by Brad Nelson 9/12/16
I had a Return to TV Land this weekend. I was looking for some computer cables and stuff inside an old box and instead found an old TV antenna. I had gone about a year without any cable at all. (I pulled the plug). My search for the computer cables having been forgotten, I went off on another tangent.
Those who have followed my monastic-like methods will have noted that my TV viewing had already decreased to merely the odd sports event or an old movie on Turner Classics. With Mr. Kung’s article, Turn Off, Tune Out, and Drop In, in mind (as well as his follow-up article), I was very interested to see what could be had for free over the air.
Once I found a reasonable position for the antenna, I was able to pick up at least a dozen channels, some of which specialized in re-playing old standards. In fact, just last night I caught a Johnny Carson interview with Peter Falk taking about his “Columbo” series — a series I have been regularly re-watching. This interview was obviously early in that series’ history. I think this was on the “Antenna TV” channel.
But the first thing I tuned into was an old Doug McClure sci-fi flick with Peter Cushing (an odd role as a doddering old English professor): At the Earth’s Core. This is a great old flick, and not just because of the skimpy clothing worn by love interest, Caroline Monroe. (Lucky horse.) Doug McClure is the b-actor of all b-actors. He’s a real pro. They don’t make them like that anymore. This is a great campy old film on the campy-old-film channel otherwise known as “Comet.”
I even watched an exiting football game between the Patriots and the Cardinals last night. These digital channels (which they all seem to be) are very clear. Some flutter and pixelate a bit which is surely the sign of needing a better antenna and one placed higher up. But it’s a start.
Or is it? I love some of the old programming but find the commercials and the interruptions of the commercials to be a deal breaker. I’ve gotten used to the seamless universe of Netflix, streaming movies, and rented DVD’s from Red Box. I kept picturing in my head some fellow from the 18th or 17th century who had suddenly walked into our world. These commercials are so bizarre, vulgar, garish, and jolting that they might think this was an intentinal ploy by someone to turn us into passive idiots…a plan that apparently is working very well.
But you get used to the practiced lying, exaggeration, and just plain idiocy. Well, I don’t want to get used to it, so I’ll likely stick to my Netflix. But commercials are also a great tool for reading the culture. Perhaps it’s the only tool besides tattoos. (Can anyone read them like phrenology?) The saccharine (to my ears) rainbow butterfly unicorn happy-place emotional utopia presented in just one children’s program on Saturday morning is astounding to see.
I forget the program, but it’s typical of what existed even 30 years ago. The program itself had some interesting educational elements. But what caught my eye was the string of “public service” (I’d call them “public indoctrination”) commercials thrown in at every commercial break. There was a series of them produced by some entity called “Values.com”. Here’s one of them. You must stop now and watch it. Pass It On. (I can’t find any way to embed it.)
I gut-busting laughed out loud when the punchline came. But I wasn’t laughing with the producers (and the mindset) behind this commercial. I was laughing at it. This is how you grow a fragile snowflake in the guise of being “nice.”
And, good god, did the upper part of the continent slide south after a major quake or something? There were about five or more Spanish channels that my antenna also picked up. Yikes. Learn English, dammit. But I suppose that’s better than being a snowflake.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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