TV Age

I have loved television for decades. I’m unapologetic about it. I don’t watch “only PBS and the History Channel” either. I like commercial, sometimes trashy TV. I can still tell you the nights certain programs were on forty years ago. I have books about the Dick van Dyke Show, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Colombo, Taxi, and JEOPARDY!, plus several general texts.

But a couple things have happened in the last couple years that seems to have lessened the allure of the tube. One was the writers’ strike. Ironically, I supported the writers on their position regarding the strike. But my TV mojo just got lost, just as it did for baseball after the 1994 strike, when it took about three years to get it back.

The other event took place in early December. I had recorded a number of television shows on my DVR that I had not had a chance to see. I was two weeks behind on the dramas (all on ABC). The comedies (all on NBC) were even further back; I had seen no 30 Rock, and the The Office and Earl were likewise five or six weeks behind, at least. The were a couple news programs, about three weeks of JEOPARDY! plus shows for Lydia to watch. The power in our house went out only for an hour on a Saturday night during an ice storm. But when the power surged back, it fried the DVR.

What I discovered is that I could watch the dramas on, and over a week or two, I caught up. Thank goodness for the Advent season, when those shows are either preempted or repeated. But going to find all of those comedies, presumably on felt like…work. So, it’s likely I’ll just catch a couple December reruns and move forward with the new programs, though I have caught some Office webisodes.

My friend Fred and I once had this conversation about TV shows. Generally speaking, he doesn’t give up on a show. Once he starts it, he generally finishes the run, with rare exceptions. I am a bit more willing to cut my losses; American Idol and 24 are just two shows I watched then decided that wasn’t enjoying them enough, but I am sympathetic to his POV, and don’t abandon easily.

Still, I imagine that once the shows I’m watching now go off the air, I may not necessarily pick up new ones. (Yes, I said that last year, and I picked up Life on Mars, but at least that was a one-to-one replacement for Men in Trees.)

One of my shows, Boston Legal, is already gone. (BTW, what’s with those folks writing to TV Guide complaining how liberal the show is? One was shocked, SHOCKED that they made fun of Sarah Palin. Why didn’t they just CHANGE THE CHANNEL? Or wait a week or two, when the show was kaput?)

Two more shows, Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money will soon be swimming with the fishes. This will leave Brothers and Sisters, Grey’s Anatomy (stop with the dead lover sex, FCOL!) and the aforementioned Life on Mars, plus the last season of Scrubs on ABC – starts tonight!, and the Thursday comedies on NBC. Once they go off the air, I may be down to news programs, JEOPARDY!, and in season, some sports events.

That is, unless Lauren Graham gets another series. Oh, and can somebody tell me when GSN starts rerunning the JEOPARDY! episodes from November 2008?

This is not to say I don’t enjoy what I am viewing. I recommend that you watch at least the beginning of last week’s Bill Moyers Journal, where he celebrates “The Onion”; my favorite headline, “Housing Crisis Vindicates Guy Who Still Lives With Parents”. He also notes that today’s economic and militaristic crises were foretold in the 1933 Marx Brothers classic, “Duck Soup”:
MRS. TEASDALE: Gentleman, I’ve already loaned Freedonia more than half the fortune my husband left me. I consider that money lost and now you’re asking for another 20 million dollars.
Also on the show: John Lithgow on poetry and Arthur Miller.

I watched the Kennedy Center Honors and there is usually one transcendent moment. This is the one for me:
After which, you may wonder Who is Bettye LaVette? And why is this video NOT on CBS?

So, I’ll be curious just what, if anything, will pique my interest in five years. I took Mad Men season 1 from the library last week, but it has only a two-day window, and I ended up seeing none of it. I can imagine to decide to catch this season of The Office or 30 Rock on DVD, perhaps skipping over the episodes I happen to catch on air. What is clear, though, is with online access, DVD and the DVR, TV viewing has most certainly changed for me.

One more thing. The loss of the DVR meant I was watching my little portable b&w TV more often (I could have rewired the cable to the TV directly, but that would have been, you know, work to do and then undo. So I’ve opted order one of those coupons so I can get a discount on buying one of those over-the-air converters, just at a point when the digital TV subsidy program is running out of money. I ordered my coupon a couple weeks ago online, but apparently, they are to arrive via passenger pigeon.
Postal Service lifts curtain on 2009 stamps, which will feature early, black-and-white TV shows: “Lucy and Ethel lose their struggle with a chocolate assembly line. Joe Friday demands “just the facts” with a penetrating gaze. A secret word brings Groucho a visit from a duck.”
“Folks who grew up as television came of age will delight in a 20-stamp set included in the Postal Service’s plans for 2009 recalling early memories of the medium.” This I will buy.
“Most of the commemorative stamps are priced at 42 cents, the current first-class rate. However, a rate increase is scheduled in May and the size will depend on the consumer price index.”
“The Early TV Memories stamp set is scheduled for release Aug. 11 in Los Angeles.”


Writers Guild Strike QUESTIONS

Much to my surprise, I have found myself utterly fascinated by the WGA strike. I freely admit my sympathy for the writers, who are getting ripped off on DVD sales and streaming video broadcasts. I’ve watched the WGA videos on YouTube; while The Office Is Closed is the most entertaining, Why We Fight is the most useful in understanding the situation. Oh, and here’s info about an episode of The Office you may not see for a while, scheduled for only a couple weeks out.

I’ve added to my webroll the United Hollywood website, where I found out about an online petition, which I signed (#1018); I never know the efficacy of online petitions, but what the heck. I’ve been also following Writers Strike, Ken Levine and Mark Evanier’s posts. In fact, Mark answered my strike-related questions; how did he know I was specifically interested in JEOPARDY!?

1. What do you think of the strike? Do you side with the writers, with management, a pox on both of their houses, or you just don’t care? (Gordon cares.)

2. Has the strike already affected your viewing? (Maybe Lefty can finally catch up with The Daily Show and Colbert.)

3. If it is a prolonged strike, what will the networks use to fill up the time? Reality shows and repeats, sure. Old movies? Unaired episodes of Viva Laughlin?

4. What will you do with all that found time? (After I catch up with MY backlog of programs, I’ll read more.)

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