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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

BASIC BIITTNER: Now what do we watch?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Well, the historic election is over. After at least 20 months and billions of dollars, we can all breathe easy, because of the election of Barak Obama. Many important questions remain to be answered, of course - like who will be selected to fill cabinet positions, who will be selected to serve as the Majority and Minority Leaders, what color of drapes and carpet Michelle will choose, what kind of furniture should they put in the kids' rooms, you know - important stuff.

I, as an everyday "Joe, not the plumber," have important issues which I need to resolve, too. For example - with the Major League baseball season over and no more political ads, what on Earth is there to watch on television?

Thanks to last year's writer's strike, I am really having difficulty getting back into the handful of network programs I used to watch. I also can't get used to looking for dramatic or comedy series on any of the "non-Big 3 (4)" networks, so I've never watched "Starter Wife," "Mad Men," "Entourage," etc., etc., etc.

All of that would be fine if I enjoyed the programs the Big 3 (4) put on the air these days. I've never really gotten into so-called reality television, so that rules out , I don't know, maybe 50% of the network shows. The CSI-type shows aren't my cup of tea either, so that rules out another 25% of the network fare. The only "new" shows I've gotten into in recent years are "Everybody Loves Raymond," which is so "not-new" now that it's already ended its run of new shows and you can't see it anymore (except for the 8-times-a-day syndicated reruns), and "Two and a Half Men," which is so "not-new" that cute little Jake is now in puberty and that show, too, is already in syndication several times a day.

I guess I could start watching PBS, Discovery, or the History Channel, like the "grownups" do, but, come on now! This is t.v. - I want entertainment, not knowledge.

Why is it that I never had any problem finding something to watch on television when the only choices I had were Channel 4 or Channel 9? When CBS came along to join the group of available channels, that was good, because some of the best shows were on that network - shows like All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart I and II and M*A*S*H.

But ever since Big Bad Cable and its ugly stepsister, Satellite TV, came along in the 1980s and 1990s, television viewing has gotten completely out-of-hand. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, wrote a song several years ago called "57 Channels and Nothing's On," and while that was amusing, it's not exactly true. I mean, it's not that there's nothing on now, it's that there's too much on (or in the case of some shows, too much off).

Cable and satellite television. along with videotapes and DVDS, have made so much programming available to viewers that they basically have destroyed good old family night at the t.v. I'm guessing there aren't many families now who sit around and watch a television series together like they used to in the days of "Bonanza" and "I Love Lucy."

Nope, instead these days Mom's off watching the Food Network on one t.v., Dad's watching one of the plethora of ESPN stations on another, little Jimmy's playing a video game in his room and little Sally is watching Nickelodeon on the t.v. in her room. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little. One or more of the family may actually be on the internet, reading or watching something from that source. Of course, in the middle of that, someone's probably also getting some exercise texting their friends in the "new English."

There are numerous reasons for this disintegration of families, of course, and I don't have enough space here to pontificate on all of them, but, getting back to my original complaint (which I always do - eventually), I think that the main reason there's nothing for the family to watch together on television these days is a lack of good writing. Some of the old sitcoms like "Dick Van Dyke," "Newhart," "Mary Tyler Moore," "Mad About You" or "Frasier" jumped off the screen with their clever dialogue. Some of these writers who claim to idolize the great writers of early t.v. like Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Ernie Kovacs, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon and Woody Allen need to start trying to write like them - cleverly humorous and rated PG.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner