Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I've Got A Few Proposals (As Usual), But Still The Government Refuses To Let Me Make Americans' Lives Better.

Wow. This has not been The Summer of Nance as I had planned and hoped and wished it would be. After last summer being tres crappy due a frustrating litany of pain-therapy-pseudo-rotator cuff surgery-that wasn't, and having to put EmilyCat down, I vowed that the Summer of 2009 would be a self-indulgent Seasonal Romp Of Nanceness. Forget it. The lousy economy has hit the dept. as it has many other NE Ohio households, let's just put it that way.

I spend an inordinate time puttering around the yard, and when that's done, I plop in front of the television.

Are all of you aware that there is, literally, nothing on television during the summer?

Clearly, this is the next problem that the dept. of nance is needed to tackle. Despite changing my blog's tagline, I am still ready and willing to become a nonpartisan government department that will take on Any Urgent Issue and solve it with all alacrity, civility, and common sense. I firmly believe that American Television has become just such an Issue.

I already have a very simple plan that has been motivated, in part, by recent events. (And by "events," I mean, of course, "celebrity deaths.") Certainly I am sympathetic to the delicate nature of these passings. It would seem, however, that I am in the minority, judging by the barrage of news reports, "in memoriam specials," re-airing of past interviews, and constant on-the-spot reporter segments from hospitals, mansions, impound lots, you-name-its since Thursday, 25 June. It has clogged the airwaves and pre-empted what little programming there is. And, not to be crass, but celebrities just keep dying. That phenomenon, plus some other television proclivities I've noticed, have led me to make the following Proposals.

PROPOSAL I. The All Tribute Channel. (I was going to call it "The All Death Channel", but that was a bit much, I realized, even for me.) This channel could be reserved for all the celebrity memorial documentaries, interviews, autopsy report tracking, custody battle information, funeral red carpets, etcetera. That way, it doesn't dominate the rest of the channels, and the morbid amongst us can get their fill.

PROPOSAL II. The All Law and Order Channel. Okay. You all know how I feel about Mariska Hargitay. And I fell in love with Sam Waterston back when he played Nick Carraway in the film version of The Great Gatsby, and I love him still. But there are now approximately, by my last count, eleventy hundred spinoffs of Law and Order. And they are on thirty-five cable channels at virtually any hour of every day. Let's get organized, people! Put them on one channel, period. Sheesh! Not. That. Hard!

PROPOSAL III. Stick To A Schedule. How hard is this? There is absolutely no rhyme nor reason to what is going on, ever, on any given night on television. Last Tuesday, there may have been one show on; this Tuesday, there may be a feature-length film in that very same time slot. Perhaps the newspaper's television grid is correct; more often, it is not even close to being accurate. In despair, I flip to the Cleveland Indians baseball game to watch this last-place team lose yet another game. Or, to the Chicago affiliate to watch the Cubs destroy my life.

Are there any GLIMMERS OF HOPE? Yes. We here at the dept. love to indulge in what we term The Smartest Shows On Television. In no particular order they are:
1. Wipeout
2. I Survived A Japanese Game Show
3. The Big Bang Theory

(Sadly, watching Meet the Press makes me sad now. David Gregory is just terrible. Terrible. And have you noticed his awful, awful tie and shirt combinations? What happened, David Gregory? Why did you do this to me after I championed your cause so fervently? )
Anyway, present your Proposals in comments, and I'll see what I can do. Oh, and if you've got any good new nonfiction titles to pass along, do. I'm completely without reading material as well. There's just nothing to read out there! (When will Doris Kearns Goodwin write the definitive Mary Lincoln biography for me? When?)


  1. OH, but there IS good summer TV. You just need to know where to look. And, of course, "good" is such a subjective term. What we think is good includes:

    1. True Blood. Love this quirky and rather hot vampire series. It's on HBO so, if you missed Season #1, you can catch up.

    2. Psych. Ridiculously funny story of a guy who pretends to be psychic and helps the police. I think this is Season #3, but you can find the others on Netflix.

    3. Burn Notice. LOVE this story of a spy who has been "burned" - especially love his rapport with the other characters. You can also get the previous seasons on Netflix.

    4. Secret Life of an American Teenager. Teenager gets pregnant, has the baby, keeps the baby. The power in this story is the relationship between all the characters.Also on season #3 but the other seasons are on Netflix.

