The Flying Deuces (1939) on IMDb

I hope this won’t spoil your enjoyment of the rest of this list, but The Flying Deuces is the only Laurel and Hardy movie in the Internet Archive Top 100. Its fast pace and “Shine On Harvest Moon” dance number make it an excellent representative for the boys’ talents.

Ollie suffers a broken romance and joins the French Foreign Legion to forget. Stan comes along, of course. And of course the boys have no idea of the rough business they’ve just volunteered for. It’s a wonderful comedy, and I’m grateful that there’s at least one L&H in the IA.

Bay Area BTV screen capture with program guide

The Bay Area BTV user interface. (Click to enlarge.)

Didja, the company behind Phoenix BTV and Bay Area BTV, recently dropped three Katz Broadcasting diginets from both services. Bounce, Escape, and Grit had been part of both lineups at their launches but are now gone or inactive.

In an email sent to Phoenix subscribers Friday afternoon, Didja announced that it had added the Charge! diginet but “Unfortunately, we are temporarily unable to provide Grit, Escape and Bounce on (sic) PhoneixBTV. We hope to bring you these channels again soon. In the meantime, if you are a fan of these channels, send us (an email) and let us know!”

Subscribers who click the grayed Bounce listings on the program guide see the message: “Bounce is not currently available on PhoenixBTV. If you’re a fan of Bounce and would like to see it return, please let us know at …” Which sounds like a trial balloon to see whether regaining Katz’s content would be worth whatever that would cost.

At Bay Area BTV, those three channels are simply gone, as if they had never been there. That service has a wider variety of channels still available and different DVR pricing; it seems likely that Didja is trying different experiments in different markets.

Jeff Baumgartner wrote last month, “Didja’s service carries only the broadcast networks via its OTT service that have offered consent, and access to those lineups are limited to the consumers if they are currently in the local area.” (Or if they know how to pretend to be in the local area.) Didja’s CEO hopes to eventually offer a lineup of 60-70 channels per market including the major networks. That’s going to take a lot of paid additions, and at the moment, Didja might be going in the other direction.

 

 Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937) on IMDb

Will Hay was very big in the UK in 1937, and Oh, Mr. Porter! is a good example why. Instead of his usual schoolmaster roles, here he plays a stationmaster in Northern Ireland on the border with Ireland. He renovates the station, then gets involved with gunrunners posing as ghosts.

The British Film Institute included this movie in its 360 Classic Feature Films list. TV Cream, a British nostalgia web site, listed it at number 41 of cinema’s Top 100 Films. Leonard Maltin gave it 3½ stars, which is one reason why it’s 33 in the Internet Archive Top 100.

As FCC Chairman Ajit Pai works tirelessly to improve the lives of Comcast and Sinclair shareholders everywhere, here are a few of the latest details.

First John Eggerton wrote about the FCC in court defending its reinstatement of the UHF discount. It used to be a holdover from analog TV days when a UHF station had more limited reach and was more difficult to find on the dial compared to VHF stations. Then a few years ago the FCC noticed that’s not how digital TV works so it eliminated that holdover. But reinstating it would help really large TV station ownership groups become even larger, so that’s what Pai’s FCC did. That decision is being fought in court by Free Press, Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Prometheus Radio Project, Media Mobilizing Project, Media Alliance, National Hispanic, Media Coalition, and Common Cause.

Later that day Eggerton wrote about FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s new Twitter campaign to register her concerns with the ATSC 3.0 rollout framework that the FCC is planning to vote on next week. The tweet he quoted mentioned the lack of backward compatibility with current TV sets. “Remember when I asked as part of #NextGenTV NPRM that there be complete assurances that #consumers will not be burdened w/ unwanted, unexpected costs? Not looking good despite nxt week’s @FCC action.”

And barely a half hour later, Eggerton was back again, this time about how self-described limited government group Alliance for Freedom was joining the NAACP, Benton Foundation, Common Cause, Free Press, and Public Knowledge in objecting to the FCC’s plan to cap Lifeline subsidies for telephone and internet service, saying it “will gut the program and continue to widen the digital divide.” Now maybe you’ll believe me every time I say that John Eggerton is the hardest working man in Washington.

Dish Network $9 per month offer

The “I Like 9” promotion that got me to give Dish Network a try.

Sling TV has been around since January 2015, and I’ve been a subscriber almost from the day I saw it launched at CES. As good as it was then, it continues to add new channels and options. I was reminded of that yesterday when Sling added NBC’s Olympic Channel to its Sports Extra package. And that’s when it hit me – my experience with Sling now matches my first years as a Dish Network subscriber starting in 2001.

Back then, I was lured by the low price of just $9 a month for America’s Top 100, although I paid an extra $10 to reach the next tier. The package didn’t include local channels, but I could kludge together an over-the-air antenna that straddled the dish with a special splitter to pipe the signals from my roof.

A special monthly treat was the Charlie Chat featuring the folksy persona of CEO Charlie Ergen. In those first years, Ergen would frequently announce the addition of what the business called a “digital cable” channel, something of such narrow interest that it couldn’t break into the standard 36-channel analog cable lineup. There were VH1 Classic, Nick Games and Sports, Tech TV, and so many more.

Now I feel the same about Sling. Just like those early days of Dish, it doesn’t have most of my locals, but I’m used to getting them elsewhere. The price is just as cheap, relatively speaking. It carries some funky channels such as Cheddar, Stadium, and Tribeca Shortlist that aren’t available on Dish. And the What’s On Sling blog is the modern version of the Charlie Chat, dispensing highlights, free previews, and channel announcements.

Dish has done pretty well for itself for quite a while. I hope that Sling shows similar staying power.