San Francisco's KEMO-TV 20 was for a few years in the late 60s and very early 70s the coolest station to ever broadcast in the Bay Area. They were laughably low-budget. One consequence of their poverty was that their programming was unique, to say the least.
In KEMO-TV's earliest (and likely best-capitalized) period, they relied heavily on syndicated fare such as the three-hour (!) talk show, Kup's Show with Irv Kupcinet, and Hugh Hefner's Playboy After Dark. It was in this incarnation that they also ran foreign films on Monday nights under the banner, The Adults Only Movie, and horror films on Shock-It-To-Me Theater on Saturday nights, with the Bay Area's second-most obscure horror host, Asmodeus.
KEMO-TV disappeared for a while around late 1971 and early 1972. They may have been on the air part of that time, but were not listed in the TV Guide. When they returned, it was with a mix of foreign language programming in the early evenings and an erratic parade of locally-produced weirdness in the early-late and late night hours. During this period, the station broadcast some of the most entertaining and/or bizarre local shows ever seen. The Old Sourdough And Watchikanoka hosted old westerns while delivering hilarious humor as a couple of old west characters, and The Chicken Little Comedy Show provided local sketch comedy reminiscent of The Firesign Theater and Congress Of Wonders. It's About Sex and Swingle Scene went beyond the tease of The Adults Only Movie to be the Bay Area's first (and to date, only) television dedicated to recreational sex. The Worst Of Hollywood was a hosted movie show dedicated to Poverty Row and B films of the '30s and '40s. And, toward the end of this brief Golden Age of obscure TV, a carpet salesman named Leon Heskett hosted all-night movies and inadvertantly gave Bob Wilkins a running gag that would last him for years.
KEMO-TV didn't last long in that format. Within a couple of years, they were mainly foreign language, with some late-night programming cropping up once in a while. Jim Gabbert bought the station in the early '80s and brilliantly remade it into KOFY-TV, with a format that has since been very successful on a national scale as TV Land.
Of all the Lost Worlds of Late-Night TV, I miss the old KEMO-TV 20 the most!
Horror host without peer Doktor Goulfinger recalls the magical moment his life was changed forever by the discovery of KEMO-TV:
I was 11 or so years old. We had a large console size television in the living room, and my mother decided she would like to have a portable TV in her room. This must have been over the summer, as it was a Friday and my brothers and I went shopping with her for the new set.
We were all pretty excited - the portable TV, thought still black and white, had this new-fangled thing called UHF. We immediately wanted to try out the UHF channels and patently twisted the knob one channel at a time. With each click we were greeted by static. After a dozen or so clicks we were ready to give up and call the whole thing a gyp, when we hit KEMO 20.
Suddenly, we were right in the middle of a fight between Ultraman and some cheap and berserk looking monstrosity. We set aside our initial disappointment and decided UHF was god. It wasn't until the following week day that I found out Ultraman was part of an incredible line up of Japanese cartoon and live action programming. I may be off on the order, but I recall Kimba The White Lion, Marine Boy, Prince Planet, Speed Racer, 8th Man as the shows in the run up to Ultraman Monday through Friday.
But prior to this, I discovered Asmodeus.
Read Doktor Goulfinger's Asmodeus memories on the Shock-It-To-Me Theater page!