Friday, March 24, 2006

It's Not TV - It's Repetitive Crap

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

I used to think being New York State’s Lieutenant Governor was the easiest job in the world. Go ahead – try to name the second in command for the Empire State. I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Betsy McCaughy Ross. My guess is it’s Malcolm Wilson, as played by Tim Matheson.

Then I subscribed to HBO. Now I am convinced the easiest job in the world is the head of programming for HBO – or whatever title you give to the person who decides what to show on that channel.

Here’s what I imagine that person’s workload entails. He or she sits down at a computer and writes:

Sunday night: “The Sopranos.”
Monday night: “Dodgeball”
Tuesday night: “Dodgeball”
Wednesday night: “The Sopranos” “encore episode.”
Thursday night: “Six Feet Under”
Friday night: “Dodgeball”
Saturday night: “Fletch Lives.” Then boxing.

Next week: Substitute Tuesday’s “Dodgeball” with repeats of “Deadwood.”

Then he or she goes home.

Now what I know about television programming could fit inside Gary Coleman’s shoes. I do know what I see - or in the case of HBO what I don’t see. And I don’t see a whole lot other than the programming mentioned above and a series of stupid movies I wouldn’t rent from Blockbuster if there was nothing else on the shelf and I left the dog in the car with the engine running.

So why subscribe, you ask? Good question. I got through most of my 46 years without paying for cable, much less HBO. In the six years my wife, Sharon, and I lived in our apartment we got cable and HBO for free. I don’t know how or why, all I know is when I plugged the TV into the wall we had free cable and HBO. The only downside was every time there was a knock on the door we had to turn the TV off, just in case it was a door-to-door cable salesperson. Almost every night we had it I would say to Sharon, “Thank God we’re not paying for this. What a waste.”

When Sharon and I bought our home in 1993, however, I finally had to pay for cable out of my own pocket, which I did so grudgingly. I refused to spring for HBO, however.

Then along came “The Sopranos.” The first season the show debuted I heard dozens if not hundreds of people talking about the episodes, and of course the reviews were mostly laudatory.I made it through most of the season without succumbing to the temptation of subscribing but finally broke down and signed up just in time to see the final episode of the first season, where Uncle Junior sang for about 15 minutes. “What the hell is this,” I remember thinking, and un-subscribed just as quickly as I subscribed.

Over the next couple of years Sharon and I would cover our ears when others spoke of “The Sopranos” while the episodes were being broadcast because we decided to wait until the season came out on DVD. It was hard, to be sure, to hear tales of vanquished villains with their heads in bowling ball bags, but not so hard that we would part with an additional $12.95 a month to see the episodes in real time. Once the season came out on DVD, however, we would race to the video store and gorge ourselves on not one, not two but sometimes three episodes in a row on a Saturday night.

(This is not a practice I would recommend, by the way. Three consecutive hours of the Boys from the Bada Bing is the TV-watching equivalent of eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at one sitting. It just overwhelms the system).

When they announced that this would be the last season for “The Sopranos,” however, I decided to spring for the HBO so we could watch the episodes right away. Talk about living the dream: We were going to be a part of High Society, freely conversing with all the other La-Di-Das who got to see “The Sopranos” as they were broadcast.

As much as we enjoy “The Sopranos” (Sunday’s episode notwithstanding) however, I still am amazed at the constant repetition of movies and shows I have no desire to see. It’s as if HBO is your buddy’s house where he only has a couple of DVDs. After a couple of days you don’t want to go there anymore to watch TV.

And yet HBO has made millions of dollars over the years. It’s something I have never understood. I should have known from the start, however. When my parents first subscribed to cable in the mid-1970s, for instance, HBO showed a movie called “Report To The Commissioner” like it was the Yule Log on Channel 11. The summer of 1983 it replayed the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers” to the point where a nation of young people were hypnotized into buying music made by something called John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band.

As my friend Darragh is bound to point out, nobody says I have to watch it. And I don’t. But there have been thousands if not millions of movies made over the years. Do we really need to watch the same ones over and over again? I sure get peeved when I think about paying for something that really should be a lot better. Maybe I ought to write a letter to my lieutenant governor.

Thank you for reading this column.

1 comment:

websmarts said...

Man this is soooooo true, I am always saing to my wife, What the hell are we paying 150 bux a month for cable , when its the same crap every week................

Instead I just play free arcade games at

Talk to ya soon!