Commentary

Hundreds of shows and nothing to watch

May 15, 2014 

You’ve all done this, I know. You’re looking for something to watch on TV and you start running through the channels on the program guide.

You go through the entire menu, finding yourself back where you started. Then you do it again.

And you find nothing you really want to watch, so you reluctantly click on a movie you’ve already seen five or six times and eventually nod off in your chair.

This is an all-too-common experience in my house. Including the various music channels, we have dozens of channels we can watch, and for a little more money each month, we could get dozens more.

But after flipping through the menu, we often find ourselves frustrated and back where we started.

Everybody who has cable TV has experienced this phenomenon. But recently, Nielsen, the company that has monitored our viewing habits since TV was in its infancy, officially documented it.

Nielsen found that while the typical American household has almost 200 channels to choose from, viewers typically watch only about 17 of them on a regular basis.

Nielsen offers this astonishing insight: “This data is significant in that it substantiates the notion that more content does not necessarily equate to more channel consumption.”

In other words, we’re paying for a lot of stuff we never watch.

I recently decided to check out some of the channels I don’t watch regularly – or ever for that matter – and after a few tries it was apparent why I wasn’t watching them.

Take CBC, the Country Bumpkin Channel, for example. The premier show on this channel is “Ribbit,” where two rural families square off and compete to see how many live frogs they can eat in 10 minutes. A recurring character, Grampa Gristle, has become famous for his catchphrase: “Wish I had me some buttermilk to wash down this frog!”

I also tuned in to the P&P Channel, which broadcasts the BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice” 24 hours a day. During sweeps week, P&P airs its “Mr. Darcy Marathon,” which consists of a clip of Mr. Darcy (the actor Colin Firth) emerging from a lake in a wet shirt, which is played over and over again for the entire week. Surprisingly, this has a relatively high viewership.

I was intrigued by the KKK Channel. The big show on the Kittens! Kittens! Kittens! Channel is “The Kitty Whisperer.” A guy who claims to have a special, almost paranormal, rapport with kittens, tries to teach them to come, sit and fetch, all to no avail. At the end of every show, he smiles into the camera, shrugs and says, “Well, maybe next week. Tune in and see.”

The only show on ZBC, the Zbigniew Brzezinski Channel, is “The Brzezinski Hour,” where the former security adviser to President Jimmy Carter talks about foreign policy, often in Polish with subtitles, for an hour. One of his rare guests was his daughter Mika from the “Morning Joe” show. She spoke briefly about the rise of China as a global power, after which her father said, “All that expensive education for nothing. Go to your room!”

On CWAC, the Cooking With Abandon Channel, a popular late-night show is “This Old Refrigerator.” Amateur cooks must try to cover up the taste of ingredients that have turned odd colors or whose “use-by” date has expired. If judges can detect the rotten flavors and/or get food poisoning, the cook is eliminated.

I skipped most of the sports shows (one was described as “people running into things at full speed”), nature shows, cop shows, comedies, music shows, infomercials and many, many others. I was exhausted.

It occurred to me that I might have been happier when we had only three major networks, PBS and farm shows in the morning. Then again, I might have to check out “The Kitty Whisperer” to see if cats can be taught something.

I’ve never seen anything that miraculous on TV.

James Werrell, Herald opinion page editor, can be reached at 329-4081 or, by email, at jwerrell@heraldonline.com.

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