Monday, October 15, 2018


Lately, I've been watching a lot of, what I'll charitably call cable television lately. Last few weeks in fact, it's been that way ever since I ended up between houses and started living at what's officially called "Extended-Stay Experience" which, basically means it's a weekly hotel, where me and my family are staying until we can find a real apartment, and as depressing and lousy at it is to feel like I'm living in "The Florida Project", one of the benefits I've always enjoyed about places like this, in the past and even now is that I get to enjoy free cable television. Or, this is probably satellite actually, 'cause the channels are in this weird alphabetical order, except for the network local channels; it's odd. Like 2 is A&E, 4 is Freeform, which makes no sense until you remember that it was ABC Family, The Turner channels are in the 40s; I'm used to them being in the teens, meanwhile Animal Planet is seven-, it's odd.... 

Anyway, it's limiting and often annoying. I haven't had cable in years, and I'm used to digital televisions now, so I don't get to fall asleep watching Movies! or Create like I'm used to, but the thing is, that people still have channels like these and they watch them, regularly. I like that. To me, watching television, should literally be, watching television, way more often than it is. Sitting down and finding something on, and not through Netflix or something, like actual channel surfing. You got nothing to do, you're stuck in the house, okay I sometimes have options on my computer, but screw that. See what's being rerun in the day, watch CNN for a minute, scan the channels- One of the great drawbacks of technology is how we end up, narrowing our scope of vision. Partly through algorithms of watching the same twelve things on our streaming sites and then them recommending the same things, but most of the shit that I've watched or found or discovered over the years, it comes from doing this instead, finding it randomly not because my tendency algorithm determined I'm more likely to like it. I wish I still had a Prevue Channel to watch and see what's on, so that I can see something like "Legends of the Hidden Temple" come scrolling up and I have to go, "Alright, what the hell is that," and then check to see. 

It's that world that I compare other TV shows too; it's why I'm usually unimpressed with many of the top shows these days that are supposedly breaking new ground, or whatever. Half the time, it's not new and I've long run into it years earlier, or worst than that, they're shows that, just don't fit in this world of television that I'm familiar with. It's the same thing with the old filmmakers that people make fun of when they talk about how not seeing movies in an actual movie theater means that you're not actually watching a movie correctly; they're just as right as I am here and they're not wrong; there is a clear difference. Of course, sure times change, and so does television itself, but I'm still watching it like this, and everywhere else, others are too. 

Binge watching for instance; people think that started with streaming it seems; television shows have marathoned in reruns forever, the only difference is, you didn't start in the beginning first or anything, you found something that looked interesting and wondered what it was on TV, while you were searching for a score or something and then, turns out there's like twelve "Flipping Out"'s on in a row, and you're watching all of them! (BTW, when the fuck did Jeff get a kid on that? Man, am I behind on that.) 

A show isn't great just because it's great from first episode to last or season by season, a show is truly great when you can sit down, get thrown into a random episode and get woven into it anyway, like you were caught in it's spell. This is why "Mom" and "Mike & Molly" are gonna be in reruns for years and "Silicon Valley" is gonna be forgotten in ten years. Why you can come to the conclusion after a week of watching nothing but "South Park" that we really don't have enough episodes of "South Park" out there. Why "Law & Order" and "CSI" will be around forever, and why-, seriously why does AMC play nothing but "The Walking Dead" anymore; they used to air movies! The M in AMC, is for MOVIES! Put an old movie on! And, by old, I mean, older than my high school diploma!  

Hell, I enjoy watching crap television like this. I may be a film snob at heart, but I do understand the value of watching, studying and analyzing the crap of television; maybe that's because I grew up back when the novelty of Jerry Springer made the trainwreck watchable and controversial, but I think bad movies come and go, television was practically built on the premise of just throwing whatever you can find to air, on the air, 'cause they needed to fill air time; there was never that need for movies to produce content, even back in the earliest days of the medium. I can appreciate a lot of, utter garbage, television-wise, on that level, much more than I can appreciate most garbage I find in cinema. Maybe that's me. I once commented that it was wrong that contestants on "Project Runway Junior" didn't know what "Gilligan's Island" was and I got pushback from some who thought it was a good thing. I mean, I get it, that we should leave the bad in the past, but, no, I'm right here; it is bad that television has been morphing to the point where it's forgetting it's roots simply because television is evolving. I was the only one who seemed to think ABC canceling "The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show" was the worst thing of all-time, but everybody said, "Looney Tunes" won't go away, it'll be around, and it's on cable and everybody has cable, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, none of that became true and now we have generations of kids who grew up on "Pokemon" and they think it's okay for that to have happened. Getting rid of the past or roots, good or bad, it's bad. So, yeah, I don't think it's a bad thing that I was more than one episode of "Botched" today. I mean, there's certainly better I could've done, but that could've been limiting my scope and now is the time to explore and expand. 

