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Network television, and remembering…

… why I gave it up in the first place.

I made a conscious decision quite a few years back to shun network TV. The interminable and juvenile ads bugged me and there really wasn’t anything on that grabbed my interest anyways. I’m not BIG TV watcher so am picky about what I glue my eyes to for an hour or more.

It’s not that I think that all TV programming totally sucks. There has been and is some good entertainment to be found on the box. Buffy the Vampire Slayer,  Lost, The X Files and St. Elsewhere were all quality network shows. And “cable” TV did even better with The Sopranos, Rome and currently A Game of Thrones.

So, when my wife suggested to me last h=night that I watch the new Kevin Bacon flick, The Following, I was more than a bit leery.  Was this going to be an incredible waste of an hour? But, having been a bit of a Kevin Bacon fan (LOVED him in Tremors and Apollo 13) through the years, I gave it a go. And you know what? It is a pretty good show. I may watch it again. But here is what I observed after having been away from the world of Global, CTV, CBS, etc. for a while:

  • More gore. Lots more. The Sopranos was a very violent show – no doubt – but the gore level on The Followers would have made Tony dry heave. This is a significant change from the network TV I remember.
  • The ads are even more annoying than ever. Seriously. And there are more of them. They are shorter in length but in greater numbers.
  • Our own government is responsible for some of these ads. Once again, can someone PLEASE explain to me why the Harperites are still spending taxpayer dollars shilling the Economic Action Plan? Wasteful and annoying all at once…
  • Camera work has improved and the quality of the video is better – as the audio. But maybe I’m noticing that just because I now have a kick-ass TV!

You certainly won’t be seeing my TV time scream up to the Canadian national average (28.5 hours per week) – mostly due to the ads – but you might see me give a show that has given good reviews more of a chance I would have a week ago.


I don’t get revved up for TV shows…unless it’s election night…

…because most of the content is crap that isn’t fit for the consumption of a semi-intelligent human being!

I have always liked shows that were a little edgy and most definitely NOT formulaic. That’s why I have usually shied away from the traditional cop and medical dramas. They’re all pretty much the same, IMHO.

But once in a while something different, edgy and non-formulaic emerges from the landfill. Lost is one of those shows and it kicks off it’s final season tonight.

I’m not going to go into the convoluted multilevel plots lines or the multi-dimensional characters. Only Lost fans would understand anything I would say and it’s not my purpose to alienate any of the hordes (1) of my faithful readers. But I will say this: if you are turned off by conventional television, it might be worth your while to rent the past seasons of this innovative show. Start with season one and go through the series in order or you’ll find yourself as lost as the island castaways.

Other television that has been worth my time over the years:

Arrested Development – this short-lived series about the world’s most dysfunctional family always had me rolling on the floor in laughter.

Buggy the Vampire Slayer. Dry wit. Social commentary. Great writing and acting. This show had everything.

Dead Like Me – another short-lived series about a teenager who, after being killed by a toilet-meteor, becomes a “reaper” who helps the recently dead find their way to, uh, somewhere else. The sticky note industry was a direct beneficiary of this series.

St. Elsewhere – Where Howie Mandel worked before making deals with game show contestants. Riveting. Well-acted. And an amazing script. Way ahead of its time.

M*A*S*H – Yes, this was laugh-track comedy. But the show could whack you upside the head once in a while with a commentary on the horrors of war. I clearly remember watching the show as a 12 year old when Radar uttered the following memorable line in the OR:

“I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel… Henry Blake’s plane… was shot down… over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors.”
Corporal Radar O’Reilly[1]

Damn fine TV.

1. The definition of a “horde” is being used quite liberally here.


In the (hic!) night garden

Continuing along my new theme of bringing out a new and cuddly Trashy – instead of constantly haranguing against (or is it “at”) Conservatives, religious loonies, stoopid people and things that acutely annoy me – I present to you today a critique of a children’s show entitled “In the Night Garden”.

I discovered this gem one morning at about 5:30 a.m., whilst lying on the bed in my spare room with my 5 year old who had woken way too early that day. Surfed through info-mercials, sports, etc. and came across this vaguely Dali-esque example what’s hot for the under 7 set.

I instantly realised that this was a kid’s show unlike other kid shows. For one thing, I first thought that I was suffering the effects of one too many Merlots the night previous and that I was finally experiencing a true visual hallucination.

But I looked beside me and my dear daughter hadn’t transformed to some nightmarish, shape-shifting robot, so concluded that this was indeed a real show and not a figment of an overindulgence.

The makers of the show bill it as existing in a child’s imagination – somewhere between waking and sleeping.

If I were given the job of inventing a tagline it would be:


Or something like that.

Allow me to introduce some of the characters:

This is Igglepiggle:


He’s the bad boy of the cast. At the end of each episode, after everyone has gone night-night, this rascal is still romping (naked) in the obviously pesticide-enhanced garden. He does eventually climb into his boat with a blankie and falls asleep while the boat sails away.


This cutypie is Upsy Daisy.

Upsy, clearly suffering from a sleep disorder, spends her time either sleeping – or dragging her bed along with her through The Night Garden in search of rocks that have gone missing – or chasing after Iggle Piggle. There is a definite sexual tension at work here folks that is just beneath the surface.

Her name also happens to be the title of one of the most underappreciated albums of all time:


Had to put that in.

Makka Pakka (below) seems to represent the adventurous part of the human condition. Or the hallucinagenic one.


He (or she – tough to tell) likes to teach valuable life lessons to the others. But the tragic part of Makka Pakka is that his vocabulary is limited to – wait for it – Makka Pakka. As in, Makka Pakka, Makka Pakka, Makka Pakka, Makka Pakka… etc. Because of this distant cousin of that wacky “Conehead” family, I now have to watch this show with the sound turned off.

One last character worth noting is the Ninky Nonk.


While looking like your average train ( “average” in the THC context, that is), it is quite unique in that it appears in and leaves scenes doing little more than making electronic beeping sounds and, uh, farting.  No useful role other than that of a beeping, farting, stoned train. Is this what CSNY meant by the “Marrakesh Express“?

In short, I strongly recommend this show if your supplier has become “unavailable” or you’re a frat boy or girl that needs a new idea for a drinking game.

My kids? They love this thing. Must be subliminal stuff going down.