Confessions Of A Remote Hog: Net Peeves

You know the guy.

Yep, you know him. You probably got stuck behind him today when he swung over into your lane without using his turn signal, cutting you off and making you spill your coffee. He probably is the guy who stopped at the intersection when he had the right of way. He’s probably the guy who hasn’t quite figured out the rules at a four way stop sign, or who blocked your cross street while waiting for a light to change. This is the guys who’s mission in life seems to make you late to work, or just cause your blood pressure to shoot through the roof.

He is your pet peeve incarnate, and he probably has a job in television.

OK, maybe that’s a stretch.

All week long I was looking for a subject to write this column on. We’re sort of in this weird cross roads right now on TV. The fall season has been launched for the most part. November sweeps are still a week or so away, and the most interesting things on TV right now are the election coverage and the world series. In a week or so there will be a plethora of topics. We’ll have a world series winner, we’ll have a massive vote recount to see which bozo actually suppressed the most votes, Fox will finally launch it’s new season, sort of, and the networks will be full of sweep stunts, special guests and very special episodes. Right now we’re in limbo.

So, I decided to dedicate this column to pet peeves in the television world, or the world in general which is covered by television. Just those little things that get under my skin, that change my viewing habits or raise my blood pressure.

Repeats, Repeats, Repeats:

New network shows episodes are just being repeated way too much. Whether it be on some sort of cable affiliate or another night on that channel. Now, on some levels I can understand why the networks would do this. It’s cheap filler for bad nights, yet, in my opinion it only weakens the original air showing of that show. Case in point, Law and Order: SVU is one of the shows suffering a huge ratings drop this year, despite facing the same competition of Judging Amy and NYPD Blue. So what happened? Are people just more excited about catching NYPD Blues’s final season? Perhaps. In my opinion there are many reasons why this is happening, yet I think one of the big ones is that SVU is just overexposed. The shows is on every damn night, whether it be on USA or network reruns. To make it even tougher for SVU, the new episodes are replayed just two weeks later on USA. So if you can catch the new show a couple weeks later, why not watch NYPD Blue, or spend quality time with you family, or pets?

What inevitably happens to a lot of viewers with all these repeats is what happened to me with another show that uses this format of replaying new shows soon after its original airing. Last season, NBC decided to move The Apprentice to Thursday nights at 9PM, right after the CBS airing of Survivor. For a while they even had it infringing on Survivor with “supersized” episodes. Now, Thursdays nights for me have always been dedicated to Survivor. Right after the show, while it’s fresh in my mind I would right up my column which appeared on my Survivor Blog. Now, luckily for me, NBC decided to replay The Apprentice on another night, and also on again on it’s cable affiliate CNBC. So, why bother watching it. I just waited for the next showing. Except that often times I forgot when the replay was or I got preoccupied once again, and I missed it. By the end of the season, I basically just gave up on the show, and read the various recaps available on the net.

You see, I remember years ago when, if you loved a show, it was important to watch it on the night it aired. It was especially important with serialized shows where if you missed an episode, you were lost. Your only hope was somewhere down the road, or during the summer reruns, you may catch it replayed. If a show was good enough, you would actually arrange your schedule around it. You had the option of using your VCR, but most people didn’t trust them at all. VCR’s always find a way to screw up when you need them the most. I can admit that I was always wary to schedule night classes when I was in college for fear they may make me miss one of my favorite shows. Now, I wouldn’t worry about it, because somewhere soon this show will be shown again.

Another aspect of this repeat mentality is that the networks now have a quick out for network programming that they don’t want to take the risk on. Right now, it seems that Saturday nights are dedicated to repeats of it’s established or serialized shows. Originally, CBS had planned top air the newest season of “The Amazing Race” on Saturday nights, but there were surprised by its strong ratings, so what did they do instead? They postponed it for an array of disingenuous reasons. What they were really waiting for was for one of their new shows to not take off like a firecracker, so they can banish it to a land of unwatchable news shows, cheesy movies of the week, and repeats of one of the many lettered shows like CSI, JAG or NCIS. Why couldn’t CBS have kept one of it’s not highly rated but respectable shows on the air like The District of Hack to fill these spots? I guess we’ll never know….

Now on DVD…

Does it seem to you that we are slowly moving to the day where an episode that airs on Thursday, it will be available on DVD on the next Tuesday? Right now we are plagued with the DVD release of every damn show, no matter what it’s syndicated run, as soon as the season is over. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I know I am one of the first to run out and buy the newest release of Alias, or 24. I know that instead of ordering Showtime so I can see the new show Huff, I can wait a few months and buy the season, when it comes out on DVD.

