Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Is Television Making My Life So Hard? This Isn't Rocket Science, People! It's T.V.

Not so long ago, I admitted my sad, pathetic albeit somewhat passive Television Addiction and, although it has not waned, it has become a little bit more...discerning. I have broken up with a vast number of television shows that have cavalierly betrayed me, and I have dismissed innumerable Food Network chefs who have sullied their toques by stooping to the Meals In Minutes fad or worse, the shamefest of the PTA Cookbook/Internet recipe. (If I wanted to just slop together something from canned soup, Minute Rice, grocery store chicken, and frozen peas, what do I need to watch a chef for?)

But I digress.

With all the "choices"--and I use the term oh-so-very loosely here--that we have as Television Viewers, one would think that the various Purveyors Of Television would get their act together and be a little less flippant about how they present their offerings. I've already wailed and gnashed my teeth about the unreliability of the television schedule/Local TV Listings; this time I want to bitch about and lament the misleading names of the various cable networks themselves. For instance:

A&E: Initially, this network was termed "Arts and Entertainment." How far it has fallen! Now the A and E apparently stand for "Apprehension and Enforcement." Gone are the biographical films of famous authors and artists; their lineup now consists of shows like Dog the Bounty Hunter, Criminal Minds, and Steven Seagal: Lawman. When did this network change its mission? And if you go to their website, you can't even find the words "Arts & Entertainment" anywhere. They know, at least. They know. Hey, A&E! Relaunch! Put it out there and call it what it is. Maybe C&P--Crime and Punishment Network. But...what would they do with Hoarders?

Lifetime: Okay, here's my issue. Lifetime calls itself "Television for Women." Its website's mission statement contains a lot of posturing about how it is committed to celebrating, supporting, and entertaining women. But, holy crap, have you ever surfed around and hit on that station and glimpsed a Lifetime Movie? Invariably, that movie shows a woman in prison, a woman being beaten, a woman being raped, a woman crying, or a woman held hostage in a home invasion or something. Yikes. Now, I think I can safely say that, as a woman, I am part of Lifetime's target demographic. I don't think, however, that I feel supported, celebrated, or entertained by any of that. If it weren't for Project Runway, I'd be calling my cable provider about putting a block on old Lifetime. It sounds more like television for sickos.

Mtv: Allow me to show my advanced age here, and those of you with grey hairs are with me already. The "M" in Mtv stands for MUSIC. Why is it, then, that there is absolutely no music played on this network? When this station first aired, it was an all-music video venue. It was, quite simply, MUSIC + TELEVISION. As in, you could watch your music. What happened to my Mtv? Now it's a cesspool of stupid, inane, low-wattage reality shows with such illuminating titles as Sixteen and Pregnant, Sloppy Ho's, and Disaster Date. Time for the "M" to be changed to an "R"; it can stand for Rejects, Ridiculous, Remedial...oh, any number of far more descriptively accurate adjectives.

TLC: The Learning Channel has a real identity crisis. Like A&E, you're hard-pressed to find what TLC stands for on their website, which is as much a hodge-podge of...stuff as their network is. What, exactly, are we supposed to learn? Well, gosh! All kinds of junk! We can learn about hoarders on TLC, too, along with What Not To Wear, cake decorators, strange sex, cops, toddlers in beauty pageants, tattoo artists, and "little people"--whether they make chocolate or not. But, just so you don't think that TLC isn't truly about learning, they also include a small widget on their sidebar called "How Stuff Works"! Hey, thanks, TLC! Learning is fun! TLC needs to get real with itself. It's not about learning at all. It's all about rubbernecking. You know it and I know it. People tune in to watch Jon and Kate crash and burn, to watch the overly-tattooed people look freakish, to watch the obliviously scary mothers doll up their toddlers a la Jon Benet Ramsey and hawk them like prostitutes down the runway. It's the Voyeur Channel. The Trainwreck Network. (Help me here, Readers--I know there's a good one out there....)

Plenty of people tell me that they just don't watch television anymore. What with the endless commercials, availability of Hulu and other online outlets for their favorite shows, and the DVDs of entire series, they just don't bother. Still more tell me that they simply aren't interested; they do other things with their time. Not me. After a long day of Teen Wrangling at The Rock, I enjoy blobbing out in my big chair with my blankie, letting myself be entertained, even if it's somewhat mindlessly. I have to be able to shut it all down--all of it--and some TV time lets me do that. And if I get to look at Hugh Laurie or laugh at the same episode of The Office that I've seen a million times or appreciate the good writing of a new show that's funny and smart (for a change!) while forgetting a particularly tough day at school, then I'm good. Real good with that.


