Aug 23, 2017

PBS Goes Off Beat

Photo courtesy Off Beat Cinema's Facebook page

Last night, WNED, Buffalo's PBS affiliate had a touch of the "off beat", as their broadcast of the documentary Birth of the Living Dead was presented by Off Beat Cinema's Constance McEwen Caldwell and Jeffrey Roberts, in character, as their OBC personalities, The Mysterious Zelda, and Cinematic Theologian Theodore. Their appearance was especially a delight for Southern Ontario viewers, who have been deprived of their weekly Off Beat Cinema fix since 2012.

The long-running late-night series Off Beat Cinema first began on WKBW (Buffalo's ABC affiliate), in 1993. Every week, the beatniks from the Hungry Ear Café would introduce a way-gone B-movie. This show continued to be a fresh antidote for discerning viewers of late night television, as after-hours programming was being overrun by infomercials instead of movies. It represented what the late-night viewing experience used to be, and should be like. In July of 2012, the show moved to Buffalo's MeTV-affiliate, WBBZ-TV, where our favourite hepcats would continue to preach the good word. Sadly, WBBZ has remained unavailable in Southern Ontario, which comprised a generous portion of their viewing audience at WKBW.

The appearance of Zelda and Theodore on WNED was a welcome surprise for Southern Ontario viewers, in more ways than one. The program wasn't even listed in our television guide. It instead had the documentary Fit To Be King, followed by The Nightly Business Report, in that time slot. I only discovered moments beforehand that the program was airing, thanks to Constance's Facebook post, and despite what the guide said, took a gamble and hit "record". Upon reviewing the tape later, happily, Zelda and Theodore did air in our borough.

The decision to broadcast Birth of the Living Dead, the 2013 documentary about the making of the horror classic, Night of the Living Dead (a film that broke all the rules and made new ones), was a fitting way to eulogize its director, George A. Romero, who passed away last month. But for loyal OBC viewers, this film was also apropos, since Off Beat Cinema's first episode on Saturday, October 30, 1993, (just before Halloween) featured Night of the Living Dead. The Hungry Ear gang has continued to show that film every October since. Therefore, it was nice to see OBC members Zelda and Theodore talk about the film which launched the show (gasp!) over twenty years ago.

I wasn't able to sit down and watch the program last night, but hope to view it very soon. It will seem like catching up with old friends. Now as then, OBC continues to be a surrogate friend over the TV waves.

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