These days USA Network is known for wrasslin’, Law & Order marathons, and hip original shows like Burn Notice. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s USA featured some really wild and crazy shows, the kind of shows that stay with impressionable young children long after they’ve turned old and gray. So here’s a fond look back at some of the programs on USA Network that corrupted my youth.
Night Flight: This late night program featured New Wave videos, bizarre comedies, commercial spoofs, and cutting edge adult animation. The animated opening soared over a futuristic city of lights while narrator Pat Prescott described the evenings line up. Thanks to Youtube I can rewatch the opening sequence and listen to Prescott’s soothing voice whenever I want. My most vivid memory of Night Flight is watching Fantastic Planet and Rock N Rule, two post-apocalyptic animated films that aren’t intended for children.
Commander USA’s Groovie Movies: Commander USA looked like Superman three shots of whiskey away from rehab but he played host to an interesting variety of horror films. With his trusty sidekick Lefty always close at hand, the good Commander took to the air on Saturday afternoons from his secret hideout, the basement of a mall. Some of the films he showed included Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, the Frankie Avalon slasher Blood Song,The Brainiac, and the monster in the sewer classic Scared to Death. After a format change the Commander hosted Kung-Fu Theater but switched back to horror shortly before the show was cancelled.
USA Saturday Nightmares: This weekend horror staple featured movies, short films, and creepy television shows. The films I can remember watching during this show include Deadly Eyes, Zombie Nightmare, and The Video Dead. Sometimes the short films were scarier than the full length features. The Contraption starring Richard O’Brien as a man who commits suicide by giant mouse trap was a standout. The other two shorts that spring to mind involved a sinister old lady looking to hitch a ride and a take off on the Zuni Fetish Doll segment from Trilogy of Terror. Adding to the macabre merriment were episodes of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Ray Bradbury Theater (The Banshee episode is a creepy classic), and The Hitchhiker (Nightshift featuring a Darren McGavin as a vampire is great).
USA Up All Night: Rhonda Shear wasn’t this show’s first host but she’s the only one who matters. Her charm, wit, and sensuality brought the UP to Up All Night. Most of the flicks she hosted featured beach bunnies frolicking by the shore or featured Bikini somewhere in the title (Bikini Car Wash, Bikini Drive-In). Rhonda Shear will always be one of my favorite movie hosts because she wrote back after I sent her a fan letter in 1994. My jealous girlfriend almost killed me when she read Rhonda’s nice little note and saw the photo Rhonda sent but it was worth it. I’m amazed the photo and note survived. As for Rhonda, these days she can be seen on infomercials for her line of bras and lingerie designed for voluptuous ladies. It would be nice to see her return to hosting bad movies someday.