The early days of HBO…

It’s taken me a while to hop on the YouTube-aholic train, anesthetist but I’m there now, drugs full-force! Since I was baby-sat (is that a word?) by cable in my childhood, rx I thought it best to fully explore all that YouTube had to offer, early-days-of-cable-TV-bumpers-wise. I’ve extracted some choice audio for ya.

HBO In Space (“Feature Presentation”): This is the “floating in space thing” that HBO would show before almost every single feature, between 1983 and the late ’80s. There were three versions: the 60-second flying-through-the-cityscape-and-then-onto-the-floating-logo version, the 30-second space-only version, and the 70-second one that was a mirror of the 60-second one, only with a short scene of a family turning on the TV and sitting down tacked onto the beginning. The 30-second one is the one they showed most often, but here’s the audio for the 60-second version.

“HBO In Space” feature presentation bumper music (MP3)

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HBO Movie bumper, late 1980s: This one’s got more plastic pomp, what with the neon glow and the shredding guitar solo. This one got heavy play up until sometime in the mid-’90s. A cinephile friend of mine instantly recognized what this was by name, after only hearing the first few seconds of it from across the room.

“HBO Movie” feature presentation bumper music, late 1980s (MP3)

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HBO Movie Marquee & Coming Up Next On HBO, early 1980s: These go back a little further than my cable-watching career allowed. My family got cable in the household in ’83, around the time the “HBO In Space” thing premiered.

“HBO Movie Marquee” feature presentation bumper music, early 1980s (MP3)
“Coming Up Next On HBO” bumper, early 1980s (MP3)

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The Best Time On TV Is HBO, late 1980s(?): Some HBO executive must’ve loved the work of painter Piet Mondrian with a passion, for the graphic look that the channel adopted for almost a year directly reflected his aesthetic. Check out this track, where the session singer nearly blows a load in his pants over HBO with faux pleasure!

“The Best Time On TV Is HBO” promo, late 1980s (MP3)

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HBO Video Jukebox, 1981-1986: Wikipedia sez:

“A typical episode of ‘Video Jukebox’ consisted of seven or eight music videos and lasted roughly 30 minutes, and the lineup changed in the middle of each month…[i]n the late 1970s (and before the MTV network debuted), HBO was already airing one or two music videos (or ‘promotional clips’ as they were known at the time) as filler in between their feature films and other series. These short clips also carried the ‘Video Jukebox’ moniker. When Video Jukebox premiered as a half-hour series in December 1981, HBO reached more households than MTV (which was launched only four months earlier), so a video that aired on Video Jukebox actually received more exposure than it would on MTV, a claim that would be short-lived as MTV quickly gained more cable markets…[a]t the peak of its popularity in the mid-1980s, Video Jukebox spawned many ‘special edition’, including Christmas Jukebox, Country Jukebox, Comedy Jukebox and other editions featuring songs from movies and Grammy winners.”

Here’s the brief theme music from both versions of the show’s opening credits through its five-year run.

“HBO Video Jukebox” themes, 1981-1986 (MP3)

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No Place Like HBO commercial, early 1980s: I don’t know if this saccharine jingle was something that only aired on HBO itself, or on network TV at the time, in order to entice new customers to the then-burgeoning subscription service. Kenny Rogers makes a cameo appearance (visual only, not singing) in the montage of folks of various ethnicities plopping themselves down in front of a TV to enjoy pay cable.

“No Place Like HBO” promo, early 1980s (MP3)

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Inside HBO, early 1980s: At the time, most everyone was “new” to pay movie channels, so HBO thought it needed to explain to neophyte subscribers exactly how the laws of HBO physics worked. The channel produced a series of animated FAQ-style promos that answered such questions as “Why does HBO show things it’s shown before in the past?” and “Why does HBO show movies I haven’t heard of before?” Such questions seem quaint now, eh? Here’s a compilation of four of these “Inside HBO” spots.

“Inside HBO” montage, early 1980s (MP3)

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Cinemax Movie bumper, late 1980s: Wikipedia sez:

Cinemax launched in August 1980, introduced by its then on-air personality Robert Kulp. Kulp told viewers that Cinemax would be about movies and nothing but movies. At the time, HBO featured a wider range of programming, including documentaries, children’s entertainment, sporting events, and entertainment specials…Movie classics were a mainstay of [Cinemax] at its birth, “all uncut and commercial-free” as Kulp would say. A heavy schedule of films from the 50s-70s made up most of Cinemax’s program schedule.

Cinemax was often way cooler than HBO for me as a child because they showed a better selection of stuff — AND had the Max Headroom talk show! I remember catching this particular bumper in front of movies that I would watch at my friend’s house as a kid; my parents never wanted to cough up the extra dough for Cinemax.

“Cinemax Movie” feature presentation bumper music, late 1980s (MP3)

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444 Responses to The early days of HBO…

  1. Jude says:

    Of course Cinemax was cooler. We all know why. I was frequently busted.

  2. jesus christ, you may well be the biggest nerd to ever log on to internet. god speed.

  3. ILuvNostaliga says:

    I have a collection of 80′s classic movies and I would love to add in different HBO bumpers to the beginnig of them (remember HBO played Clash of the titans and Friday the 13th, everyday almost) Is there a place that I can download the video files

  4. RHMathis says:

    I keep looking for a short video HBO used to play shortly after the “riding through Central Park on a bicycle with a head-mounted camera” days. It was an animated film with an alligator in a smoking jacket. The alligator played jazz on a piano and generally lounged about, as I recall. I surely would like a pointer URL to that video.

  5. Will says:

    Having been born in ’76, I remember vividly all of these intros and songs. It is amazing how after twenty years, I can still remember those intros as if I were back there right now. I loved the HBO city and the flyover, it was my favorite part as a 6-7 year old. Good memories.

  6. Jack says:

    Don’t publish e address, however, I was at Ft Polk (Louisiana) in the spring/summer of 1980, our living quarters was across the street from a dish, w/o cable, we received HBO perfectly.

    They had to look for things to program; it was not on the entire day, much like TV in the earlier era. One of the things, in addition to Mike Hammer, was Burlesque, not a movie, but film of actual, recent, shows; certainly the last days of this type of entertainment.