Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Resurrection of The Nashville Network

Good early Sunday morning!! The late country music channel, TNN, officially known as The Nashville Network, is being resurrected late this summer according to a myriad of on-line web-sites. The news broke a couple of days ago...but I first heard about it last night while browsing the internet looking up archival footage of TNN from the '80s.

The Nashville Network lived healthy for 17 years, 1983-2000, but it made some bad decisions and it's health deteriorated as a result. The first bad decision was the non-compete where the network dropped it's country music programming in favor of reruns of sitcoms and dramas while awaiting it's facelift. The facelift happened...ultimately leading to a new name, The National Network, but the facelift didn't help. The used goods were then re-branded as Spike TV with a completely different line-up of shows and a completely different demographic target. Now, 12 years after the TNN that I knew passed away, it's being resurrected

Now that you know the back-story, I am just a tiny bit hesitant to become over-the-top excited about the news because so little is really known about it's broadcast method and availability.

I've read some web-sites that make it sound as if this new TNN will be sort of an exclusive kind of channel where people have to, on their own, seek it out by way of paying extra for it or purchasing secondary equipment like antenna's or satellite dishes and installing them on your television sets. I've read other sites that say that the network will be available on TV sets that are digitally serviced...meaning for those who have a converter box hooked up to the TV...and even still there's a web-site which makes it sound as if the new TNN will be internet-only.

It's all confusing to me.

The official web-page, WatchTNN, shows a box where television providers can fill in their information...so it seems as if the new TNN will only be available if a cable, and or, satellite provider agree to add it to their system.

I was hoping that there would be a launch date and then on that day we could turn on our TV sets, pull up the on-screen program guide, and browse the line-up and see that the new TNN is on our line-up...

But...it seems it isn't going to be that simple...but I wish it were!

So, hopefully my cable provider will carry this new TNN.

You can read a news release posted on the Music Row web-site here.

I hope my cable provider will carry it or I’m able to see it at some point. I have RFD-TV and I watch it for some of the country music programming. Hee-Haw currently airs on that channel every Sunday evening at 8pm Eastern and it repeats Monday mornings at 10am Eastern. I saw where “Larry’s Country Diner” will become a program on this new TNN…it currently airs on RFD-TV as well.
I’d love to see a lot of the early programs from TNN resurface again! A lot of legends were given their proper respect on that particular network and so many of them made frequent appearances on the various programs…a lot of those legends have since passed away…but it would be great if the shows from the ’80s and ’90s resurfaced!

Ralph Emery often remarked that there’s a huge audience who wants to see those shows but the powers that be continually keep the shows out of circulation…so here’s hoping the programs from that time period return to the air! Gary Beatty was the voice of TNN in my opinion (specifically during the first 10-11 years of the channels existence). He’d do show promo’s and station I.D.’s…signing the network on and off…in addition to being the announcer on Nashville Now and later a co-host on VideoPM with Kathy Martindale.

The late Archie Campbell once hosted a show called Yesteryear in Nashville and Bobby Bare had a series on the air, too. Charlie Douglas, the famed country DJ that passed away in November 2011, hosted a nostalgic program called Play It Again, Nashville. The series had left the air before I discovered TNN but I found a clip on You Tube showing Freddie Hart singing "My Hang-Up Is You" on this program...and it features Charlie Douglas, too.


A comment that caught my eye while reading various on-line news stories stated that this new TNN sounds like a second RFD-TV. 

Actually, though, RFD-TV does air it’s share of country music programming but it’s in broadcasting blocks on specific days…it’s not a wall-to-wall country music channel like The Nashville Network was during the ’80s and ’90s. RFD-TV’s actual country music programming as of 4/22/2012 consists of Hee-Haw, Crook and Chase, Pop! Goes the Country, Nashville on the Road, Larry’s Country Diner, The Porter Wagoner Show, The Marty Stuart Show, The Wilburn Brothers Show, and Heart to Heart Classics. There are a couple of shows that have what I’d call Appalachia music overtones and then there are polka music shows and other programs catering to Texas-style music as well as gospel music. 

