Comet’s Over-the-Air Sci-Fi Goodness, Or: How I Cut the Cord and Learned to Love Watching TV Again

At the beginning of this year, my wife and I took a look a our viewing habits and decided the $50+ we were paying a month to the cable company could be better distributed elsewhere in our budget. So, we dropped cable, and went out to buy a digital converter box and HD antenna. We lost a few local channels, due to the fact that we’re in a dip near a river, but discovered some amazing new over-the-air channels about which we’d not previously been aware.

I’ve become rather obsessed with Comet, which is an over-the-air network devoted to science fiction programming. It’s exactly the sort of thing you’ll love to happen upon when flipping channels, with programming that runs the gamut from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to the creepy Klaus Kinski flick, Crawlspace, to weird ’50s films like Teenagers from Outer Space and so much more. Think SyFy, when it was the SciFi Network.

Turns out Comet is ran by the folks at MGM, which explains the massive number of shows and movies which get switched out each month to keep things fresh and entertaining (I seriously check the network’s website on the first of each month to see what new things I get to look forward to each month).

The people at Comet were cool enough to answer some of our questions about the network — as well as its action counterpart, Charge! — via email. First up, we wanted to know about the the very striking visual styles, and where the look for both networks came from, which was what first grabbed us as we clicked around.

The look of both networks came from MGM’s creative designers. The shape of the Comet logo draws its inspiration from late ’50s/early ’60s logos, and the illustrations are used to firmly root the viewer into a feeling of nostalgia. The bright color palette and flat look are used to contrast the “retro” elements and make the entire package feel more contemporary.

With Charge!, however, the goal of the logo was to create a simple, bold design that was easily adaptable for an infinite number of variations. The MGM designers kept the main color palette darker, but added a shade they call the “highlighter” to add some pop. Overall, they wanted a clean, contemporary look, and drew inspiration from current college sports uniforms and skateboard culture.

The throwback appeal of much of both channels’ programming seems to be balanced by the inclusion of occasionally more-modern fare; Resident Evil, for example. That isn’t just a side effect of the massive back catalog, but in fact, by design. They think the diversity of their programming is what makes Comet such an appealing product. While they touch the true sci-fi fans’ hearts with classic films like 1959’s Angry Red Planet, they know that these folks like modern selections as well.

What really sets Comet apart from most networks is that they’re not just running a bunch of movies and shows; the programmers come up with some really clever programming blocks, like a week of haunted house movies, or a “Best of the Worst” bad movie marathon. They have a really creative programming department that works tirelessly with their library and relevant acquisitions teams.

Together, they create these opportunities based on what’s available and also what outside content would make a great fit. This team also listens to input from Comet viewers, constantly reviewing fan suggestions for movies and series, and they declare rather emphatically that they read every email, with movies and series on right now that fans have asked for.

Comet’s not just over-the-air, though — for thems what don’t live in areas with decent reception, the network is available streaming via Roku and Apple TV and, as of last month, via YouTube TV. The network’s also starting to become more active via social media channels; both networks were often limited to announcements of upcoming programming. Their fans have told them they like to be updated often on programming, but they do share quite a bit of fresh social content as well as interactive activities.

The Comet blog, “The Signal,” is published via social media several times a week with what’s going on with current movies, television, science and related topics. They’ve also had several sweepstakes, including the most recent one for Stargate Origins. One of their interactive social events was a “March Badness” bracket-themed voting tally for favorite movie, with rather intense voting.

If you look at the schedules for both the Comet and Charge! networks, you’ll see that they match a lot of programming to theatrical releases, holidays and yearly events. They teased that they have some really exciting stunting plans for the summer, and throughout the remainder of the year, on both networks, and concluded by saying that it will be“a monster summer” on Comet.

Seriously: get on this, kids. Programming for April includes the likes of Cherry 2000; the 1987 Wizard Video gem, Mutant Hunt; recent Film from the Void, The Snake Woman; and crazy monster flicks like The Land That Time Forgot and Reptilicus. If you’re disinclined to leave your house on Friday nights, there’s also this weekend’s Cult Classic Theater, featuring the massively awful yet incredibly hilarious pairing of Troll 2 and Contamination 7. We’ve got the popcorn popping already.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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