Category Archives: classic TV

And it’s gone: 3490 Bluff Road

3490 tower

I’m startled that, after I finally made a pilgrimage to 3490 Bluff Road, it’s now gone.

A few weeks back in this spot, I talked about visiting 3490 Bluff Road this fall. The address, on Indianapolis’ south side, was for decades the studio of WTTV 4, the independent TV station that was the home of Dick the Bruiser and other wrestlers, kids’ show hosts Cowboy Bob and Janie and late-night horror host Sammy Terry.

I just got around to going to see the station building, which hadn’t been used in a decade and had been for sale for several years … and now it’s gone.

3490 addy sign

The Indianapolis Star reported recently that 3490 Bluff Road was demolished.

It’s no more.

I’m glad I got a chance to check it out before it was gone.

Halloween on the TV 

  
When I was a kid, I loved everything about Halloween, including the way it changed TV.

For days leading up to Halloween and definitely on the day itself, TV channels and networks would run Halloween-themed specials. Not just Charlie Brown but old movies on the local channels.

When cable exploded in the 1980s, the selection was even greater. I loved the movies and specials that aired on AMC and TCM.

Tonight I’m confronted with more movies than I’ll have time to watch, from “The Lost Boys” on VH1 to “Dead of Night” on TCM to the “Blacula” movies – both of em – on Bounce, the local “urban” station. 

It’s a seasonal embarrassment of riches. 

Finding iconic 3490 Bluff Road

3490 bluff road slide

I made a pilgrimage the other week.

While in Indianapolis with my family, we found ourselves on Bluff Road on the city’s south side.

Bluff Road didn’t mean anything to them, of course. My wife didn’t grow up in Indiana and my son is too young to remember the address.

For those of us who do remember, we know the address from our childhood: 3490 Bluff Road.

For a couple of generations of Central Indiana residents who paid attention to the “fine print” of television broadcasting, 3490 Bluff Road was, for decades, the Indianapolis home of WTTV Channel 4.

Nowadays, WTTV is CBS 4. For a year or so, it’s had a network affiliation and big-league status after decades as Indy’s premier independent station.

For decades beginning in 1957, WTTV broadcast from 3490 Bluff Road. The address was uttered on the air countless times and included in title cards that were broadcast.

Although I’ve been to a couple of Indy TV stations, I’d never been to the home of WTTV 4.

I thought about it a lot, though. During the station’s heyday, in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s, it was easy for my imagination to populate the station with its biggest on-air personalities.

wttv stars

Kids show hosts Janie and Cowboy Bob. Sports broadcaster Chuck Marlowe. Station owner Sarkes Tarzian, whose name my young mind turned into Circus Tarzan.

And the dean of midwest TV horror hosts: Sammy Terry.

sammy terry color

Sammy Terry – embodied by Bob Carter from around 1962 until his death in 2013, now played in personal appearances by his son, Mark – was perhaps the best known of WTTV’s on-air personalities.

But 3490 Bluff Road was an iconic address. So I had to seek it out.

3490 tower

It’s not easy to find, the little building that is the focus of so many memories. Sure, there’s still a TV tower, but no sign, no historical marker, to designate the station that WTTV used until the 2000s.

3490 addy sign

There are a few indicators, to be sure. I walked all around the building until I found this one.

3490 door

And there’s this forlorn remembrance of the station’s years as a WB affiliate beginning in 1998.

3490 boarded up

Overall, there’s not much left there, not much to see considering all those years the station babysat, entertained and terrified us.

According to real estate websites, the main station building is only about 19,000 square feet and made of concrete block. One website lists the total value of the building and surrounding acres of land as $276,000.

We know that’s not the case, of course.

3490 Bluff Road is priceless.

Classic: ‘Shock’ theater ad for TV

shock theater ad

For those of us who grew up Monster Kids in the Monster World, this marked the epicenter of that world.

Shock – also known as Shock Theater.

I saw this ad bouncing around the internet recently and wanted to share it here. Regular readers of this blog know I’ve written a lot about Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and what an influence it had on a couple of generations of kids. FM came decades after the movies it celebrated – including the classic Universal monster films – so the 1960s monster craze might have seemed unlikely.

