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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, September 30, 2005

Telly

Haven't you ever wondered what passes for television viewing around the world?

One of the best features of My Yahoo, which is that personalised page all Yahoo ID users can customise, is the Television module -- with dozens of countries offered, schedule-style.

Many people around the world consider television viewing rather oafish, and brainless. That would be true of many cultural elites like academics, for example.

It is also true that the more intellectual a reputation a country has, such as France or Germany, the less daily life is geared to or concentrates on television.

When I came to the US, I was shocked at how my friends' family would arrive home, and immediately go to the family room to switch on the set.

What made it odder is that they weren't doing so to catch a certain programme, necessarily.

They'd just have it on as background noise, like a sweet, but doddering old grannie, who you don't exactly pay much mind, but you like to have around you anyway because she makes you feel good.

Almost too ironically, now that I am a full-time US resident, I do the exact same thing. In fact, I'm doing it now!

(For those who are curious, I have on my local PBS channel, since PBS has absolutely ruled the airwaves this week, starting by the Scorsese-Dylan documentary)

In my travels, I have seen much international television, and each country leaves me with a split-second impression of its programming.

I found Chilean and Argentinian TV almost unwatchably boring, dated, and unoriginal, whereas Peruvian and Brazilian TV shows are quite entertaining, and modern-looking.

In Sweden, I remember laughing for seemingly hours on the hotel bed, when I saw their nightly news reader. She looked Tammy Faye Bakker on drugs.

No, I mean, more than usual.



In India, you'd be watching an (for me) unintelligible show, completely in Hindi, whilst you squinted your eyes in that way people have when they try to understand something, anything of a foreign language -- only to be rewarded when you heard "tape recorder" all of a sudden in perfect English.

Tape recorder! I know that.

Okay, I know the gist of this programme now. Next scene, a morgue. What the...?

In Egypt, oh my. If you think you've seen tackiness in American soap operas, with their ostentatious tschotchkes everywhere, that's nothing compared to Egyptian or Arabic-language soaps.

The women are not only driping with 24K gold jewelry, but so are their phones, their loo fixtures, their cars, even their makeup, if only Shiseido would oblige.

Japanese television was plain...bizarre, yes even considering that I don't speak the language, but I didn't need a translation for the nightly game shows. They were, shall we say, unique.

Namidame qualifies as that certainly, being a reality show where 10 women vie for 1 million Yen by seeing who can cry the most. To that end, some rent weepies like Titanic, Joy Luck Club, and Showgirls, and then fill up little test tubes with tears, which are then collected and weighed for comparison.

A reality show about crying. Think about it.

Of course, there's also JAPANARAMA!, which I can only describe as a variety show about farts. Seriously.



Only until the new Survivor/Fear Factor craze hit America, did I see so many people enjoy being humiliated on TV, as I did in Japan, which of course, has a "shaming" culture.

Which may explain the Bob Sapp phenomenon.

I recall as a child living in Canada, that Canadian television was almost identical to American TV, except their own news programming was more professional-looking than the southern neighbours. Rather like the BBC.



I loved Hockey Night in Canada, though, as my action figure of Don Cherry atop my computer, attests to.

German television seemed to centre around Krimis (police/crime programmes) like the ageless Tatort series. It must be over 35 years old by now!



And according to the region you were in, you also got whatever occupying powers' television they beamed for their personnel.

The American Wiesbaden sector got lots of homespun shows like I Dream of Jeannie, Kojak, and I particuarly recall gasping at Hogan's Heroes, that show about lovable Nazis and their rascally prisoners.

In Italy and Spain, it seemed that they were unusually fond of variety shows with semi-naked women, somehow all wearing balloons in strategic areas. Ditto for Mexico.

Speaking of Mexico, the amount of Mexican "novelas" (nightly soap operas) shown around the world is mind-boggling.

I arrived in Romania to be greeted by people watching re-runs of Esmeralda. Heaven help you if interrupted them to ask a touristy question.

Then, two weeks later, arriving in Belgium, I see the hotelier transfixed by the same Esmeralda episode!

Fortunately, in Italy they make up for their inane programming by having the children's favourite, Topo Gigio -- you can call him the Italian Mickey Mouse.



