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Remembering Night Flight TV (1981-1988)

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“Welcome to Night Flight” – Pat Prescott introduces every show the same way.


night flght tv show


While the rest of mankind uses A.D. and B.C. to divide history, I prefer to use BNF and ANF – before and after Night Flight.



Okay, not really. But it was an important show – it introduced a variety of music and movies that would otherwise have gone completely beneath the radar for most Americans. Created by Stuart Shapiro, Night Flight was a beautiful thing, running on the USA Network between 11pm and 7am every Friday and Saturday night. The show was four hours long, broadcasting til 3am before repeating in full.



It played an interesting variety of music videos, generally punk or new wave (although, reggae and more mainstream music were often featured). This was intermixed with wonderfully eclectic clips: everything from Cold War Era footage to stand up comedy.


night flight tv show

But Night Flight‘s specialty was their off beat movies – Kentucky Fried Movie, Repo Man, Eraserhead, Liquid Sky, The Terror of Tiny Town (a cowboy/western with an all midget cast), Eating Raoul, Flesh for Frankenstein, Rude Boy; Urgh! A Music War, Reefer Madness, Rocky Horror and my favorite – Jekyll & Hyde: Together Again.


night flight


If the images below are even remotely familiar to you, chances are you watched it on Night Flight. It’s from the film Fantastic Planet, and I hated it at the time (and Night Flight played it a lot).


Fantastic Planet,


But I was an idiot back then interested in only two things (I won’t tell you what they were); now that I am Enlightened and Cultured, I can appreciate a film such as this. The trailer from 1973 blows my mind like no other.



Sadly, I rarely watched Night Flight during its actual airtime (late Friday and Saturday nights) – I was much too busy being a rebellious a-hole. Luckily, we had purchased a VHS recorder and so I was able to tape it (the luxury of TiVo light years away). What a treat it was to pollute my mind with all those rowdy crazyass movies each week!



Kids who don’t remember a time when every song or movie couldn’t instantly be at your fingertips perhaps can’t appreciate what a blessing something like Night Flight was.


night flight ad2


USA’s Up All Night would replace Night Flight in 1988. Up All Night was a good show, in a manner similar to Elvira’s Movie Macabre, but the spectacle of cult movies meshed with great music and eccentric clips was over. Night Flight R .I.P. As someone commented on IMDb “Television had never been so anarchic and probably never will be again.”


And a few more clips.

This video from 1985.

Just says ‘Yes’:

And this unforgettable interview:

  • Joseph Brendan

    I grew up, and still live in, a poor, little suburb in Florida. Night Flight gave me a chance to see what was happening out there in the land where the streets didn’t close up at 8pm. It taught me there was more to life than American culture and MTV. The docos were great. I still remember one about French heroin addicts, Journey into Hell or something like that. It was the first place I saw RCHP and Oingo Boing, Devo and other bands that really captured the zeitgeist. It was what saved me from becoming a beer swilling, football loving, uninterested redneck. Very happy I grew up when I did. Thanks for reminding me of this.

  • NGO

    We always approached Night Flight the same way, that is, we never officially set our schedules around it, that way it was always a crazy, unexpected surprise to find out what they were doing this week. Usually we’d find it after SCTV and then stay with it until it reset around 2am. The Raybeats, DEVO, Suburban Lawns and of course URGH! What a show.

  • Andrew Baker

    Devo – Atomic TV – Love That “Bob” (Church of the Sub-Genius) – JacMac & RadBoy – Never-Coming Attractions – Reefer Madness. Some of the best days of my life was lying in bed, underneath a fan and my head next to an open window to cool down after those hot summer days in Phoenix, watching Night Flight. “Bob” Loves You. “Bob” Loves You. “Bob” Loves You. “Bob” Loves You.

  • Drehcir

    I remember Night Flight well. During the same time frame USA also aired a show called Radio 1990, which played music videos.

  • Bat42

    Night Flight also ran in syndication from 1990-1996. That’s when I saw it. Dad was too cheap to get cable.

  • Jason in KT

    Any information about the “Showtime Shorts” features that ran in the early 80s? My parents got rid of cable before I knew about Night Flight but I remember seeing some wild stuff on Showtime Shorts that I haven’t been able to find since.

  • PapayaSF

    It was a great, great show. It should be revived. It’s where I first saw J-Men Forever, the great Firesign Theatre movie.

  • joseph powell

    In mid-1987, we (me, our Dad, and my two little brothers – Mom divorced him in ’83 and we three boys opted to live with our Dad) moved to Vero Beach, Fl; since we had no TV reception there, our Dad finally relented to getting cable.
    We had HBO, but not MTV, as that required a converter box and an extra fee; for music videos, we had to rely on Friday Night Videos, TBS’ Night Trax, and USA’s Night Flight.
    I was, up to that point, the only person in our extended family to own a VCR (paid for by money I earned at Burger King at the previous city we lived in); I used the hell out of that thing, and would let it fill up a whole six-hour VHS tape with Night Trax and Night Flight on the weekends (I believe by then Night Flight just reran Friday night’s show on Saturdays, so I could record both shows).
    I loved the weird, trippy things they showed – from Fantastic Planet to a very much truncated Night of the Living Dead, as well as music features, etc.
    I thought Jack Mac and Radboy was hilarious, and also remember one short, roughly-animated cartoon that featured a man enjoying a nice day in his fenced-in backyard, picking an orange from the tree, squeezing it into a glass and drinking it – only to see a burglar jump over his fence and hit him over the head, killing him.