Old PBS logoExactly 50 years ago today, President Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 into law. It established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which led to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and National Public Radio.

It’s hard for a lot of people to imagine a time when there were just three major TV networks and a few independent stations. Early attempts to set aside time for educational or cultural programming quickly faded as the commercial stations learned that they could make more money with lowbrow entertainment.

Johnson said at the signing, “It announces to the world that our nation wants more than just material wealth; our nation wants more than a ‘chicken in every pot.’ We in America have an appetite for excellence, too. While we work every day to produce new goods and to create new wealth, we want most of all to enrich man’s spirit.”

The act came near the end of Johnson’s Great Society push to reduce poverty and injustice. It was also a natural extension of the idea that the public owns the airwaves, so all stations’ first duty should be public service. Those were the days!

If you think of the millions of lives that were improved by watching PBS’s educational programs as children (or adults), you’ll have to agree that this modest investment has paid off. Our society hasn’t achieved greatness yet, but it’s better than it could have been.

Web site home page showing phone with the Simple.TV app matching a TV screen

What year is it? As I type, this screen shot from Community is still the first thing a visitor sees at Simple.TV

Whenever I buy something with a lifetime subscription, I always ask myself “whose lifetime”? I got a reminder of that this afternoon when an email from Simple.TV let me know that it’s shutting down its service on August 5.

In some cases (cough TiVo), a lifetime subscription is for the life of the unit, but not Simple.TV, which allowed transferring subs or adding devices to them. “Every Simple.TV subscription can accommodate new units as long as you have a valid Simple.TV subscription,” says its FAQ page. No, in this case, it’s the lifetime of the service.

Today’s email said, “Unfortunately, we are unable to move the company forward or continue to operate the services required to keep our systems online. This means that you will no longer be able to record or play content using your Simple.TV device.” So the device I bought will become a brick, and I have barely a week to transfer any recordings.

Included in the Simple.TV notice was a discount code for a TiVo Roamio OTA. However, even though I love the TiVo user interface, my primary use of the Simple.TV was to stream live TV when I was on the road. The Roamio can’t do that without help. My best memories of Simple.TV were from hotel rooms in Europe; unlike Tablo or Dish Anywhere, the Simple.TV app served up a sub-channel from my home OTA antenna within just a few seconds of launch. I’ll miss that. When setting up its program guide, if Simple.TV’s listing service didn’t recognize one of my market’s squirrelly sub-channels, it would let me substitute the listings from another market’s channel. I’ll miss that too.

The shutdown isn’t a huge shock. Simple.TV hasn’t changed its home page TV screen (still showing Community) for years now. At least I got my money’s worth out of the fire-sale, first-generation, single-tuner unit that I bought years ago.

The old quote fits here: “The pioneers get the arrows and the settlers get the land.” Simple.TV was a true pioneer. Rest in peace.

 The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird (1952) on IMDb

This entry is odd is so many ways. The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep. Production on the French animated film stopped suddenly in 1948, and its producer released it unfinished without the approval of its director or writer. This English-language version was released in 1952 starring Peter Ustinov as the bird, who narrates the story. Decades later, its director Paul Grimault acquired the rights to the film and finished it for a 1980 release. And the copy in the Internet Archive Feature Films collection is strangely misnamed “1989 summer drum party”.

Wikipedia writes that this movie is today regarded as a masterpiece of French animation and has been cited by the Japanese directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata as an influence. I just think it’s a fun cartoon movie, and I’m glad that its IMDb rating was enough to get it into the IA Top 100.

 Good Morning, Boys (1937) on IMDb

Will Hay was a big deal in the UK in the 1930s. In 1937, when he made Good Morning, Boys, British film exhibitors voted him the 4th-best box office draw. His signature character was a jocular schoolmaster, and in this movie he brings his pupils to Paris where they outwit a gang of crooks.

I had never heard of this movie or Will Hay before I began compiling this list. Even Leonard Maltin failed to mention most Hay movies, including this one. Finding gold like this and sharing it with you is, for me, the best part of compiling the Internet Archive Top 100.

 Clancy Street Boys (1943) on IMDb

The movies of the East Side Kids and Bowery Boys illustrate a drawback to relying on IMDb rankings alone. The site’s users review only the movies they’ve seen, and once they’ve seen an East Side Kids movie or two, they know whether they want to see more. The enthusiastic supporters who like the group would have packed the Internet Archive Top 100 with several examples.

Tempered by Leonard Maltin’s ratings, it’s easier to list only the best-ranked East Side Kids movie, Clancy Street Boys. In this entry, Muggs recruits the rest of the gang to be his siblings so his visiting rich uncle will see the seven kids Muggs’ dad said he had. If you want to see more of Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall et al, the Archive has you covered.