Movie Review – Z Channel: A Magnificent Obession

Review by Joshua Massre

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obession

Most movies are released into theaters and play for about a month and then disappear for a few months before appearing on home video. What happened to these movies before the advent of VHS and DVD? Prior to 1976 (the year the VCR was publicly available) many movies would just fade out into obscurity. The blockbusters and major hits would be shown on HBO and Showtime. All of the other movies that were either too obscure or not mainstream enough would appear on a Los Angeles television station called Z Channel. This program was known throughout the filmmaking world and had a major effect on many of today’s top filmmakers, including Quentin Tarintino and Alexander Payne.

The documentary Z Channel: a Magnificent Obsession tells the story of Z Channel’s rule of the foothills of Los Angeles. The film focuses on Jerry Harvey, the eccentric head of programming. Harvey, whose whole frame of reference is based in his love of film, helped the television station grow to the most popular pay television station in Los Angeles, with even more subscribers than HBO and Showtime combined. Z Channel was known for its wide range of programming, which was the main reason that it remained ahead of the other two premium channels. On any given night, one could see an obscure Robert Altman or Richard Brooks film and The Empire Strikes Back.

The film follows a simple linear narrative and moves from the channel