Except for Shock.

In October 1957, Columbia Pictures’ TV subsidiary, Screen Gems, released a package of 52 horror films – including the classic Universal horror films like “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” – to TV.

The Shock package was a huge hit. Usually airing late at night – as was the case, a few years later, with host Sammy Terry on WTTV Channel 4 in Indianapolis – but sometimes airing at other times, Shock popularized the old Universal pictures once more.

Everything that followed came because of this. Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, horror hosts, the wave of monster toys, cartoons, comics and novelties that began in the 1960s and continued for decades.

Long live Shock.

So long, Dave

david letterman

It was almost like a sickness.

For a few years in the 1980s, I stayed up every night and watched “Late Night with David Letterman” on NBC. But I didn’t just watch it. I also videotaped it.

And cut out the commercials.

That’s right. I was making my own commercial-free David Letterman video library.

I watched the show from its start just after 12:30 – following the Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” – until it went off an hour later. And, obviously, I loved the show enough to want to preserve it in that manner.

Letterman. Paul. Larry “Bud” Melman. All the rest.

The Alka-Seltzer suit. Dropping things off the tops of buildings. Interrupting other shows, like the bullhorn assault on the “Today” show.

My god, what fun.

Letterman, a fellow Hoosier who I remembered from his time on Indianapolis TV and – kinda – his time on my local radio station, had a masterful grasp of ironic comedy long before others followed. He was funny and absurd and disrespectful and everything anyone would want in a late-night talk show host.

I haven’t watched Dave in a while. The draw of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” was too great. Well, that and having to get up at 6 a.m. to deal with the demands of real life.

I’ve seen a little more of his show lately, since Dave’s departure was imminent. I wouldn’t have missed Bill Murray last night. And I’ll probably be watching tonight, for the final show.

Dave was ahead of his time and of his time. He was the late-night talk show host we deserved and needed. He ranked right up there with Carson in my book and always will.

So thanks, Dave, and so long.

Farewell to ‘Justified’

Justified

There have been so many great TV dramas in the past decade. Too many, if you have a life like mine and have limited hours to watch TV live or even catch up later on demand or online.

With “Mad Men” winding down in curious fashion, “The Americans” getting out in front of me, leaving me unable to keep up, and “Walking Dead” uneven but still rewarding, I’m mostly keeping pace only with the superhero shows like “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Agents of SHIELD.”

One show that I did keep up with, pretty much every week, was “Justified,” Graham Yost’s show, based on characters created by wonderful writer Elmore Leonard, about U.S. marshals, lowlife criminals and everybody in between in modern-day Kentucky, was too good to miss.

I watched the show live pretty much every week during the course of its six seasons. And I mourned a little bit when “Justified” ended its run six days ago.

If you’ve never watched, I highly recommend it. For so many reasons:

The lead characters, marshal Raylan Givens and criminal Boyd Crowder, are charismatic and fascinating and they’re portrayed by terrific actors in Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins.

Other lawmen (and law-women) came and went and a couple dozen wonderful bad guys (and women) have passed through these parts but Raylan and Boyd were, ultimately, the reason we watched every week.

The two – who grew up together, dug coal together, dreamed of getting out of Harlan, Kentucky, and had less than straightforward solutions to problems – did the most fascinating dance for six seasons.

As much as we rooted for Raylan, we agreed with his boss and co-workers that he could be an angry, danger-seeking jerk.

And as much as we wouldn’t want to be on the bad end of a deal with Boyd, we’d also like to have sat down the bar from him, having a beer and listening to him formulate schemes and recounting fascinating characters he met .. and, most likely, swindled or killed.

“Justified” never let us forget that, as shaded and shady as these two could be, they were our protagonists. We were as caught up in their stories – more so, really – as any tried-and-true, straight-arrow characters.

I’ve been to and through Kentucky many times. I’m not sure I pined for the characters of “Justified” – Mags Bennett, Dewey Crow, Wynn Duffy or any of them – to sidle up next to me at a diner.

But it would have been fascinating.