Yes, there's a whole extra layer of TV choices

(My TV columns are usually filled with the basics -- the big networks, cable, satellite, streaming networks. But there's an extra world -- via digital networks -- I rarely get into. Here's a guide I sent to papers, with some of those choices.)

By Mike Hughes

For TV viewers,
already stuffed with choices, there's another layer out there.

It's a world of Kirk
and Spock, Bert and Ernie, Archie and Edith and more. And it's sort
of free.

These are the
“digi-nets,” the ones that were designed for stations' digital
sub-channels. Some are also on cable or satellite; most – varying
by market – can be grabbed over-the-air, with a digital antenna.

The change began
when stations were required to switch to digital TV by mid-2009. They
grumbled about the expense, but received a bonus: A digital signal
only needs a fraction of the band-width; instead of sending one
signal, a station can send as many as four.

Some of the extra
spots have gone to networks that were originally designed to be
separate – Ion (formerly Pax Net), MyNet, CW. But many have gone to
new networks filled, with old TV.

That seems timely
now, as several of the networks load up on Christmas reruns; one
(GetTV) even has a new “Nashville Christmas” special. Here's an
alphabetical sampling; all times are ET:

-- Antenna TV,

It has: Comedies.
The daytime ones are ultra-old – Burns & Allen, “Hazel,”
even “Father Knows Best.” By late afternoon, modern humor --
“Newhart,” “Barney Miller,” “Family Ties,” etc . -- takes
over. The Norman Lear classics -- “Sanford and Son,” “Good
Times,” “Jeffersons,” “All in the Family” -- take up
primetime (8-10 p.m.) and sometimes beyond, but Johnny Carson is at
alway at 10.

-- Bounce,

It has: Black stars,
in movies and series. That includes “Cosby Show,” 5-6 p.m.;
Bernie Mac, 6-7 p.m.; and “Living Single,” 7-9 p.m.

Bonus: Unlike most
digi-networks, it has launched several original shows. A drama series
-- “Saints and Sinners,” set in a Baptist church – has already
had two eight-episode seasons, with a third on the way. There's an Ed
Gordon news show and occasional sports; Bounce tried some college
football and basketball, then switched to boxing.

-- GetTV,

It has: Lots of
dramas, including cowboys in the morning; “Ghost Whisperer,” 1-3
p.m., “7th Heaven,” 3-6 p.m.; and “In the Heat of
the Night,” 6-8 p.m.

Bonus: The network
is now in a month-long immersion of old Christmas specials and
movies. Those run from 8-11 p.m. and sometimes beyond. Dec. 7, for
instance, has Johnny Cash at 9 p.m. and Mac Davis at 10; Dec. 8 has
“Father Knows Best” and “Yes Virginia” movies at 8 and 10.

Bonus II: Moving
beyond reruns, there's the new “A Nashville Christmas,” with
Wynonna Judd, Emmylou Harris, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, gospel's
Ashley Cleveland and bluegrass' Dailey & Vincent. It debuts at 8
and 11 p.m. Dec. 7 and reruns often, including 10 p.m., Dec. 10; 10
p.m., Dec. 12; 9 p.m., Dec. 14; 10 p.m., Dec. 18; 8 p.m., Dec. 20; 8
p.m., Dec. 23; and 8 p.m., Dec. 25.

-- Heroes&Icons,

It has: Dramas. The
daytime line-up of cowboys and cops steps aside for the Steven Bochco
giants -- “Hill Street Blues” at 3, “NYPD Blue” at 4 – and
then for impressive torsos: “Hulk” at 5, “Hercules” at 6,
“Xena” at 7. But the highlight is from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., with
back-to-back episodes of each o the five “Star Trek” series.

-- Justice Network,

It has: Lots of
true-life crime reruns, some from broadcast (“Rescue 911”) and
most from cable (“The First 48,” “Cold Case Files,” etc.).

-- Me TV,

It has: A mix. The
daytime has cowboys and “Matlock”-type mysteries, but they give
way to “Hawaii Five-0” at 6 p.m. and then a mismatched string of
comedies -- “MASH,” “Andy Griffith,” “Mama's Family,”
“Alf,” even “Hogan's Heroes.”

-- PBS Create,

It has: Lots of
cooking, plus sewing, painting and crafts. Also, exercises from
8:30-9:30 a.m.

-- PBS Kids,

It has:
Commercial-free kid shows all dat. Where else can you find hours of
“Sesame Street” and “Dinosaur Train” at 10:30 and 11:30 p.m.
and then “Daniel Tiger” after midnight?

Bonus: “Family
Movie Night” -- 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays – currently has
Christmas specials. This week (Dec. 8-10) has “The Cat in the Hat
Knows a Lot About Christmas” at 7 and 8:30 p.m., sandwiching a
“Dinosaur Train” at 8; coming are “Splash and Bubbles” and
“Peg and Cat,” Dec. 15-17; and “Ready, Jet, Go” and “Wild
Kratts,” Dec. 22-24.

-- PBS World,

It has: Some regular
elements, including Tavis Smiley at noon and 12:30 p.m., “NHK News”
from Japan at 5 p.m. and a “PBS Newshour” rerun at 10 p.m.. Also,
lots of specials and series – some of them also on the regular PBS
channel and some not.