That sense of discovery is gone. People are getting rid of their cable or in some cases their TV nowadays, and to be honest, I do understand it. Cable/satellite is too expensive and for those who don't find joy in these typical searching and trapfalls of television; I guess they don't need it, but to me, the ideal scenario for entertainment will always be, getting the biggest cable package you can, as many channels as possible, including pay channels if possible, and not banning or blocking anything. Seek, find, explore, sit down and enjoy something that, you weren't in the mood for or knew you were going to watch when you sat down, just find something on and watch it, because it was on at the time. 

All that said, I do have some observations however about how cable has change, or at least some of the channels. I mean, I can see how, let's just say, cable is less desirable cause, some of these channels, they- some of them barely resemble the channels that I used to-, not even like, just remember. And yeah, I know there's the typical complaints, MTV doesn't play music videos, or has much to do with music at all, anymore, or butter they're not the only offender of that one. There isn't much focus on Arts or Entertainment on A&E anymore. Bravo, despite finally getting "Project Runway" back, at least the brand if not Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn back, except for "Top Chef" they've basically abandoned reality-competition series, which was already a hard sell from what they used to be, and the History Channel is full of alien conspiracy bullshit when not airing "Pawn Stars". 

Come to think of it, as much as I do like marathons of series, those used to be, only a rare, or occasional thing; not everyday. Memorial Day for instance,or some other holiday was a great excuse to air marathon blocks of shows, but still, TV channels did used to have a lineup of several shows. I mean, I know shows are expensive, but cable used to be the home where we'd find all those obscure cheap programmings that we'd watch as a kid. Now? They're on everyday, on multiple channels. You know, it's not that hard to find a regularly-scheduled program. I mean, I like marathons, they're early binge-watching, but the way it's done here, it's basically turning into, just-, well, it's turning the networks into the shows themselves. I mean, you turn on A&E and all that's ever on is "Storage Wars", then it's just gonna be the network of "Storage Wars". "Storage Wars" and-, um, all those reality shows about cops and other emergency personnel series that,- I'm just gonna call them, Not-"Cops"-but-basically-"Cops" shows. (Oh, and Leah Remini's Scientology thing, which is amazing btw.) 

I guess that wouldn't be this homogenous if perhaps TV wasn't always streaming everywhere; streaming doesn't really work as well for networks when they have to get the rights to obscure kids childrens series from Canada and the UK or wherever else early Nickelodeon got their shows, but (Sighs) it's a little disappointing. Everybody creates their own content, but now there's less content 'cause they have to make it all, and also it's cheaper, so a lot of it is redundant reality series. Or-, maybe redundant isn't the right, but formulaic. 

Every network's collection of reality shows has a formula, and that's...- fine. I mean, reality has always been formulaic as well, but, some variety would be interesting. I mean, if the Emmys can find like five different reality program categories, than why can't TLC? (Also, why is TLC a reality channel, that stands for "The Learning Channel," that should- hmph. Nevermind. [Don't write comments, I know why TLC is the way it is now; I'm just still annoyed by it.) 

Branding a network isn't as important anymore. I mean, in some cases it is, but accuracy of branding has left the building and some channels change their name so damn much anymore too that it's no wonder that it seems like anything can show up anywhere now. I think it just seems like networks are changing their approach and branding more often and more rapidly than ever. This could just be because I haven't watched cable on as regularly as I once did, but it does feel weird how some networks continue to struggle to seem consistent. Or in some cases, seem was too consistent it's almost impossible to put anything else on them at times. (Shrugs)

Of course, this is probably our curse at well. We had 4 channels, we weren't happy, we got 57 channels and we said that nothing was on, now we have as many channels as the world can imagine, they can't all have a full concise lineup anymore. I mean, it was hard enough finding quality back then, and frankly I'm not even looking for that most of the time. If I find quality, it's almost like a shock, you know? I've had that conversation several times, "Hey, I started watching this reality show about fashion designers, turns out it's really friggin' good!" "You know what else is good, that show that's like "Kitchen Nightmares" but with bars? Yeah, who knew? I'm watching that after I'm done with British comedy series I found, that-, you gotta see it some time, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", it's just these comics and they take suggestions from the crowd and make up shit...-, just trust me, you gotta see it, but you first, you gotta see this Japanese cooking show, "Iron Chef"!..." 

I think that's what I miss most, that search for something good. If there's any difference between film and television, it's this; movies, we get reviews, we get previews, we have to seek out and god to a movie theater to find something specific to watch, television is so vast and wide, just on that little box in our living room that you can and sometimes should just seek out everything and see what you find. You filter through the crap, so you can tolerate the decent and still not feel like you've been cheated even if it takes you forever to get to the quality, and even then, it's a good that you might not've been expecting. To me, that's the best kind of good; when you're not expecting it and it comes thrusting upon you. It's hard for films to do that, but television, that's the real joy. 

Even if you'd never in a million years, would think you'd ever watch a channel or two; the fact is, you don't really know that for sure do you; so you might as well check it out once in a while, just in case. 

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