Monday, November 03, 2014

TV: The Clone Wars

TV our way!  The easiest decision you'll make all day!  It doesn't get any better than This! Memorable Entertainment Television! TV how it was meant to be!

So many promises made, so few kept.

If you're a struggling college student or someone else struggling financially, you've probably noted the influx in new TV channels broadcast over the airwaves.

And new channels, free of charge, should be something to rejoice over.

Should be.

Instead, it's largely one disappointment after another.

Take This TV which promises films but works in a lot of episodes of the TV show The Outer Limits for a supposed film channel.  When not airing that, it offers a lot of films that most people passed on long ago.  Take this coming Saturday where, eight hours will be taken up with The Kickboxer franchise.

Being This TV, they do things their own way, which is to say: half-assed.

So Kickboxer II: The Road Back kicks things off and Kickboxer IV: Redemption winds things down.

Yes, they're showing four installments of the film series including the last two -- films so bad they never made it to a theater but were "direct to video" flicks.

Some will say, "Sasha Mitchell is eye candy."  Possibly, if you like your eye candy to leave you with two black eyes.  Whatever did or did not happen between Mitchell and his first wife, we're not the police, it ended his career as well as his following.

Sometimes This TV will decide to focus on women -- or pretend to -- and do a block of bad films based on fairy tales.  Films so bad, you'd find them for $1.99 in a bin at a gas station.  The production values may be the only thing worse than the acting.  But for some reason, This TV is convinced that grown women want to watch badly acted fairy tales.

At least This TV makes an effort -- a bad effort.

That's more than can be said for ME TV which is easily the worst new channel to emerge in decades.

It wasn't always so bad.

A year ago this time, the network offered an hour of prime time of The Bob Newhart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and more.

Today, it's just The Bob Newhart Show.

That show was never that interesting and many episodes are downright offensive today.

For example, while you can watch the episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show where Phyllis learns her brother Ben is not gay without cringing.  The same cannot be said when Howard Hessman's character comes out as gay on The Bob Newhart Show.  And it's true that Marcia Wallace does heroic comedy as Carol but that doesn't change that the character is a rip off of Sally Rogers (The Dick Van Dyke Show) or that Sally was out of date when Rose Marie played her.

The Bob Newhart Show was never that funny.

(Newhart, by contrast, was hilarious from the second season on.)

The Bob Newhart Show struggled in the ratings from the start (back when there were just three networks, coming in 53rd for the year was bombing) and the industry wasn't impressed which is why the series never won an Emmy and, in fact, only received two nominations its entire six year run.

But from one night a week, MyTV has now spread the lackluster show across five nights of prime time and, teams it with such other trash as M*A*S*H.

M*A*S*H was a film classic.

Like the late Robert Altman, we don't know what the hell that crap airing on TV was but it wasn't M*A*S*H.

The so-so comedy stands as a testament to the whorish nature of TV critics.

Homeland is little more than Mosad propaganda that exists to sell torture.  We know that.  So does a prominent Water Cooler Set TV critic.  But he will offer to us all these excuses about Homeland is doing this and doing that.

And when we point out that this 'miracle' show is produced by one of Rush Limbaugh's best friends, he'll struggle to find new excuses to justify his fascination with (and addiction to) torture porn.

Something similar happened with M*A*S*H.

Alan Alda said all the right things for us liberals -- said them off screen.

So we looked the other way on M*A*S*H.

It is not a funny show.

And his Hawkeye is prissy and irritating and the sexism on the show never fails to offend.

Along with those two crap-fests, MeTV thinks they can grab viewers by airing, in prime time, The Andy Griffith Show.  The only thing that would ever make that show interesting would be Aunt Bee warbling "Andy!" as she walked in on Barney plowing the sheriff doggy-style while an excited Gomer exclaimed "Golly!" and unzipped his own pants.

Then it's Hogan's Heroes and Gilligan's Island and do women exist on MeTV as anything but props -- largely props so that closeted actors could portray straight men?

MeTV is the worst of the lot, offensive and dull, what's the best?

Two that actually offer promise are Bounce TV and Cozi TV.

They're the only ones doing original programming.

Bounce, which is geared towards African-American viewers, offers the original sitcom Family Time starring Angell Conwell and Omar Gooding.  They also offer Sheri Shepherd hosting The Dating Game.  Plus there are specials and documentaries (The Jackie Robinson Story, for example), sports and even theater productions.

Theater productions? NBC was bottom of the barrel in the ratings a few decades back and vehicles like SuperTrain and Pink Lady and Jeff hadn't helped any with the ratings.

So NBC moved towards a return to live theater.  Academy Award winner Sally Field scored with All The Way Home (directed by Delbert Mann) and Pearl Bailey, Dana Hill and Howard E. Rollins Jr. scored with The Member of the Wedding (also directed by Mann).

NBC still does the occassional live production -- last year's successful Sound of Music performance, for example -- but it's not a staple of their programming.

But Bounce does regularly air (recorded) theater productions.

Cozi doesn't.

They don't really do much in terms of original programming that's scripted.

They do offer the Emmy award winning Talk Stoop, a talk show hosted by Cat Greenleaf on the stoop outside her Brooklyn home.  Cat's a laidback talker with a knack for memorable interviews -- she gives the guest enough rope to swing to new heights (Cyndi Lauper) or to hang themselves (Oliver Stone).

Cozi also offers original comedy specials where comedians riff on their programming -- for example, examing the fashions of Magnum P.I. and Charlie's Angels.  Though not earth shattering, the blend of clips and zingers makes for entertaining TV.

In terms of reairings, they offer such shows as  The Avengers, Here's Lucy, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Charlie's Angels, Hart to Hart, McMillan & Wife and The Dick Van Dyke Show.  They also offer late night movies, as Ruth frequently noted at her site.

If there is one thing holding back Cozi right now, it's the reliance on Westerns.  MeTV's already doing that and then some.  Cozi could stand out if it would, for example, stop broadcasting the TV show Maverick during Saturday prime time or lose the horse operas during the week.

But Cozi and Bounce are strong channels.

The question is, why aren't others?

MeTV is filth.

We're not saying it's "indecent."  Decency doesn't concern us.

We're saying it's pure garbage that would bore even the Reader's Digest set.

It started out with a tiny edge but now that's been sanded off and it is that TV is at its worst.

The garbage most never want to see again collects at the bottom of the drain and airs on MeTV.

It exists as a tired kinetoscope of the past.

A world where all the players are White and, if they do anything, they're men.

A world that never reflected reality but MeTV is all about sexism and racism and being the worst network on TV.

It didn't have to be that way.

As these new channels emerged in the 21st century, they could have been ironic (Cozi), maverick (Bounce) or just utilized some of the best programming of the past to build a bridge to this century.

The latter is what Antenna TV has done.

Bewitched, All in the Family, Good Times, Maude, Sanford & Son, Three's Company, The Nanny, Gidget, The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeannie, Diff'rent Strokes, WKRP in Cincinnati, It Takes A Thief, The Patty Duke Show, The Burns and Allen Show, etc.

Antenna TV is not creating any new content.  But it is digging through some of TV's better offerings that amused in the past and can still do so today.  To spend time with Antenna TV is to realize why TV ever caught Americans attention in the first place.

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