There was a brief time in cable television’s early history where programming didn’t completely suck. All of the premium channels played independent films (hell, Cinemax even had Tromathons from time to time), Mtv actually played music videos, and a little channel called USA was struggling to find it’s footing among the other channels in a world without any “Law & Order” reruns to fill all hours of the day.
Bad movie loving kids like myself would stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights to watch Rhonda Shear and Gilbert Gottfried host “USA Up All Night”. A program that showcased classic films like “Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama”, “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers”, “Curse of the Queerwolf”, “A Vampire in Burbank”, and countless Troma films among their many other quality selections.
The show took the old “horror host” style of programming and put an entirely different spin on it. Partly because many of the movies that were presented were not horror at all. They were mostly b-movies and skin flicks (sans the skin, as this was basic cable programming).
On Friday nights, the bubbly blonde Rhonda Shear would host, who was beloved for both her beauty and her pronunciation of the show’s title (USA “UP!” All Night). It didn’t hurt at all when her prepubescent fans learned that she had posed for Playboy, either. She shared the same talent as Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) for balancing the “dumb bimbo” act with wit and composure… Though she definitely leaned more into the Bimbo part of that equation than Elvira ever did.
Despite Shear’s glorious… Assets, I was more into Gottfried’s role on Saturday nights. The jokes he would crack about the movies were a little meaner, but still fun because of his persona. What kid wouldn’t want to hang out with a tiny, squinty-eyed man that yelled all the time?
But around 1998, USA changed it’s tune, phased out the hosts, started playing more mainstream movies, and eventually got the rights to show “Law & Order” reruns twenty-three hours of each broadcast day (the last hour is reserved for new episodes of “Psych”).
But since we’re on the subject, I do want to tickle the old geezers that frequent our site’s nostalgia bone…
Who remembers USA Saturday Nightmares?
Or how about Commander USA’s Groovy Movies?
That, my friends, was good cable TV. But before you cry yourselves to sleep tonight, painfully aware that the glory days of cable television lay dead in a puddle of it’s own feces, check out Rhonda putting the moves on Weird Al Yankovic.
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