Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
“Think of Z Channel,” Jerry Harvey loved to say, “as the Museum of Modern Art, but with a sense of humor.” Harvey was only 32 years old in 1981 when he suddenly found himself head of programming at Z Channel, a small, pioneering pay-TV station (founded in 1974) based in Los Angeles and devoted to movies. Within six meteoric years, he transformed “Z” into a major force in the film industry. He created a highly public showcase for films in their original forms, badgering studios and enlisting the help of filmmakers themselves to restore buried or butchered works to the lengths they intended. Among the films he rescued Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America and Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, to name but a few. Before he took over Z Channel, “the director’s cut” was unheard of as a commercial idea. After Harvey, it became the basis of a revitalized afterlife for classic films. Here, 17 years after Harvey’s death in 1988, his vision and methodology continue to influence, for the better, the ways in which movies are loved and cherished throughout the United States.
Rick Ross, Marshall Persinger