
posted by JHarris (14 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, this takes me back.

Now I need to fall into the Dr Franklin Ruehl Mysteries from Beyond The Other Dominion hole and I'll be 15-year-old me again.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:12 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Wow. I totally forgot about this until I dove in. Quite the flashback. Great find, JHarris!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:40 AM on March 15

Keva Handley, a young girl who turned her brother into a lizard and isn't sorry

Spoiler alert: he died. A neighbor accidentally killed him before he could be changed back, if that was even possible.

I really wasn't expecting it to go that nightmare fuel. Getting (irreversibly) transformed into an animal and then being casually dispatched was one of my top-5 childhood fears, thankyouverymuch Roald Dahl. (I will never complain that the original movie changed the ending because the book's ending kind of sucked).
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:56 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

So, given that that the FTL Newsfeed ran from 1992-1996 and a bunch of these were brought to us by AT&T who ran the sort of similarly flavored "You Will" campaign in 1993, I'd be curious if there was any actual overlap or if AT&T just saw things and went "hey, that's hitting similar notes to our own campaign..."

Also this absolutely feels like the sort of resource that Youtube is a terrible conservator for - eventually some lawyer is going to wake up and decide that they never got streaming performance rights from any of the people involved so _whup_ out goes the DMCA notice and down it all comes.

And man, this is just 100% the cyberdelia nightmare fuel mentioned in the CARI post a few weeks back. mmmmmmm, tap it right into my veins, yessssss.
posted by Kyol at 5:29 AM on March 15

Man, that got dark super quick
posted by wierdo at 5:56 AM on March 15

I remember these from watching SciFi ages ago. Then, when I was on a Repairman Jack kick, I discovered that F. Paul Wilson was one of their writers. Of course, by then it was long gone. Thanks for posting this. It's probably killed my productivity for the day.
posted by Spike Glee at 6:48 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Ug, the Wiki's on Fandom. Can they have more ads per page?
posted by Spike Glee at 6:53 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

> Ug, the Wiki's on Fandom. Can they have more ads per page?

Some uBlock filters to tone it down:

posted by genpfault at 7:23 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Obligatory Onion.
posted by pepcorn at 7:26 AM on March 15

Don't remember these on TV but it was a fun little worldbuilding exercise to listen around
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:28 AM on March 15

That Onion link! Has there ever ever been a better, funnier video and audio humor source than The Onion, but that also keeps ending all their shows after a short time resulting in them becoming hard to find? They're all hilarious, and they all ended quickly. I especially remember their podcast. Someone should really do a roundup!

Sorry about neglecting to mention that Keva Handley's lizard brother died, when one makes these lists in that format one wants to keep each item in them short to keep the contents homogeneous, and that was already the longest one. Maybe I should have switched it to a bulleted list, where it doesn't matter so much if one item is overlong, but it also makes the whole list more prominent and important-seeming. Oops, sorry for the nuts and bolts post construction theory....

BTW, the items I pulled out are really random. There's lots of other weird and fun bits throughout. If you find one you liked or otherwise want to mention, please link it here! (And if you don't make links on Metafilter often, I do them by having

<a href="address goes here"> link text goes here </a>

etched as if it were in stone on my muscle memory. It's not hard to remember after you enter it a few times!)
posted by JHarris at 8:38 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]

These are great! I didn't have the Sci-Fi Channel until a lot later, so I never knew about these.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:57 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

Sorry about neglecting to mention that Keva Handley's lizard brother died,

No worries. I was being a little hyperbolic. That video is weirdly dark and uncomfortable for what it is, but it's not especially jarring or anything.

Thank you again for this post. This pre-dates when we got cable in the late-1990s, so I'm always fascinated by what it was like.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:58 PM on March 15

The subplot about that little girl continues in some following episodes. In the next, she tries to butter up the judge trying her case by making them snacks, and is entirely gleeful about her ploy!
posted by JHarris at 10:10 PM on March 15

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