Night Flight ran on USA Network for most of the 80s, first airing a few weeks before MTV signed on. It would start at 11:00 PM on Friday and Saturday nights, and last until the wee hours of the morning. It went into syndication in 1988, replaced on USA by Gilbert Gottfried’s Up All Night, a ridiculous exchange. Night Flight would survive only a few more years, with a much smaller audience.
Most people who remember Night Flight remember its voice-over host, Pat Prescott. Prescott’s image never appeared on the show, as far as I know, but her sultry voice became a kind of trademark for the program, as much as its unique content.
Night Flight was essentially a music video program, but it also featured rarely-seen shorts and documentaries. My favorite was Fantastic Planet, a French-language science fiction film available through Netflix. Most of the music was alternative: punk, new wave, metal, and so forth—stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else. The essence of Night Flight was unique, single-source programming that almost no one else offered. In a world without the Web, Night Flight took us into the dark corners and blind alleys of 80s pop culture, showing us things that we would otherwise never see growing up in Surry County, NC.
That kind of gateway programming will probably never return. The Internet has opened up the world in way that removes all its mystery. It seems the kind of expository magic Night Flight worked in our hearts is simply impossible for today’s kids. Today’s innocents play a much bigger role in controlling what content they receive, and in fact they deliver content through Facebook, MySpace, etc. In the 80s, you got what the TV gave you, and you were happy to get it. And you were virtually unknown, except to the few kids who saw you face-to-face on your street.
Some of the best Night Flight moments live on thanks to YouTube. Here are two that I can remember like it was last night:
Some more YouTube clips:
- Tom Waits profile, circa 1991
- “Toone Theater”, featuring a short-subject titled “Juice,” circa 1991
- “Trippin to the Moon”
- “Touchdown Retribution”
- The Making of Krull (part 1 of 2)
- Billy Idol interview
Some Night Flight links: