Sunday, January 11, 2015

20 Years Ago Tonight...

...The WB Television Network premiered. The opening lineup that Wednesday night was the sitcoms The Wayans Bros., The Parent 'Hood, Unhappily Ever After, and Muscle. The competing United Paramount Network (UPN) would debut five days later.

The network was organized in response to the FCC repealing the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (commonly known as "fin-syn") that prohibited networks from owning their primetime programming and from syndicating programs they produced. Other factors were the success of the Fox network (which had launched in October 1986) and the decreasing ratings of independent TV stations. Network owner Time Warner had operated a programming service called the Prime Time Entertainment Network since September 1993 with the Chris-Craft group of TV stations (also known as United Television, hence the "United" part of UPN's name, and which was coincidentally once owned by 20th Century Fox), who would be a part of the UPN network until being bought out by the News Corporation, owners of Fox, in 2000.

The Tribune Company held a minority interest in the network from day one and as a result, affiliated almost all of its stations, including WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles, and company flagship WGN-TV in Chicago, and all of which were independents, with the network (WGNX, now WGCL-TV, in Atlanta was the lone holdout; it became a CBS affiliate after New World-owned WAGA-TV dropped it for Fox as part of that group's affiliation deal, and later, WGNO in New Orleans joined ABC in January 1996 after longtime ABC affiliate WVUE-TV switched to Fox under a similar agreement). None of these stations were ever considered owned-and-operated by the network, since Tribune held only a minority stake.

Much like Fox and later, UPN, The WB had a limited launch, with programming one night a week. It soon expanded to Sunday night and Saturday morning with the Kids' WB block.

Both The WB and UPN came to an end in September 2006, when their parent companies decided to close their networks and merge their programming into a new split venture called "The CW. "

My memories of The WB were mostly of Kids' WB. I watched such shows as Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain (still a fan today, and if you don't know what those are, click on their names to read about them on Wikipedia). Several of the shows had started on Fox Kids (like the aforementioned Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series, although the latter didn't move until 1997 and in re-runs only, as the series had ended in two years prior) before moving to Kids' WB at its launch in September 1995. As later kids may remember, it was home to that smash hit known as Pokémon and that other series known as Yu-Gi-Oh! (both of which I never got into). Kids' WB continued two years into The CW's existence, when it was closed and the airtime sold to 4Kids Entertainment, who launched "The CW4Kids" in its place.

Want to read more about the network's history? Wikipedia is your friend.

Here are some clips from The WB's launch night:

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