  1. Pardon me while I kvetch, but you've brought up a sore point here. MTV. Where has all the music gone? I must say, I consider myself to be a member of the REAL MTV generation...Not one who likes to watch pimply-faced, fat recluses get "Made" into Prom Queens. I think the acronym now stands for Misogynist TV or Masochistic TV, or some such blather.

  2. I don't get to watch too many TV shows these days. My television has been taken over by a toddler. Our days always begin with The Disney Channel, which I must admit, isn't always so bad. Or maybe it's just that I get a kick out of Micah singing along with The Imagination Movers, who knows.

    I hate Lifetime, always have. I think that may be part of the reason I've given up on Project Runway; haven't seen one singel epsiode of the new season.

    And MTV? WHATEVER! I hate that channel now. And that 16 and pregnant show drives me beyond crazy. I have a fit every single time I see Devin watching it and make him turn it off. The LAST thing I need is a 15 year old boy thinking that if he becomes a teen father he may end up on television, NO THANKS!!! Disgusting!!! I. HATE. THAT. FUCKING. SHOW. Sorry.

    I do enjoy my Sunday night television. I'll admit I like Desperate Housewives (always a good laugh) although I don't feel too awful if I miss an episode or three. But I'll all about Brothers & Sisters. I think everyone should watch that one. I never miss it. I will catch it while it airs on tv or watch it later in the week on the internet.

    And then there is my reality TV issues, Dancing With the Stars, Survivor. Hey, maybe I watch more TV than I orginally thought. LOL!

  3. I'm not in charge of our TV either - although it's not a toddler with the remote, it's my husband. I just don't care enough to change it. He's a history professor so he likes the "so-called" history channel - but he rants about it too. What do Ax Men have to do with history? At least the pawn show is SORT OF about history.

    And we watch baseball - where he complains too when they have a guest in the booth. Show the game already. Heh.

    I just keep playing Webkins & keep my mouth shut. Although I do like baseball.

  4. I got rid of cable about 8 years ago. With all those channels, there wasn't much to watch and it was getting way too expensive. Since the digital tv switch, there are 5 PBS channels, which adds a lot of great programming. And shows like "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" make me think that there is hope for network tv.

  5. Anali--You know, you may be right. I watch less and less cable, really, except for Cavalier basketball and reruns of The Office and House. Rick loves BBC America, but I'm weaning myself off Food Network and even dearest Bravo now that PJR has become so awful. (I hear you, Nina!) And we've never gotten the movie channels anyway, like HBO etc.

    The Bug--Every once in a GREAT while, the History channel will have something on that I like to watch, but only when I happen upon it completely by accident, and usually it's more than half over. I find that most of the cable channels end up being Surfer Food: I find stuff by accident and watch it because I'm bored or waiting for something I really want to watch to come on. (And I have no idea what Webkins are or how one plays them. Time to Google...)

    Nina--How did I--or my sons, for that matter--ever grow up without the Disney channel? LOL. And it sounds like you are turning into a Reality TV Junkie! Watch OUT! I watch Project Runway every now and then, but it's not good this season. The designers have no personality and, really, no big talent. It's just not fun or interesting since it left Bravo for some reason.
    Never saw DH or B&S, which is odd because in the case of B&S, it has ROB LOWE, one of my crushes from the 80s and who I still think is MAJOR LEAGUE CUTE. Sigh. Why don't I watch that show?

    Melissa B.--Exactly my point(s). This is why I continue to miss the 80s. (Certainly not for the fashion!)

  6. Melissa B is right. The REAL Mtv rocks. What they serve up now is wet t-shirt contests and crap. Yes, I mostly control the good tv in our home. I mostly set the DVR and do most of the watching. And I've just spent the last 52 days of my life overdosing on television. I'm ready to wean myself off and go back to work.

  7. I don't really care what channels say they are supposed to be. I just watch the shows I like, and will look at ones that seem interesting as I surf around if there is nothing specific I want to watch. We have the high-end Directv package with all the channels, so there is usually something to watch.