    5. Eureka. Another quirky (we love the quirky) sci-fi/comedy/drama about a very unique little town. Other seasons on Netflix.

    6. Leverage. Team uses their various skills to help people who have been screwed by insurance companies, etc.

    7. Entourage. GREAT HBO show about a young man who has become a Hollywood star but brings his friends along for the ride.

    8. Others that sound interesting that are coming soon - 10 Things I Hate About You; Hung; Dark Blue; Warehouse 13

    9. We also love to watch a complete, older TV series from Netflix like Gilmore Girls and are just finishing Charmed.

    10. If you don't subscribe to Netflix, you should do so immediately. You will be glad you did.

    Let me know if you watch and like any of these. Surely you can pick something out of that batch!!

  2. Get Showtime so that you can see "Nurse Jackie". Awesome.

  3. Jan--No HBO, and we gave up Netflix around January when we realized we had one movie that sat around for about 3 months, unwatched.

    apathy lounge--we're basic cable only here at the dept, and that's not about to change. rick bitches enough about that bill already, believe you me.

  4. Oh, I so agree with you. I was going to write just such a post but you did a great job and saved me the trouble. Hey, I'm sorry when anyone dies, but when half of every news report is about Michael Jackson, I realize that the news is not really 'news,' it is entertainment. Aren't there serious things going on in the world today, like Iraq and Iran, that need more air time that the 'king of pop?" Yeah, I'm old and was never into Michael Jackson music, but I felt the same when Elvis, Johnny Carson, and John Lennon died. I liked them, I miss them, I was sorry they were gone, but after 2 days, I wanted to move on to other things.

    Yes, yes, yes, stick to a schedule. I often set my VCR to tape something and they've moved it to a different time, so I missed it.

    Please send your suggestions to the networks. They need to hear them. I will send my objections to them, too. We've pretty-much resorted to watching TV shows on DVDs from Netflix.

    Because we have a great analog TV that is too good to trash, if I set my VCR, it tapes the channel that the convertor box is set on, thus I can't tape channel 2 from 8 to 9, then channel 11 from 9 to 11. I can tape on only one channel for that entire evening unless I am home and can change the channel on my converter box. New technology isn't always an improvement.

    I have several non-fiction suggestions for you, but I'll write them in another comment.

    I’m sponsoring my first GIVEAWAY (easy scavenger hunt.) Anyone can join in here:

  5. Non-fiction suggestions:

    I just started ---and so far am enjoying ---"Mistress of the Vatican" by Eleanor Herman about a woman in the 1600's who essentially ran the Vatican during the reign of Pope Innocent X. At age 15 she refused to enter a convent. Her father was trying to save having to pay dowries for his 3 daughters, but Olimpia defied him.

    I loved Sarah Vowell's "The Wordy Shipmates." You'll roll your eyes when you hear it is about the Puritans and Pilgrims ---sounds boring, huh? But Vowell has a knack of making history both serious and humorous and relating historical events to today. I also like that she can find the religious craziness of the time so abhorrent and yet admire the settlers for their ideals and courage.

    "Colored People: A Memoir" by Henry Louis Gates tells of the author's boyhood in a black community in West Virginia. This book was serious and funny and moving. I admit, I probably would not have chosen to read it, but my husband picked it up for me at the library. It became one of my favorite memoirs.

    "Copy This" by Paul Orfalea (the founder of Kinko's) relates how a hyperactive dyslexic turned a simple idea into a great company.

    "The Mighty and the Almighty" by Madeleine Albright relates how religion plays a part in foreign affairs. Since she was both ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State, she uses her vast experience and many anecdotes to create an engaging book. I also enjoyed her "Open Letter to the Next President."

    "Photographing Montana" by Donna Lucey is about an upper class English woman, Evelyn Cameron, who moved to Montana in the early 1900's to farm the harsh land with almost no help from her husband. Her small photography business kept them afloat. She kept detailed diaries that included nearly every penny spent or earned. Those and her photographs made for the very interesting story of her life. It is about hardship, but also how she reached her goal of living a 'worthy life.' I loved this book ---includes hundreds of photos.

