T-pills, Pringles and Angels—TV has it all. Or nothing.
Illustrations: Megan Mericle
I was a TV baby. Rather, a TV teen. I watched waaaay too much television growing up because of the lack of a social life. Today, I watch waaaay too much television because of the lack of a social life. But I have way more channels, so my life has improved dramatically.
In 1992, Bruce Springsteen released a song titled, “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” A lot has changed since then. Now, it seems like there are 57,000 channels and nothin’ on.
While spending even more time at home recently, it’s been fun to flip around the dial (that’s 1950s speak) and explore the outliers on the channel guide—what I call “The Twilight Zone” of channels because you find shows like, well, “The Twilight Zone.” On the occasional night when I have nothing better to do (heavy sarcasm), I go surfing. (Ever notice how people refuse to say they have nothing to do and that we, as a society, have even coined phrases to avoid saying that? “I’m just chillin’.” “I’m kickin’ back.” You really mean you have absolutely nothing to do and you’re secretly binge-watching “Gilmore Girls” and won’t dare admit it.)
My current TV package is a little skimpy on “real” channels. I won’t pay for any extras because I still remember when both America and television were free. About half of the channels are devoted to Spanish-language shows, religious zealots and infomercials. I must confess, I’ve come close to buying those granite pans with the mini fry pan because the bacon and eggs look so darn tasty on the screen. That’s the power of TV advertising. Who hasn’t thought about buying those unregulated, Brand X testosterone pills? And those ads always seem to be followed by Playboy Channel infomercials, which remind us why television is called “the boob tube.”
Generally, commercials are the bane of my existence and I avoid them. Sometimes, though, you wonder, “What if life were like commercials?” Somebody pops a lid on a Pringles can and people start dancing in the streets. “Look everybody! Potato chips! Let’s party!”
“And in other news today, a researcher is crediting a major breakthrough in cancer treatment to a pack of Mentos. In a statement, the researcher said, ‘Thank God I brought my Mentos to work today. I felt like I could do anything. Stay fresh, people.’”
But I digress, which is so easy to do when you become a TV zombie … watching endless zombie shows. In my day (that’s old-people speak), we didn’t have shows about zombies. We watched shows about odd couples and multimillion-dollar men and bald-headed detectives and island fantasies.
I often gravitate to “nostalgia” channels and 1970s shows. The first time around, I didn’t watch “Charlie’s Angels” much because we had just one good TV and exhibiting adolescent lust in front of the folks would have been, uh, awkward. Not so for middle-age lust. I’m making up for lost time. Who needs T-pills? “Tonight, on a very special episode of ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ the Angels take on the mob while wearing string bikinis.”
“My current TV package is a little skimpy on “real” channels. I won’t pay for any extras because I still remember when both America and television were free.”
So many other niche networks exist: Animal Planet, BabyFirst TV, the Olympic Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, the Cowboy Channel and on and on. On RFD-TV, fans of Heidi from “Home Improvement” can find “Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Round-up” and watch Debbe learn how to use a lasso and a whip. Maybe that belongs on the Playboy Channel.
The Game Show and Buzzr networks have always been mystifying. I can’t believe anyone would want to see whether Joe Plaidjacket makes a match with Fannie Flagg on a 1974 “Match Game” episode, but damn if I don’t get suckered in sometimes.
My favorite ’70s show of all time was “The Rockford Files,” starring James Garner. The plots usually didn’t make much sense, but Garner was hilarious as the dumped-on, downtrodden Malibu detective. Whenever Rockford was in trouble and time was running short, you suddenly realized what was coming. The action would stop and these words would appear, perhaps fitting as my own epitaph:
“To be continued.”