No NHL means a look at what’s really on TV

Columnist Allan Hewitson discusses the perils of modern television.

December already – anybody else having trouble with that? My fall and winter calendar in the past few years has been perhaps too much dominated by the seasonal progress of hockey, local and the NHL.

More proof that I’m missing the pro hockey more badly than it deserves comes from the fact that I’ve been skimming over the hundreds of repeat sets of channels I get from Bell ExpressVu. And the stark  realization that I’m simply paying far too much for it. Really, people by the hundreds are recognizing that when TV was first called a “vast wasteland” in a  speech given by former FCC chairman, Newton Minow, in New York at a convention of the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961, he was wrong.

TV in the 1960s was still developing – and like the creeping deserts in north Africa, it took a number of years to turn then TV to a real wasteland. Today the word wasteland just isn’t enough – mainly because it’s an imposed disaster deliberately brought on by the networks and the cable guys who found their garbage being picked up by the networks.

In 1961, Minow said American commercial television programming was a “vast wasteland” and advocated for programming in the public interest. “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

Minow was complaining about the “procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endless commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. “

Now, I think that TV in the 60s (compared to today) was evolving , fertile, imaginative and probably responded better to audience wishes.

Today the evolution cycle has slowed and the wasteland has been further devastated by a couple of hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis and is worse, much worse than the 60s.

Formula comedies remain, violence, sadism and murder have picked up and are so commonplace that teens watching a few hours a day see scores of devious murders weekly, Still, it’s true that there are some things to enjoy – but the repetitive flow of vampire and living dead copy-cat shows, the X-Factor, Voice, Any Country’s Got Talent, the formula talk shows etc. are all getting so boring.

And come on, how many shows can reality TV devise about extracting gold from Alaskan soil, under the Bering Sea ice or from the Congo jungle? How many times can we watch storm-lashed fishing boats catch (or horror of horrors) not catch crabs or tuna. Truly I’m up-to-here  (slicing neckline) with TMZ and the celebrity gossip shows analyzing and cutting up, really just biting the hands that feed them. The stars, dancing or skating, or showing us their fabulous homes quickly palls.

I managed to watch Canada’s Worst Drivers for a quarter of an hour but really, stupid people, even on TV, are still stupid people. DIY and cooking shows – c’mon, we all know it’s easy to fill a programming spot with a cameraman, an editor and some studio time and run that rubbish for three seasons, only because nobody complains — they just click over to something else, which is, inevitably eons worse.

Honeybooboo…boo, boo! Worse still, old mountain men making illegal hooch in Tennessee.

It’s not all bad – I’m enjoying “Canada on the Edge,” the Oasis HD, EqHD and Imax Originals documentaries. I feel familiar on the Barrier Reef – but please, fewer Great Whites. I’m intrigued to see how far they’ll go to cheapen Space – and the movie channel’s Western specials are becoming repetitive.

CBC News I’ve praised, but what happened to the men on that show? Ian Hanomansing, well, he doesn’t help my argument. Cut down the ads for Evan Solomon “holding politicians feet to the fire”, and honestly, Kevin O’Leary, I really don’t want you to give me the answers.

ahewitson@telus.net

Allan Hewitson is the author of the weekly Under Miscellaneous column in the Northern Sentinel.

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