    There are a few channels that have a fair amount of shows I like (USA, NatGeo, PBS, Food Network, Discovery, Animal Planet, and Fox) but some I avoid (all the Disney and music ones) because I know there will never be anything on those channels that I have any interest in. I always check RFD TV ("Rural America's Channel") for the schlock factor, and TVG for the horse races. We have become a fan of silent films and TCM now has Silent Sundays--always interesting. And since we don't ever go out to the movies (no time or desire) we check all the movie channels frequently, since films now get to cable much faster than they used to.

    And MTV is now a travesty of its once-groundbreaking self. What a shame...

  8. TV. Absolutely disgusting. Except for "House" (I've always been in love with Hugh Laurie, since he did "Jeeves"). I distinctly remember the first three MTV videos I ever saw, and thought the concept was brilliant. Too bad that's gone now! The videos, which immediately had me hooked, were Annie Lennox (Eurythmics) "Here Comes the Rain Again," and Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" and "Sultans of Swing." "Money for Nothing" blew me away--it was animated. Nowadays that's run-of-the-mill; but I loved the timing of "we got to move these/refrigerators/we got to move these color teeveeeeeeees!" with the animation. And the animated dog, which I'd never seen before.

  9. sputnik--I was worried that "House" was going to jump the shark permanently after the Tritter plotline almost torpedoed the show, and then again when House had to find a new team. Even this season it's had some clunkers, but I can't lay off Hugh Laurie. I've confessed my Major Crush here at the Dept. before, and it's not abated in the least. As far as Mtv, I think it should be ashamed of itself, but since I find most current music to be shit anyway, I'll get my fix when Vh1 does its various salutes to the 80s, One Hit Wonders, etc.

    LaFF--I like to watch Animal Planet when they do Dogs 101 or Cats 101. I find those shows charming in the extreme. Even though I will never be a Dog Owner (far too worky), I find dogs vastly interesting. I firmly believe the saying that "there are no bad pets, just bad pet owners." And that they all live in my neighborhood.

    apathy lounge--I feel like you and Melissa B. possibly missed the paragraph in my post where I said the same thing about Mtv...? Anyway, my students tease me constantly because I do not have a DVR (and about the fact that I pronounce it Divver) or Tivo. They find me hopelessly pathetic. And not just about that...! (My oath to never send or receive text messages ranks right up there as well.)

  10. B. Dalt.11:35 PM

    I cannot agree with you anymore about this. Let's not even get started on VH1. It's absolutely horrendous. I can't even fathom how many people would like to watch Bret Michaels wade through dopey, air-headed girls in search of "love." Oh what a load of crap. If this is supposed to be "entertainment," then I think I might just blind myself before the rest of television turns out like this. I would probably rather just watch trailer-trash brawl it out on another scripted Jerry Springer episode than have to watch another minute of VH1.

  11. B. Dalt.12:28 AM

    Oh and might I add this somewhat relevant comic to the mix:

  12. B.Dalt.--Bret Michaels drives me plenty nuts on The Celebrity Apprentice. He cannot shut up. (I am risking Bad Karma with this assessment because he's now in the hospital after suffering a brain aneurysm, I know.) But nothing--and I mean NOTHING is worth resorting to viewing Jerry Springer. Always remember that. Oh, and thanks for visiting the Dept. and joining in.

  13. B. Dalt.2:04 PM

    I think you have a good point about Jerry Springer, after watching 5 minutes of it, I think I can feel my IQ drop several points temporarily. That is when I have to change the channel to The Science Channel and learn how "Q-tips" are made on How It's Made. Isn't that such a nice little show? Oh and I am glad to visit and be here.

  14. Remember AMC? American Movie Classics? I don't know what else they have on, but they have a pretty amazing (though VERY dark) original series that can go up against anything HBO has to offer...Breaking Bad.

    I like What Not to Wear, but only in moderation. I think it's funny that so many stations have gone so far from their original premises. And yeah, MTV is gross.

  15. j.@jj--AMC--one would THINK they'd have classic American movies on, huh? LOL. Neer saw Breaking Bad, but I know it's won critical acclaim and awards, etc. It doesn't interest me, however, from the synopsis I've read. I no longer watch What Not to Wear because I realized that the only thing I really enjoyed watching was the haircut, which I almost always hated, and the end when they show the result of the makeover. I almost think that all the networks need to go off the air at once, have a massive swap meet, and then rename themselves and try again. I'm willing to wait a day or two or sit through some House reruns while they get their collective shit together.

  16. Nance, that's an awesome idea. I have some DVDs to watch while I wait. ;)

  17. I don't watch TV but I would watch TV with you just for the entertaining commentary. : )


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