Throughout the day usually there's livestock shows and rural lifestyle programs. Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong host an Agri-Business show. Shotgun Red, the puppet, hosts a variety program. The Nashville Network wasn't that eclectic...TNN was country music and country lifestyles. There wasn't an abundance of farm and livestock shows on TNN (except a rodeo or two hosted by Dan Miller) nor was their any polka music or auctions which RFD-TV airs along side it's country music offerings. TNN, on the weekends, aired outdoor sports shows and auto racing shows on Sunday. 

For those that don’t know, the former TNN (1983-2000) aired sports programs on Saturdays and Sundays…I think the weekends were billed as TNN Outdoors? Anyway, several of those programs featured country music personalities as hosts or participants. Porter Wagoner appeared on fishing programs on TNN as did Jerry Reed, Hank Williams Jr., and many others. Jerry Clower appeared on Roland Martin's fishing program and told some fishing stories. He did an infomercial for what was billed a Helicopter Lure and when cast it was to fly more farther than a typical lure could. Some fishermen didn't have much luck with it but some did...I guess it all depends on the time of day and if "the fish are a bitin'" as the catch-phrase goes. Research shows the product made more than $40,000,000 in sales during just one year of advertising (1995-1996). An image of this lure appears on Clower's 1995 comedy album, Fishin', Frogs, Hogs, and Dawgs. Clower won an advertising award for his appearance in the infomercial and he spoke of it on Primetime Country, a nightly program that had replaced Music City Tonight on TNN. Music City Tonight had, in turn, replaced Nashville Now in 1993.

Before American Idol and other insufferable talent shows there was the talent show You Can Be a Star hosted by country music legend Jim Ed Brown. This program, not completely insufferable due to Jim Ed's likable personality, was sort of a more down to Earth predecessor to the glitzy/glib-hip Nashville Star series, which showcased unknowns in the hopes that one day they would become future recording stars. A winner on You Can Be a Star received a recording contract from Polygram Records, a division of Mercury. The show had a panel of judges and a regular audience feature called The Stairway of Stars. There weren't any major recording artists that emerged from the series, that I recall, but if the reruns ever surface you'll see a lot of acts with big dreams...and in hindsight there may be some that appear where you may wonder why they didn't catch on along with some that leave you wondering why they even attempted a recording career. This series ran until 1989 and was later brought back with a shortened title, Be a Star, and hosted by former Sawyer Brown member, Bobby Randall. Jim Ed also hosted a travel show called Going Our Way where he and his wife drove around in an RV going from place to place taking in the sights. It was sort of like his former program, Nashville On the Road, but without the abundance of music performances. 
Another legend, Bill Anderson, hosted the game show Fandango. One of the show's memorable gimmicks was the 'talking jukebox' named Edgar. At the time Anderson was a spokesman for a chain of restaurants named after one of his hit songs, "Po' Folks", and you'd see advertisements for this restaurant pop-up from time to time...sometimes just a still picture was used showing Anderson and the restaurant's logo. There continued to be Po' Folks restaurants in business for many years after Anderson's involvement as a spokesman ended. Ironically, based on what I found out, the restaurant had used the name of Bill's song without permission which is what led to the commercial appearances in the first place. 
There were two personalities named Dan Miller that worked for TNN. There was the dark haired Dan Miller who was known by local Nashville TV viewers and radio listeners...he would eventually become a host of a series called Miller and Company on TNN. That Dan Miller has since passed away. Then there was the blond Dan Miller...he hosted the game show, Top Card, replacing original host Jim Caldwell. This Dan Miller also hosted a later game show titled 10 Seconds. The blond Dan Miller also co-hosted a rodeo program on the weekend.

The only programming of the old TNN that I wasn’t a viewer of were those dance shows. I don’t like to dance…I don’t mind hearing country songs about dancing…but dancing is something I don’t do…so I never watched the dancing shows.
In closing I just want to reiterate that I hope this new TNN becomes available to a lot of the nation and isn't just available in the southern states.

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