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TV or Not TV, That is the Question

Web posted on April 12, 2017

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

We all know that the quality of programming is inversely proportional to the number of channels available. I think we have the same number of quality shows that we had 40 years ago but spread out over hundreds of channels. A few weeks ago I commented about unreality television. It's time to look at some of the other programming out there, and it isn't pretty. My philosophy is that if I can make it to the first commercial, I will stay for the rest of the show. Chances are good that I will give the show a second look. If I can make it to the third episode, I will probably keep watching. Most shows never make it past the first commercial these days.

Crime/police shows have become the new science fiction shows. Almost every crime show has a tech wizard or wizards with every conceivable gadget known (and many unknown) at their disposal. These tech wizards seem to know everything about everything. They would need an IQ of about 300 to have all that knowledge. (Which begs the question, why aren't they working in the private sector and making millions?) They also make the so called tech wizards somewhat off the wall at the best of times. Talk about your stereotyping. The entire life of suspects from banking records, what they did in high school, to phone records is found on line in an instant, even if it was never entered into a computer. What about privacy laws? Don't they need a search warrant? Who needs real investigators when everything is solved by someone working on a computer? Whatever happened to real detective work?

There are very few good detective shows out there. Most of these are British (ever notice that the even worst of the British shows, of all genres, are better than most of the best produced on this side of the pond) and are only available on PBS or Vision TV. The writing, the characters, and the plot lines are always much better. Most of their shows don't even have tech wizards.

We all know the problem with PBS is that they seem to spend way too much time begging for money What used to be referred to as "Pledge Weeks" (three or four times a year) have grown into what seem to last for an entire month at a time. Now we seem to get them every other month. They used to have some interesting programs to make up for all the whining and begging. Unfortunately they have sunk to new lows of late and are now raiding retirement and nursing homes for surviving artists from the 50s, to the 70s and putting them into concerts. Some of them look quite well preserved, others look too well preserved. I wonder how many are just lip syncing. I would rather remember them the way they used to be. They are even putting on marathons of some of their better rated shows. The begging for money now seems to last longer than the actual show. Unfortunately it is only going to get worse if some of the proposed budget cuts happen down south.

I have met a fair number of law enforcement officers/agents from numerous agencies on both sides of the border. When I had the chance, I always asked about how their agency was portrayed on TV. They all seemed to agree that most of the so called crime/detective shows on TV are much closer science fiction than reality.

Two of the best police and court shows were "Barney Miller" and "Night Court." Yes, they were comedies, but from everything I have ever heard and read, they were much closer to reality than the current science fiction.

We do need some new Space Operas in the spirit of "Star Trek" and "Babylon Five." Not a reboot, but something new interesting and well done. The few recent attempts at science fiction have been uninspiring at best. There are too many rather feeble attempts at time travel shows. There is only one time travel show worth watching.

The only show involving medicine that I have ever been able to watch is "Doc Martin." Once again, a British show on PBS. I understand they are working on an American version. We know what that means. No matter how many times they try to adapt a British show to American audiences, everything is lost in translation.

We also need more good comedy shows. A lot of the time if I like it, no one else does. I am proud to say that I have never watched a full episode of "Seinfeld." I couldn't even make it to the first commercial. The "Big Bang Theory" is probably the best these days. If you can get Stephen Hawking on your show, I am in. Besides, we all know a Sheldon, and there is a little bit of Sheldon in all of us.

There are a fair number of reasonable well produced dramas out there. Unfortunately very few of them interest me.

Just like the movies, there are way too many shows from the Marvel or DC Comics universe polluting the airwaves. It has reached the point where I refuse to watch any of these shows.

I don't understand why they have to tamper with characters such as changing the gender or race. This is becoming more prevalent in all genres these days. Look at what they did to Dr. Watson in the American version of Sherlock Holmes. For that reason alone I could not watch it. Now there is talk of a female Dr. Who, while an interesting concept they really should keep the original premise.

They really should stop doing remakes of shows. They never come anywhere near the quality of the original, just like in the movies. I just cannot watch the two Friday night remakes on CBS. I have tried, but they lost me with all the tinkering with the characters and dubious plot lines. Give me reruns of the originals any day.

There are very few Canadian shows worth watching. We have produced some of the best comedy shows and some good dramas. We have also produced some of the worst shows in broadcast history. In some cases a high school could have come up with better quality, and I am being very generous. In Canadian programming there seems to be very little middle ground. The CBC should either be like PBS down south, or be forced to sink in swim in the real world of broadcasting.

Most shows go into reruns or take a break in December for the Christmas/New Years borefest. This was always expected so they could get us into the spirit with their increasingly hideous specials. Or even worse the new fad of marathons without end. I have been unable to wrap my brain around the concept of sitting and watching mind numbing hours of the same show, no matter how good the show is. Then again, some people get endless pleasure from watching Astroturf grow or reading stop signs. I wonder if this is how they got the term "the walking dead?" It gets worse the week between Christmas and New Years. All of a sudden, that fireplace video is looking really good. They now make a big deal of the break by using their new cute and totally meaningless term "fall finale," and two or three weeks later the "winter premiere." What kind of mind tricks are they trying to play on us? We all know that they are taking a break. At this rate we will have a monthly finale and a monthly premiere. Once again the marketing types are trying to earn their keep.

The worst night of television has to be Stupor Bore evening. A close second is the night of self gratification by the movie industry. Ever notice that some of the pre event and post event shows are actually longer than the event itself. Talk about make work projects for people without any talent, look good on the screen, and are able to talk for hours without saying a meaningful thing. This is now happening with way too many other events.

Of course the competing networks decide to put on the most mind numbing reruns they can find. They should realize that there are a lot of people out there who would not watch the game or the awards show even if they were paid to do so. It would take a lot to get me to watch, opening bid should be in the six figure range, just to get my attention.

When it comes right down to it, there are only a handful of shows worth watching. If I can't relate to the premise of the show or to the characters, no matter how good the show might be, I am not interested. I think that eliminates about 90% of the shows out there. My tastes in entertainment, be it movies, TV, books, or music are quite eclectic. With very few exceptions, the more I dislike a show the more popular it is.

Some of my favourite shows are now well past their best before date. No matter how good a show was when it started, sooner or later it will run out of good plot lines. The producers should know when to move on and let the show go out with some semblance of dignity. When major characters start leaving a show perhaps it's time to pull the plug. When the "writers" start messing with lead characters, it's time to pull the plug. When the plot lines are thinner than tissue paper, it's time to pull the plug. The current spin offs do not come anywhere the quality of the original, and I gave up on all of them after the first episode. Unfortunately, as long as they keep getting the current high ratings they will keep making new episodes. At the other end of the scale are the shows that should have never been allowed to see the light of day such as anything reality based.

Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.

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