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)
The Truth about Madonna's Men
RTL 9 (France)
Police Academy 4
Le diable rose
TV5 Europe (France)
ITV London Weekend (UK)
Exit the Dragon: Tonight With Trevor McDonald
Sky One (UK)
Wer wird Millionär?
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)
As Time Goes By
Film Four (UK)
Rush Hour 2
Riverworld - Welt ohne Ende
Auf den Spuren der Vergangenheit
Rai Uno (Italy)
50 Canzonissime da ballare
Rai Due (Italy)
BBC 1 (UK)
The Worst Week of My Life
BBC 2 (UK)
In the Footsteps of Churchill
The Last Waterloo Cup
ORF 1 (Austria)
Was gibt es Neues?
The Discovery Channel (UK)
UEFA CUP Kompakt
Hattrick - Die 2. Bundesliga
Canal Jimmy (France)
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
Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica
Viva La Bam
Viva La Bam
Channel 4 (UK)
Will & Grace
Come on. Admit it.
You are just dying to talk to a Brit about that Mariah Carey episode on MTV's Cribs, arentcha?