    I learned about that book from Jonathan Raban's "Bad Land' ---how the government encouraged people to move to southeastern Montana to farm in the early 1900s ---but the land was so bad it was nearly impossible to cultivate. It is interspersed with Raban's visits to the area and to current residents.

    I also liked Raban's "Old Glory: An American Voyage". An admirer of Huckleberry Finn, the British author takes a trip down the Mississippi on a boat, meeting interesting characters along the way.

    "Dangerous Water" by Ron Powers, the life of Mark Twain up to about age 21. Most childhood biographies of Twain are written for children but this is an excellent biography for adults.

    "Tom and Huck Don't Live Here Anymore" also by Ron Powers, about two murders committed by youths in Powers' home town of Hannibal, MO.

    "Searching for Jim" by Terrell Dempsey. The author is a lawyer in Hannibal. While helping his daughter research a school paper, he became interested in slavery in Hannibal during the time Twain lived there. I know Dempsey and was privileged to receive a few advance chapters while he was writing the book. I thought I knew a lot about slavery, but I learn much more from this book.

    "God in the White House" by Randall Balmer, covers presidencies from Kennedy to Bush 2. While Kennedy had to make a special speech to assure religious leaders he would not let his Catholicism interfere with his governing, current presidents have to assure everyone of their strong Christian beliefs. Balmer tells how and why we arrived at this point.

    I order all my books in book form or on audio from the Carnegie Library system in Pittsburgh. I don't live there, but pass a branch of the library on the way to my mother's. I used to read only fiction, but for the last 10 years, I have enjoyed a lot of non-fiction.

    I’m sponsoring my first GIVEAWAY (easy scavenger hunt.) Anyone can join in here:

  6. I like the new layout. And the new bunny!

    I assume since you have nothing to read you've already read your President's writings? If you have not, there your go...they should keep you busy for a little while.

    All the people dying is a bit freaky, but I must admit that I'm not easily tiring of the all the Michael Jackson. I'm reliving my early childhood and boy is it fun!

    Your ideas for new cable television channels are quite nice. Have you been watching Top Chef Masters on Bravo? I haven't caught the entire series but I've throughly enjoyed the episodes that I have seen.

  7. I love The Big Bang Theory :-) When do new episodes air? I thought the season was over, and they're not returning until fall (sad).

  8. What about the I'm Not Tim Russert channel? So many have stepped up to take TR's mantle, and so many have failed. In addition to David Gregory (who looks like a monkey, in the opinion of my news-watching chicas), there's that guy with the funny beard...Chuck Todd? Then, any number of anorexic looking chicks. If TV adds 10 lbs., then these gals are practically non-existent. I think they should give Meet the Press to Bob Schieffer and be done with it. He's the only decent newscaster out there, analysis-wise, who could fill TR's shoes, even if he is 72.

    On the non-fiction front, I'm reading No Right to Remain Silent, by Lucinda Roy. She's the VA Tech prof who taught Seung-Hui Cho solo after his poetry classmates and professor became too freaked out to remain with him in class. The book is revealing, though very sad, filled with a lot of what-ifs. I don't see, though, how Roy can remain at Tech after her indictment of the administration.

  9. I've been a "lurker" for a while but just had to comment on the state of television and the Dept's ideas for fixing the situation. Your commenters also have some great suggestions.

    Jan Ross is totally right about Psych and Burn Notice, two USA channel favorites at our house. We love Monk too. Apathy Lounge is right on about Nurse Jackie as well. (It's like House, but the people are a bit nicer and there's more cussing and sex. Yay!)

    I have to admit to a love of the Food Network and a secret crush on Bobby Flay and Throwdown. Dexter is also excellent. Michael C. Hall is... well... um-um good. The only other mention isn't really a "good" show, but resembles a train wreck, in that you just can't stop watching it: Eleanor Burns in the Quilting Show on RFD TV. She is a complete and utter freak of nature with a sewing machine and fabric scraps.

    I love the Dept's idea of an All Tribute channel to dead people, but then what would the rest of the "news" channels do? When I am at long last designated as the Queen of the World, I will first and foremost put into place (before world peace and the end of poverty and hunger) the policy of regular television programming for those of us who go postal when we can't find the shows we want to watch when they're SUPPOSED to be on. But I'm not bitter.

