Following the 1981 launch of MTV, a number of local TV stations across the United States began to offer their own music video programming. Most of these efforts were limited to standalone music video shows, but one station serving the Boston market opted to try a 24/7 music video programming that directly rivaled MTV.
WVJV-TV, on the Boston UHF dial at 66, began in February 1985, the brainchild of local radio powerhouses John Garabedian and Arnie Ginsburg. While the channel played all of the hit tunes that occupied the Top 40, it also gave closer attention to Boston-area talent such as The Cars and ‘Til Tuesday. The line-up of veejays consisted primarily of photogenic yet wholesome and somewhat goofy twentysomethings, with middle-aged Garabedian inserting himself (somewhat incongruously) into on-air hosting duties.
At first, it seemed that V66 (as the channel was nicknamed) could become the start of a new trend among independent stations. Even MTV felt threatened by this smaller competitor, to the point of trying to block V66 from gaining access to the latest video releases. Alas, the channel’s revenue stream was never strong and viewership proved to be much less solid than projected. Within two years of its launch, V66 was off the air and WVJV-TV was sold to the Home Shopping Network.
Eric Green’s documentary offers an interesting glimpse into V66’s brief but colorful life. Much of the joy in this endeavor involves the clips of the on-air talent back in the day – the egregious 1980s hairstyles and wardrobes can generate plenty of belly laughs – as well as fleeting glimpses of the music videos that redefined the entertainment protocol of that era. Oddly, the conspicuous absence of diversity in both the on-air and behind-the-scenes talent is never dwelled upon.
Viewers from outside of Boston may not share the emotional vibe that the film is striving to achieve – much of V66’s local appeal was rooted in the belief that a Boston channel could be an equal to a New York-based network. Nonetheless, it offers a fascinating tribute to an unusual blip in 80s pop culture history.