I'm partial to mplayer for most of my video and other media playing, but found myself using VLC a lot recently to verify that a V4L (Video for Linux) compatible 'PVR' (Personal Video Recorder) card had proper driver installation and was functioning correctly. I was frequently picking 'File / PVR' and entering
something I find as awkward to type in as you probably would also. This sets the PVR card to 'channel' zero, the TV tuner, sets it for NTSC broadcast format, a typical screen pixel size, and a frequency from the standards that tunes to the local broadcast channel 28 (KCET, Los Angeles, CA). Fumbling around some, I figured out how to save this as a playlist, and since forgot that process.
But what I did remember was the format that the playlist was in. I used that sample playlist file, the information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_broadcast_television_frequencies and created a 'TV tuner playlist', stashed online at http://www.lafn.org/~aw585/na.tv.channels.pls
The first few entries are what I want for a default channel, both the 'proper' and 'actual' frequency (perhaps the card or Wikipedia still needs some adjustment), entries for S-Video and Composite settings for the PVR card, and then settles into the standard North American channels in proper order. Using information online at Wikipedia it can of course be changed to personal/local needs. Someone more knowledgable about TV technology can probably suggest improvements on the playlist/table presented.
You can select from the VLC control panel 'Settings' / 'preferences' / 'playlist' and enter your local name of the file ('.vlc/na.tv.channels.pls' in my case, stored in the .vlc subdirectory of my home direcory) for the default playlist and save to get the first entry to start on VLC startup.
This leaves a lot to be desired as an interface, but you just click on the previous/next stream graphics (double arrows) to move up and down the North American TV bands. It sometimes seems to need double clicks to get past some 'humps' going down the bands past stations, but it is functional as a quick hack!