Alibi V.25 No.28 • July 14-20, 2016 

Idiot Box

S-F TV

Comet TV hits Albuquerque

“Men Into Space”
Third-tier cable networks come, go and change names (goodbye, Palladia. Hello, MTV Live) with enough regularity that a new name popping up on your cable menu is hardly cause for celebration. But a new broadcast network is somewhat rarer. Since local, over-the-air networks were forced to switch to digital signals a few years ago, there’s been something of a virtual land grab going on. Unlike the old analog signals, it’s much easier for broadcast networks to cram more information into their digital signals. This process is known as “multiplexing,” grouping several virtual sub-channels as interleaved data packets for broadcast over a network. That’s why you now have KOAT-7.1 (ABC) and KOAT-7.2 (Estrella TV) or KNME 5.1 (PBS) and KNME 5.2 (V-me). As a result of this new ability to multiplex, lots of local ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX/PBS affiliates are adding fresh digital content alongside their regular lineup. Local NBC affiliate KOB has been broadcasting its main programming on channel 4.1. In 2011 the station added retro movie package This TV on channel 4.2. Now the station has added a 4.3 in the form of spacey Comet TV.

Comet TV began airing in Albuquerque on July 1. It’s been around since October 31, 2015, but is just now stretching past 60 percent coverage across the United States. Comet is owned by Sinclair Television Group and MGM Television. Comet provides the complete programming package and local networks air it across the country. Like MeTV (seen locally on KRTN 33.1) and Heroes & Icons (aired locally by KUPT 16.3), Comet TV is a collection of older movies and TV shows—most of them drawn, in this case, from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artist’s library.

As you might guess from the name, Comet TV concentrates on classic science fiction. Among the shows it airs is the 1959 astronaut adventure “Men into Space,” the 1967 Japanese kids show “Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot,” the 1990s reboot of “The Outer Limits” and the Stargate movie spin-off series “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate Universe.” It’s not a huge lineup. But in the future the network is planning to add Showtime’s two-season supernatural comedy “Dead Like Me,” ghostly drama “Poltergeist: The Legacy” (which jumped from Showtime to Sci Fi Channel during its four seasons) and “Stargate Atlantis” (naturally).

Films are a regular element of the channel’s programming as well. Most are culled directly from the studio’s B-movie vault, with the occasional well-known property tossed in for good measure (The Terminator, Moonraker, Twilight Zone: The Movie). But fans of horror and sci-fi are likely to find some fun viewing amid the mix of cheesy and cult cinema. Looking over a week’s worth of programming, you’re likely to see stuff such as 1971’s Hands of the Ripper, 1958’s I Bury The Living, 1959’s The Angry Red Planet, 1958’s It! The Terror From Beyond Space, 1988’s Spellbinder, 1965’s The Beach Girls and the Monster and 1986’s From Beyond. It’s not exactly Netflix, but it adds up to some entertaining matinees and late-night airings. Plus you can watch the network without cable or satellite, making it perfect for those old-school, low-tech sci-fi fans in the audience.

Comet TV is available free, over the air locally on KOB 4.3. A full list of programming is available on comettv.com or through kob.com.