    And that's my take down here on the Farm.

  10. If you're not doing netflix or HBO, you're screwed for summer tv. Accept it and read a book, is my advice. Us? We're catching up on Mad Men and Breaking Bad when we can get close to the TV, which is generally bogarted by our x-box playing daughter.

    Regarding the celebrities, I'm SO with you. One channel, all the time. Leave the rest of the channels to the rest of us. I personally don't give a shit about celebrities and their lives or deaths. Sorry.

  11. Oh, and I see that I suggested reading, but gave no suggestions. That's because non fiction bores me to a horrid stupor, probably akin to what you feel reading fiction. So I'm zero help there.

  12. Like the new look (and the subtitle ... ha ha). :-)

    I'm so in agreement on the bad TV. It would be really interesting to see how high the viewing numbers would be for your proposed channels--I'm thinking incredibly high. I've only watched one of the shows you mentioned (Big Bang) and while it was clever, I didn't want to watch it again. The show I find myself watching lately is Rescue Me. It's sort of like being drawn to look at a bad accident.

    Thankfully, we're so busy in the evenings, we don't watch much television. And, we're away at our mtn property and totally disconnected most weekends. There are some movies I want to rent and watch (I would never watch enough movies to justify a Netflix acct ... we haven't rented a movie in at least 6 months.) Most are documentaries: Food, King Corn, and Home. And, I also want to see the Dustin Hoffman/Emma Thompson movie that V recommended. (I planned to rent it right away, but then got sidetracked.)

    Most of my reading of nonfiction books is related to my gluten intolerance support group these days, so those are definitely not choices for everyone. ;-) Some suggestions here sound great though.

    Last thought: "Summer of Nance" ... love that--why not? LOL Maybe it will still happen. We're only at the beginning of July.


  13. shirley--no "summer of nance." the economical woes of NE Ohio have hit hard here at the Dept. Sorry you didn't enjoy Big Bang! I just love those nerdy characters and think the writing is so smart. Maybe because I know some of those people from my job.

    j.@jj.--Maybe just for this 2009 season we should have a Summer of Death channel! Sheesh!

    Life at the Funny Farm--Hi! Thanks for commenting and reading here at the Dept. I'm a Food Network watcher, although I'm getting more and more disenchanted as this network ages. It's become more and more about personality and entertainment and LESS ABOUT FOOD! That said, I put The Next FN Star on my destination TV list. All of us are cutting and ruthless as we watch every Sunday.

    Melissa B.--I'm now championing Andrea Mitchell for MTP. Bob S. is already doing an MTP-type show and has for ages.

    Mikey--I had to make a heartbreaking decision during the reg. season and cut BBT loose for HOUSE. So, I'm just now picking up BBT eps that I missed. You know I crush hardcore on Hugh Laurie.

    Nina--Absolutely I've been watching Top Chef M., and I pick the winners as soon as they walk onto the kitchen set. Good show. Sorry I missed your phone call the other day; I had to run away for a few days unexpectedly. I'll email you later.

    CJ--You win the Superfantastic Commenter Award! Thanks for all the great book recom's. I am intrigued by several of them.
    Re: Michael Jackson--it is precisely because I *am* old that I feel ambivalent about his demise, almost as if he were already dead to me. I spent the seventies loving his music; the early 80s dancing to his music. Then he just weirded out and I checked out. Apparently, though, we all have to go through endless death throes with the world now. Last check: he's still dead, but we can't LET IT GO.

    What does that say about the media and the nation's appetites? Yikes.

  14. Nance----
    I'm so old that when the network news anchor commented that we all know the lyrics to Jackson's music ---my husband and I looked at each other and neither of us could name one song title, let alone the lyrics. I've never been much into popular music, even as a teen.

    By the way the first book I mentioned "Mistress of the Vatican" (which I had just started to read) is soooo interesting. Every day over dinner, I tell my husband what I learned about the lives of nuns in the 1600's, the ridiculous rules cardinals had to follow, the politics, the culture, the social life, the nepotism and how Olympia made most of the decisions for her indecisive brother-in-law who will eventually become the pope. It is a rather good complement to the Rome series we have been watching on DVD --- the author provides some background that relates to ancient Rome. Some of the author's other historical books also sound interesting.

    Haooy reading.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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