mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)
mabfan

Babylon 5 and the Time Change

The annual recurrence of Daylight Saving Time prompted me to remember a story that took place years ago, on the weekend we went off Daylight Time and back onto Standard Time, and when the TV show Babylon 5 was first being broadcast.

If, like me, you were a fan of Babylon 5 from the beginning, you may recall that it was broadcast as part of the Warner Brothers PTEN network, meaning that whatever local channel in your area had chosen to sign on had the rights to broadcast the show. But it also meant that, unlike network shows that were supposed to be shown at precise times and days (such as, say, every Monday at 8 pm), Babylon 5 could be shown by each channel whenever it wanted to within the week of broadcast.

In October 1996, my main source for the show was channel 50 out of New Hampshire, which at the time was an independent station with the call letters WNDS. Channel 50 did a pretty good job of keeping the show on schedule, but there were times when the show got moved around to another slot. Fortunately, with the aid of a magazine called TV Guide that included print listings of television broadcast schedules, I was able to know when the show would be on. If the show was being broadcast at an inconvenient hour, such as in the middle of the night, I would set my VCR, a device that allowed me to record television shows onto a medium known as videotape, to watch later. (If I recall correctly, channel 50 showed a lot of local live sporting events, which is why their scheduling was often a bit flaky.)

The week that the B5 episode "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place" was supposed to be broadcast, there was no listing at all for the show. Concerned, I actually called up the station to find out what was going on. Fortunately for me, they were very understanding, although I did get the impression that I was the only viewer who had contacted them.

A staff member explained to me that due to the quirks in scheduling there was only one time slot during the whole week in which they were able to fit the episode. A movie was going to run until 3 am Sunday on Daylight time, and then, at 3 am, when they moved the clocks back, they were planning to squeeze in the Babylon 5 episode during the second 2 am of the night.

Basically, the episode was going to be shown during the extra hour of the night that didn't really exist. Somewhat appropriate for a show like B5...

This also explained why the episode wasn't listed on the schedules. TV Guide didn't bother printing what the stations had planned for the second 2 am of the night, probably because most people wouldn't care. But given the TV show I was chasing around the airwaves, I did care.

That evening, I set the VCR timer to record channel 54 from 3 am to 4 am EDT (which by that point would be 2am to 3 am EST), and I hoped that the staff member had been correct. When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was run to the TV and VCR, and I confirmed that the episode had recorded successfully, along with a lot of the, um, interesting advertisements that were broadcast during the early morning hours.

I told this story at science fiction conventions for many years, and it usually got a laugh. I do sometimes wonder if any other New England fans found themselves confused when the next episodes were broadcast, as this particular one included some rather vital plot points for the show's arc.
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