Perhaps the worst was Cuba's programming, where I watched all 2 or 3 channels who had to carry an impossibly long-winded, and discombobulated talk by El Comandante-en-Jefe. It lasted over 5 hours...

But perhaps there is no country as "anti-television" as France.

In France, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that as less people want to watch TV, the less original programming is available for them so to do.

And the less quality shows are available to them, the less they wish to watch, since non-derivative programming, novelty shows, game shows, soap operas, and the like tend to be spread thinly and are therefore, unexciting.

I recall a 90210 attempt in France, called Hélène et Les Garçons, that was both laughable and somehow cute, like Jacques Chirac trying to kiss Laura Bush's hand.



Just about the only thing the French do well on television is the breadth and quality of movies they show, which I've always found without equal on the continent.

As you've already seen in other blog threads, I am quite the cinephile. Both the Arté and Canal+ channels were stunningly good in that regard. I was in stardust heaven.

It is certainly true to say though that we English-speakers have excellent television on offer, we also find ourselves overwhelmed with the options on tap.

I personaly have over 400 channels technically available to me, via a simple digital cable network. If I had DirecTV, it would be 600, and double on parabolic satellite.

And yet, no matter how many channels there are, there seems to be NOTHING on Saturday afternoons.

That's also true of other countries, with their own enormous variety of programming available.

The conclusion is therefore, not that we have nothing good to watch, but that we should really get up and do stuff on Saturdays. You know who you are.

For a person who was raised with 1 hour of television per day (timed!), I have rather a fondness for the medium, since I connote people who sniff their noses at television to be the most crashing snobs. I'd like to hope at least I am not that.

But my parents, both academics, were.

And what these snobs miss most of all, which I know they will say they don't care about, is losing touch with popular culture around them.

They don't know what the people are talking about, so much of which is inspired or broadcast via the airwaves.

I am not proud of the fact that I have never watched a single episode of Friends, West Wing, or more than a few minutes worth of Seinfeld, e.g.

And in Britain, I just never cared much for Coronation Street, Neighbours, or Crossroads when they were on.

This means that my connexion to my own generation can be rather tenuous, since we don't have that cultural point-of-reference together.

That's sad, I think, but all too common with those who either decry television as being vapid or for those with limited intellects.

Of course, it's certainly not called the Boob Tube for nothing, albeit you Baywatch faithful out there can be forgiven if you thought it was for something else.

But point of fact, US television programming, especially that which is aimed during Prime Time (8-10 at night), the so-called family hour, is rather eclectic and fun.

With all this in mind, here is a peak at what was on tonight, around Europe.

The fare may surprise you.

Channel 20:00 20:30 21:00 21:30

Channel 5 (UK)
Stargate Atlantis
The Truth about Madonna's Men

RTL 9 (France)
Police Academy 4
Le diable rose

TV5 Europe (France)
Strip tease
Journal TV5
L'ami Fritz

ITV London Weekend (UK)
Exit the Dragon: Tonight With Trevor McDonald
Airline
Taggart

Sky One (UK)
The Simpsons
The Simpsons
Sport Matters

RTL (Germany)
Wer wird Millionär?
Nikola
Bernds Hexe
7 Tage - 7 K?

Sky Sports 3 (UK)
Crown Green Bowls
WWE Late Night - Smackdown

Canal Plus France
Père et flic
Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants

UK Gold (Oldies)
2point4 Children
As Time Goes By
Dinnerladies
Dinnerladies

TF1 (France)
Star Academy
Eurosport (Deutsch)
Fußball
Fußball
Rallye

Film Four (UK)
Rush Hour 2

ZDF (Germany)
Siska
SOKO Leipzig
heute-journal

ProSieben (Germany)
Riverworld - Welt ohne Ende
Knock Off

Italia 1
Everwood
CSI: Miami
The Closer

ARD (Germany)
Auf den Spuren der Vergangenheit
Tatort

France 2
La Crim'
Groupe Flag
Central nuit

Rai Uno (Italy)
50 Canzonissime da ballare

Arte (France/Germany)
Gefährdeter Bezirk
Veruschka

Rai Due (Italy)
Incantesimo

BBC 1 (UK)
Eastenders
River City
Outtake TV
The Worst Week of My Life

BBC 2 (UK)
In the Footsteps of Churchill
Gardeners' World
Gardeners' World
The Last Waterloo Cup

ORF 1 (Austria)
Die Millionenshow
Dancing Stars
Newsflash
Dancing Stars
Was gibt es Neues?