Yet, what gets me is that there seems to be a concerted effort to keep any show that I would love to have on DVD off the shelves. What I would love to see are shows that only lasted for a single season, basically little watched flops like Strange Luck with D. B. Sweeney, or Nowhere Man with Bruce Greenwood get the DVD treatment. Yet, these shows have all but disappeared. Even more established shows that I liked failed to get the DVD treatment as of yet. Where are David E. Kelley’s Picket Fences or Chicago Hope? What about The Amazing Race? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Mis-nomenclature.

What’s up with this new network lingo? Shows are no longer “All New” on the WB. They are “Fresh.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear an advertisement for a “Fresh” 7th Heaven, I imagine a touching episode where Reverend Camden has to counsel a chronic groper despite his recent inappropriate actions towards Mary, Lucy and Happy the dog. Yet fresh doesn’t mean some wanton display of sexual innuendo and actions, but “All New.” So why not just use the more obvious term?

It’s not just the Frog network. Reruns are now either “classic” episodes or “encore” episodes, no matter where you are on the dial. How about instead of coming up with clever new terminology for already understood concepts, why don’t the networks concentrate on coming up with clever new shows?

Fair and Balanced

I’m getting sick of journalistic ethics. I getting sick of equal access laws and fairness inn broadcasting standards. I’m getting sick of the attempts to suppress bias in the media. One of the reasons that negative advertising works so well, is because it is so obviously biased that there are no illusions to where it’s coming from. Let me drop the big bomb here. There is no such thing as unbiased and totally fair journalism. The problem isn’t that journalists have a bias, the problems are that they have to hide it.

There are so many ways that so called objective journalists and news agency show their bias, while declaring themselves even handed. The Fairness doctrine basically says that equal time should be given to all parties (well, at least the Democrat and the Republic, who cares about any third party wack jobs) in news coverage during an election. So if you run a story of one candidate, you should try to equal it out by running a story about the other candidate. One of my favorite bias tactic is the pretty simple, you run a story about how Candidate A day spent working at a soup kitchen, then follow it with Candidate B meeting with rich business men on the golf course. Equal time, yet not such an equal portrayal.

The other bias trick I like it what I call the Donahue factor. Basically, you get two people with opposing opinions. Pundit A is a Harvard Educated Anthropologist, pundit B the President of Hicks for Change, or some other ridiculous radical, crack pot group. Phil Donahue used to do this with such a devious flair.

I think we should just cut away at all this fake attempts to hide bias and let the news companies just run thgemselves however they want, with the only standard being the truth. That’s how they used to do it when our founding fathers where around. You had your federalist rags and your loyalists rags. These so called newspapers made little attempt to seem unbiased. As long as there “news” stories were true, you didn’t have the millions of watchdog groups attempting to get court order injunctions to keep them from posting a story.

Now, I think there needs to be more civility in the news, but this current version of water downed news is just boring. Yes we get our moments of, as Jon Stewart called it, “partisan hackery” on cable news, but even these segments are manufactures for fairness. In the end we get the same old stories all across our dial. The political coverage comes down to a bunch of party “yes men” spewing the talking points with little or no true analysis. The political coverage is controlled by the politicians when it should be controlled by the journalists. Yeah, we know that Kerry is a flip flopper, but we don’t know anything about the issues he flopped onto or flipped away from. Yes, we’ve heard the the President has lied to the American people and that he failed to get the support of our allies, but we fail to see how these decisions have lead us to where we are today. The networks are covering the surface without jumping into the muck of the issues. Why? They are scared of being labeled bias.

Now, say what you want about CBS, Dan Rather and 60 minutes, but at least they tried. Yes, they probably let their bias guide them, but so what. I don’t like that they got scammed with false documents, but they took a risk to cover a news story that they found intriguing. Yet, people scream that they are biased. Bias wasn’t the problem, being wrong was. Now, people seem to be upset with them again because they were waiting on the missing explosive story until they could spring it right before the election. In my opinion, that’s fine with me, as long as the story is true. Let them revel in their bias. As long as there is another group that revels in a bias all their own.

That’s how we keep it fair and balanced.

Well, that’s my TV pet peeves, or at least a bit of a sampling of them. I try not to get to political, but with this elections season, sometimes you can’t help it. So, next Tuesday, if you are an eligible voter, get out there and vote, once, in your proper district.

Oh, yeah, and congrats to the Boston Red Sox.