Inspection- On a Vast-ier and Waste-ier Vast TV Wasteland

by Ken Carman

  Last night I watched Hot Tub Time Machine for the 6th time… at least. I know, I know. Hot Tub Time Machine??? Don’t worry. I won’t watch it again… for a long, long time: hopefully.
 A choice made out of desperation, to be honest.
  When I first saw the promo for the movie I refused to bother going to the theaters for what I thought was a concept beyond dreck. And it sure is dreck, isn’t it?
  But that’s the intent here, and a movie that will probably never appear on any cinema prof’s course list as innovative, outstanding or remarkable, is still a light, funny, piece of puff that makes fun of itself… not bad for that. And that’s all it was probably ever meant to be.
 No, my point here is I’m damn tired of turning on my TV, scanning through the 600 plus Direct TV offerings: all about the same as any other service cable or satellite might offer, and on a good night I might find something like Hot Tub Time Machine that I’ve already seen 4 or 5 times.
 Is it my imagination, or when most households got 3 or 4 channels: on a good day, they were trying harder to keep us as viewers? Or have I just become more critical?
 Probably some from column “A,” some from column “Z” and whole lot between.
  As the years pass faster than The Tomorrow People on crack: a somewhat promising show that so far seems to have stolen a good portion of its premise straight from Jumper, I often find myself only able to find something worth watching that I’ve seen before: many, many times. I enjoy Trek, but does BBCA really think I want to watch it all day? OK, I do enjoy watch the very under rated shows that didn’t do as well as they should have when they weren’t reruns for a while: marathons of Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me, but even then I tire and, once again, I feel cheated. After all these years: spending lots of money for what I used to get for free on my TV antenna, I should be able to watch at least a decent amount of great original programming.
 You guys owe me, and everyone else, but instead you waste our money on barf like Ghost Hunters or American Pickers. For those who enjoy, though I could care less, my target here is mostly never ending marathons, rather than the program itself… well: for the most part.
  Then you have the movies they play. Even when they’re good FX molests it into “watching one more time would really suck” territory. I feel bad for the movies: not their fault. But these channels, like vultures trying to pick a corpse clean, refuse to let go. All these movies become some absurd version of Weekend at Bernie’s where they drag a bleached skeleton over to AMC, or TBS or… They prop it up back up again with a big hoop te do: as if this is some once in a lifetime “premier.”
  In the end, scanning through the channels, even when they play one of my favs, like Groundhog Day, watching anything: even Bill Murray learn his lessons of love and life once again, sometimes I start feeling like I’m tied down underneath Karen Carpenter’s last attempt to be thinner before she died. Just when it ends it starts to gush all over me again.
 OK, I admit: that was bad.
 Real bad.
 But as bad as that was, it does describe just how disgusting it is to be splattered over and over by the long list of endlessly repeated movies and TV programs as I check the listings.
 I long for a day when it’s tough to decide what to watch: not tough to find something to watch. I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime. In fact when the next tech washes all this away I expect all these channels to go down saying, “don’t… you… want…. to… watch… Pet Detective… one… more… time?”
 There seems little reason behind what they repeat endlessly, what they skip over once, lightly: like a flat stone hitting one tiny, shallow, pothole, and what they simply won’t play at all… for whatever reason.
 Even fun oddball classics seem to be mostly avoided, like Ruling Class.
 Not your fare’? Fine: I’m sure you have your list labelled, “Why is it we never see…?”
 Maybe I’ve missed mine being played anywhere near, oh say: the frequency of the admittedly good Independence Day. I doubt it.
 Seasons: once predictable, have become: “Whatever the hell we want to call a season.” Caprica, I believe, was over seasoned. They’d run two, or three, or a few more then stop. Caprica is only one of many that I believe have been seasoned to death. Hard to build a fan base when the program keeps going away. And sometimes I swear I get a whiff of TV execs trying to sabotage other TV execs programming, like what they did to the original Trek in the third season by putting it on a well known death row for series in those days: Guillotine the show Fridays.
 ”That will teach you, you damn… fans… for making us keep it on the air!”
 I just started watching Sleepy Hollow. Promising. 3-4 episodes in, “Hey! Let’s go on a long break!” They’ve done that to the also still young Continuum: twice so far.
 Can we go back to September through May with fewer breaks, please? Please? Pretty please? With better ratings on top? If production schedules are a problem, then shorten them a tad: but just a tad.
 I’d say bring back variety shows: at least between seasons, but the Smothers Brothers, Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, Glen Campbell and Carol Burnett are either dead or not likely to come back… and do I really want to see an aging Madonna introduce Miley Cyrus twerking some guy in an Easter Bunny costume?
 Nah.
  Yet I’m told TV is better these days.
 You know, when it comes to acting in the best of programs: I agree. When it comes to scripting in the best programs: generally I agree.
 Other channels… hey, I used to love Monk, but for god’s sake, give it a damn rest! House? It’s not even fun to bet with Millie, my wife, when the mandatory cancer diagnosis will occur. I’m watching Bones right now: only because there’s nothing else on worth beans. I used to like Bones a lot more. South Park, Family Guy, Simpsons, even my own personal late to the party love for Robot Chicken? Even being late to the party didn’t help: sometimes it’s hardly worth turning on the TV I’ve seen each short segment so many times.
 Maybe we’d all be better off turning it off?
 Since I figure, in my lifetime, I’m condemned to watching repeats of repeats, can we just take a few clips and revive Jay Ward’s Fractured Flickers? Maybe Tosh could switch to making fun of tiresome TV and movie clips and do bogus interviews of movie and TV stars, where the interviewee enters the studio clueless.
 I must admit I would rather it be a reincarnated Hans Conried: or almost anyone but Tosh. That pasted on sneer is so damn annoying.
 And what has replaced variety shows these days. Idiocracy: another one they’ve played to death, was, oh, so prophetic. Most entertainment of that type is just based on a kick in the cojones. I can’t watch: it’s enough to make me… groin.
 Looking over 600 plus channels of mostly regurgitation: as a whole, I can’t help but think that TV is some rapidly mutating virus, or a fungus, infecting our screens, our hearts, our minds. Maybe it’s an epidemic. A while back when they kept trying, over and over and over and over and over and… to hook us into watching Hook one… more… time! …would that have been a Pan… demic?
 Maybe the zombies from The Walking Dead have taken over scheduling.
 I’m not sure, but I do know when I turn on the tube each night it sure seems I’m faced with an ever expanding, vast-ier, waste-ier, Wasteland.

                                                       -30-

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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