The Discovery Channel (UK)
Mythbusters
Brainiac

DSF (Germany)
UEFA CUP Kompakt
Bundesliga Aktuell
Hattrick - Die 2. Bundesliga
Viererkette

Canal Jimmy (France)
Friends
Friends
The Job
Le messager des ténèbres
Le messager des ténèbres

Kabel 1 (Germany)
Cold Case - Kein Opfer ist je vergessen
Spurlos verschwunden - Without a Trace
Missing - Verzweifelt gesucht

MTV UK
Cribs
Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica
Viva La Bam
Viva La Bam

Channel 4 (UK)
Scrubs
Will & Grace
The Simpsons
Rock School

Come on. Admit it.

You are just dying to talk to a Brit about that Mariah Carey episode on MTV's Cribs, arentcha?

14 Comments:

  • I loved Seinfeld! Your blog reminds me of Seinfeld which had a way of making ordinary everyday experiences seem very funny.

    This Saturday afternoon you could watch the undefeated Gators play live on CBS!!!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Fri Sep 30, 10:03:00 am GMT-4  

  • I think it was just after the invasion of Iraq, and Canada was taking with this that Don Cherry began an episode of Hockey Night in Canada by saying, "Canada is a parasite nation."

    And he got worse from there! All while wearing an Electric Red Canadian Flag Tie, and a suit coat that a used car salesman would find tacky.

    Remarkable! No wonder they still love the hockey fighting...

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Sep 30, 04:35:00 pm GMT-4  

  • I loved Seinfeld! Your blog reminds me of Seinfeld which had a way of making ordinary everyday experiences seem very funny.

    And like Seinfeld, my blog is about NOTHING. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Sep 30, 06:49:00 pm GMT-4  

  • I think it was just after the invasion of Iraq, and Canada was taking with this that Don Cherry began an episode of Hockey Night in Canada by saying, "Canada is a parasite nation."

    And he got worse from there!


    You may remember that that is the ONLY episode ever taken away from the CBC archives of HNIC.

    I don't know -- maybe in the meantime it's been put back, but since Don Cherry and Ron McLean went at it hard, I doubt it.

    It wasn't very professional.

    All while wearing an Electric Red Canadian Flag Tie, and a suit coat that a used car salesman would find tacky.

    Yes, but that's his schtick! :)

    He's in the tradition of Jimm the Greek's hat, or Marv Albert's toupée.

    Remarkable! No wonder they still love the hockey fighting...

    I do. :)

    I also love Canada and Canadians -- bolshie system or not!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Sep 30, 06:52:00 pm GMT-4  

  • You may remember that that is the ONLY episode ever taken away from the CBC archives of HNIC.

    Interesting! I didn't know that!

    Growing up in Detroit, I have found memories of watching "Pig and Whistle. " I was also baffled by the idea of "AgraScope," a farming show, on in prime time...

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Sep 30, 08:39:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Interesting! I didn't know that!

    Yah.

    I wonder if it's available clandestinely, like a type of collectible?

    Growing up in Detroit, I have found memories of watching "Pig and Whistle. " I was also baffled by the idea of "AgraScope," a farming show, on in prime time...

    Whoa.

    And I thought watching Welsh-language soap operas on the BBC on Saturday mornings was utterly baffling and boring.

    P.S.: Do you know Madonna?? ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Oct 01, 12:40:00 am GMT-4  

  • "Welsh soap operas," even if true, sounds like a bad Python skit. (Light Bulb-over-head-effect, with appropriate ding! sound) Oh, yes, news in Welsh, that's where I got that...

    It's just that CBC (from Windsor, natch!) was so different..."Pig and Whistle" was set in a bar for the whole show! Outstanding! "Agrascope" got into the most obscure details about beet and sorghum farming! What a crisis it would be for Ontario if X crop wasn't as good as last years! How farmers from other provinces (never American farmers) would deride the methods of Ontario ones! It was "Beet the Press!"

