We Ride...But Only On The Weekends...
Director Robert Rodriguez has his own TV network.
While the point, as he says, is to create a channel that speaks to the American people, I’m not so sure that’s the full truth. Or maybe that’s what it does during the week, while it’s airing things like a Texas Justice court thingy in the vein of the usual daytime Judge shows…you know, plaintiff v defendant, one of ‘em is usually a scumbag or just someone that’s clearly in the wrong, Judge gets to talk some folksy sass to ‘em and justice is “done”. Or while they’re showing re-runs of X-files, Starsky and Hutch and Dark Angel…or some sort of extreme sports program. Original programming is starting to trickle out. Cashing in on the seemingly unending vampire craze, there’s From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and then there’s the upcoming Matador…which focuses on a soccer star that’s also a CIA agent or a CIA agent whose cover is a soccer star…I dunno. My point here is that with the above programs, I’m not seeing that ‘for the people’ vibe…and I’m one of the people! I think…
But then comes the weekend. And the weekends start on Thursday. Flying Five Finger One-Armed Eight Pole Shaolin Exploding Death Touch Thursdays. This is a Kung Fu double header comprised mostly of films from the famous (or infamous) Shaw Brothers. They’re aired uncut…so if breasts just randomly pop out, they’re there. Someone gets their eyes gouged out by an adversary using Dragon Claw technique? You see it. The bad dubbing? Oh yeah, it’s still there! And suddenly, yes, now I too am one of the “American People” Rodriguez spoke of.
Grindhouse Fridays bring us low budget films that have either gone on to become timely classics (because, let’s face it, that’s part of grindhouse cinema, one look and you know EXACTLY what decade it was made in!) or movies that you remember and you’ve seen…but can never remember fully. Movies that get responses such as “Oh, yeah, I remember I’d see bits and pieces of that movie on cable back in the 80s.” or “Oh, yeah, I love that movie but can never remember its name!” These too are presented in uncut glory…which, okay, at this point I’m kinda stumped! You see, this isn’t an HBO or Showtime type deal…this channel is bundled in with more basic programming (notice how the old nomenclature of “pay channels” and “free channels” has kinda gone out the window?). So how do they get away with it? Well, disclaimers for one. “This movie is presented uncut to maintain the director’s artistic vision. Viewer discretion is advised” or something like that. I can tell you one thing though, when I saw those words attached to a movie when I was a wee lad of 10…that just upgraded the movie to “must-see”. So thank you, El Rey, for perpetuating that. Now if we could only get cable/satellite companies to bring back scrambled porn.
Saturdays are for movie marathons. Sometimes they’re themed, like “Carpenterror” highlighting the films of John Carpenter and sometimes it’s a random bunch of movies that may or may not appear at some point or another on Flying Five Finger One-Armed Eight Pole Shaolin Exploding Death Touch Thursdays or Grindhouse Fridays.
Sundays go more with the weekday fare than the weekend movies…although I did catch the Hardcore Dadcore Father’s Day marathon…which was mostly Kung Fu themed because…well…hell yeah, more kung fu, that’s why!
So now that we’ve run through the weekend, we can see that maybe this isn’t about “speaking to the American people”. Maybe this is more about showing the films that inspired Rodriguez’s growth and passion for moviemaking. And that’s fine. Machete, Machete Kills, From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City, Desperado, Planet Terror…hey, these aren’t going to be remembered as cinematic classics, but yeah, I like ‘em and if this channel wants to give me some insight as to where these ideas came from, great. But like any network in its infancy, El Rey is still finding its identity…okay, and it’s also scrambling to get more content to air! Or at least, I hope it is. My two cents? (Yeah, because Robert Rodriguez has somehow stumbled upon this little corner of the vast world wide web.) Anyway, I’d say focus on the things that inspired. Surely Rodriguez was inspired by more TV series than Starsky and Hutch and X-Files. And yeah, the original series are a fine addition (granted, I say that without having watched either of them…although Matador hasn’t aired yet as of this writing…and don’t really intend to). But one of the advertisements for the network says “Godzilla rides…with El Rey!” God I hope so. Get out there, find those forgotten classics (and rightfully forgotten not-so-classics) and put ‘em out on the airwaves (or cable-waves, if that’s a thing). If anything, I can promise you this, the unintentional comedy will certainly keep me coming back for more and given the number of B-movie and horror enthusiasts present on the internet…well, maybe this network will end up speaking to and for the American people. We like our movies like we like our pizza, extra cheese. We believe in the “Three B’s”; blood, beasts and breasts. Grainy, low-grade film stock? Perfect, it’ll hide (or highlight) the crappy special effects! Lastly, a kung fu movie is NOT a kung fu movie unless it’s got that 70’s kung fu sound…you know which one I mean…it’s like every punch or kick is breaking a damn tree in half.
Come to think of it, how is it that fellow Texan and Drive-In Movie authority Joe Bob Briggs NOT a part of this channel??? Add that to your ‘to-do’ list, El Rey. And if you’re not familiar with Mr. Briggs, don’t worry, we’ll be highlighting him at some point on the site.
The slogan of the network is “Ride With Us” or “Ride With El Rey”. If this were to become a channel of cinematic guilty pleasures, I’d do just that. But for now, I’m like nearly every guy that buys a Harley Davidson during his mid-life crisis…I only ride on the weekends.