Saturday, August 19, 2006

If You're Reading This Blog and Not Contributing...

Public Access Television is a bit of a mixed bag.

As far as I can tell, the formula for a Public TV station in 5% good television, 40% bad television, 5% absolutely terrible television…and 50% people asking you for money to keep the station on air.

I just don’t really ‘get it’. I mean, I can see the attraction of far fewer advertisements…but what’s the pay off when you spend far longer watching someone guilt you into sending cash, than you ever did watching ads on the mainstream channels?

Put it this way, if it wasn’t for painting with Bob Ross and ‘Fawlty Towers’ our local PBS affiliate would have shut down long ago.

On the other hand, their programming does have a sort of grim fascination. You know when something is so bad, it actually becomes entertaining? Not for the reason the show’s creator intended, but for that train-wreck morbid curiosity.

For example, I just watched a guy in a local restaurant showing how to cook New York Strip steak. Now, I think he was trying to be fancy, and was trying to cook three at once, each a different way.

Now this sounds like a run of the mill television show, except for one thing.

The steak he did on the grill caught fire.

Now, I don’t mean it was flame-grilled. I don’t mean it was well done or nicely seared.

I mean the damn thing was ablaze…and the poor chef guy was completely oblivious to it for about 5 or ten minutes.

So why you’re watching him pan-sear a Pittsburgh-style steak, talking about how the granulated sugar gives it a nice caramelized black crust…over his shoulder, you can see this steak on the grill, in the middle of a foot-high flame.

I can’t stress this enough. It was on fire. Not cooking above a fire, occasionally getting licked by a flame…I mean it continued to spout it’s guttering flame when it was taken from the grill. It was charcoal…and all the time this guy was standing there, not quite sure whether to look at the camera or the guy operating it, babbling on about cooking.

It was like watching an old-fashioned pantomime: “It’s BEHIND you!”

What I liked best was the look on his face when he finally noticed, and passed it off like it was meant to be done like that all along. Let’s just say he plated that one without a comment, and drew as much attention as possible to the other two steaks. The damn thing looked like a lump of charcoal.

It’s train wreck TV at it’s best.

However, I think the worst thing I’ve seen on TV was one of the (very) local God channels.

Every single night, for about an hour, an old guy and two old ladies get together, play music and sing hymns.

Now, this on it’s own doesn’t sound like bad television. While religious programming isn’t my cup of tea, to each his own.

However, let me explain this trio.

The guy doesn’t sing, but plays bass guitar with a look of complete and total boredom on his face. He looks like he’d rather be anywhere else than in front of that camera. He also doesn’t play very well. You get the feeling that he’s married to one of the old ladies, has only been playing the bass for about a week, and his missus has hen-pecked him into playing it on TV.

One of the ladies plays the piano, quite, quite badly, and the other just sings.

Now, here’s the real kicker. A lot of the time it sounds like all three of them can’t hear each other, and that they haven’t agreed on what to play beforehand.

So you have a guy hitting what sounds like random notes in 1/4 time, a lady playing the piano in a completely different key to the bass guy at ¾ time, while the last lady sings a completely different song, in a different key with different timing.

Oh, and to really put the cherry on the top of the cake, the piano lady sings in a shrieking high-pitched voice, while the other lady doesn’t exactly sing, but just kinda shouts in a deep voice, never changing pitch.

…add to that a terrible public TV sound system, and you’ve got award winning TV.

Now fair enough, this is TV. I’m not made to watch it…but don’t you think that at some point they’d have seen a recording of their show and decided they need a little more practice? Don’t you think a close friend might have said “Umm, you’re crap…in fact, you’re painful to listen to.”

The thing with this trio is when you’re flipping through the channels and stumble across them…you just can’t change the channel. You feel compelled to watch. It’s like your brain just can’t process how bad they are. Even if you manage to change the channel, you find yourself turning back to it because the second they leave your TV screen, you instantly can’t quite believe they were as bad as you thought they were.

The first time I saw this trio, I watched it through, because I kept expecting the punch line. I thought it was a comedy show. So when it finished and they thanked everyone for watching my jaw just dropped and I couldn’t stop laughing.

So why am I telling you about this?

Well, I suppose for the same reason that when you taste something really bad, you have to get someone else to taste it to. For the same reason people say “Ugh! This stinks! Oh..My..God! That is the foulest thing I’ve ever smelled in my life! Hey! Everyone! Come and smell this!”

So people, if you’re ever feeling down, turn to your local home-grown channels…they’ll cheer you up no end, because no matter how bad things are, they still can’t force you to watch that shit.

1 comment:

rayray said...

My fave time of the year is when PBS holds us hostage.
"We'll get back to Monty Python in a minute (which turns into at LEAST 45 minutes)but first, let's check the tote board!"

I understand they need a fund drive but COME ON!
They wait to show the really good shows during this time, and if you just want to record an hour long show that will air at 2 in the morning, you have to let the tape run for almost six hours and HOPE you get the hour you want to watch!