    If you mean the Biblical "know", well, yeah, who doesn't know Madonna? (Sorry, couldn't pass that one up!)

    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Oct 01, 10:00:00 am GMT-4  

  • The only telly I'm watching religiously at the moment is 'House'. Anything else I can't be bothered with. Oh, apart from MotD, obviously.

    By Blogger Kullrad, at Sat Oct 01, 03:48:00 pm GMT-4  

  • In Canada, there's a quiet TV obbligato that runs perpetually through everyone's life: The Weather Network. I turned it on when my first child was a baby, and I think it's never disappeared from the house since. It's a bit like a 24/7 baseball game - you never really miss anything. If you have to leave the room to change a diaper or pick up a fussy baby, just come back 5 minutes or 5 hours later and it's still there, and really hardly anything has changed. And if it has, the friendly anchors will tell you all about it, just the way in baseball the commentators perpetually recap the previous innings. It's very soothing and relaxing. And there's always the chance that just MAYBE you might get lucky and see one of those dangerous Red Pages come up, warning of tornadoes or heavy rain in your area. You just can't beat it.

    By Anonymous Wanda, at Sun Oct 02, 09:21:00 am GMT-4  

  • Now this is the sort of blog I like to see.

    The local PBS had an outstanding show on at 2AM last night, about variously strange and dangerous animals in the rainforest.

    When I was in France, I was a big fan of the African roundup news show on RTPi, where at least 50% of the stories consisted of the following:

    1. A guy, usually in a uniform, giving a long speech.
    2. A crowd in a half-empty room looking very bored.
    3. Local children dancing in commemoration of the speech.

    The closest I can get now is the news from Myanmar on SCOLA.

    By Blogger Jim, at Sun Oct 02, 11:02:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Welsh soap operas," even if true, sounds like a bad Python skit. (Light Bulb-over-head-effect, with appropriate ding! sound) Oh, yes, news in Welsh, that's where I got that..

    I tell you, it's true!

    Back when they had a law that you had to give regional languages time on the BBC -- they dedicated very early mornings to the Welsh-language.

    The political news programmes were hilarious, since they had to dub over Prince Charles' speeches in Welsh. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Oct 04, 09:46:00 pm GMT-4  

  • And there's always the chance that just MAYBE you might get lucky and see one of those dangerous Red Pages come up, warning of tornadoes or heavy rain in your area. You just can't beat it.

    Wanda, wow. This sounds abysmally boring!

    When I went to visit a Canadian friend who had married a Michigan guy, in their home near E. Lansing, I remember wondering out loud at the cute little icon to the right of the screen on TV.

    It was a little red swirly thing, which multiplied in number throughout the day.

    My friend overheard me, and said, that's not the TV channel logo!

    That's an advisory to residents of how close a tornado is to their home...

    Three little swirls, and you had to rush to your basement.

    Eek.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Oct 04, 09:48:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Now this is the sort of blog I like to see.

    It is right up your alley. :)

    The local PBS had an outstanding show on at 2AM last night, about variously strange and dangerous animals in the rainforest.

    If it featured a British scientist who is an expert on tarantulas, yeah, I almost fainted...

    When I was in France, I was a big fan of the African roundup news show on RTPi, where at least 50% of the stories consisted of the following:

    I get that on my local cable-tap on TV5!

    I love those African Round-Ups.

    1. A guy, usually in a uniform, giving a long speech.
    2. A crowd in a half-empty room looking very bored.
    3. Local children dancing in commemoration of the speech.


    Dubya tried that, but Jenna looked silly line-dancing.

    The closest I can get now is the news from Myanmar on SCOLA.

    Quality!

    Mind you, nothing beats our late-night Zimbabwe radio shows, with the excellent lion drum beats. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Oct 04, 09:52:00 pm GMT-4  

  • The only telly I'm watching religiously at the moment is 'House'. Anything else I can't be bothered with. Oh, apart from MotD, obviously.

    I like Hugh Laurie (did you know that his people and mine had a lot to do with each other, since my grandfather and his dad were both docs in Oxon?).

    But I cannot stand medical shows.

    (Doesn't bode well for my future right?)

    I wonder if future lawyers cannot stand Law & Order...

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Oct 04, 09:54:00 pm GMT-4  

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