As we all know, and are probably tired of hearing because it makes us so damned depressed, the recession is hitting everyone hard. Businesses are closing left and right, people are losing their jobs, and unemployment rates are hitting levels not seen since the days of leg warmers, headbands and tainted Tylenol. It's bad enough that even if people still have a job, their employers are taking extensive belt tightening measures to make sure they are prepared for the worst.
One of the things being eliminated from families' budgets during this belt tightening is their cable or satellite hookup. With costs that can total over $100 a month, families are just not ready to dump that kind of cash on something they feel doesn't have any value. That doesn't mean they are going without television (especially after the DTV switchover) and turning to a simpler life of canning vegetables, making quilts, and attending square dances. Rather, they are switching off their hi-def flat screens, turning on their computer flat screens, and getting their TV fix over the Internet.
The cable company has decided to pay ten dollars to each person who was "affected" by the showing of porn during the game. I have no idea how you're supposed to prove you saw it or even what "affected" means. Annoyed? Ticked off? Embarrassed for your family? Aroused? Did it make you want to strangle a puppy? Comcast, the nudity you showed on Super Bowl Sunday made me rethink my career path. I want my ten dollars!
Comcast is still investigating what exactly happened, but they're pretty sure it was done by someone on purpose. Only people who didn't watch the game in HD actually saw it, which is a great ad for HDTV. Not sure if the spokesperson for the company helps by using the words "aggressively pursue" and "come to a resolution" in the statement.
Seriously, though, will it matter if the transition date is February, June, or sometime in Obama's second administration? At this point, even the most casual observer has figured out that the transition hasn't been communicated very well to the American public. People who have cable or satellite still think that they need to buy a new HDTV or upgrade to digital cable in order to be compliant with the conversion, people who got discount coupons for converters early on have found that the coupons have expired and they can't get more, and the people who have converted are being surprised that some weak stations won't come in due to the "digital cliff effect."
The Obama transition team is asking Congress to extend the deadline because the way the transition has been handled hasn't been the smoothest: there's been a problem with the coupons that the government is giving out so people can get a converter box, the education on the new technology has been inadequate, and the government doesn't have the funds to make the current date a reality. Consumers unions are also asking for the date to be extended.
My sister asked me if I was ready for the digital transition, and I told her that I've been ready for years. Then I met someone last week who says she still has a small portable TV with rabbit ears. Are you ready for the change?
Everybody's been boo-hooing the ongoing decline in the ratings of the broadcast networks for years now. Each year their numbers erode and the news outlets go crazy trying to figure out what's going on. But there's been a quieter story building during that same timespan, and it really came to the forefront this year. While the major broadcast networks have seen a drop in viewers, the cable networks have been busting ratings records all year, culminating with USA not only having the best year of any cable channel in 2008, but having the best year in the history of cable television.
But what does that mean for television, in general? Is it just the continuing evolution of a drastically changing medium? Considering the state of the economy and its impact on the networks, it's definitely worth noting that someone on the airwaves is apparently doing something right, and it's these cable channels. Ironically, many of those same success stories in cable are sister stations to the broadcast networks, even going so far as to lend them shows during that pesky writer's strike. But how can it be that while the Big Four are going down, the cable networks are on the rise?
Well, bite down on some leather, drink plenty of fluids, and get ready for some long nights of withdrawal, because Viacom is pulling 18 channels off the air from all of Time Warner Cable's outlets in protest over their recent carriage fee raises.
That means if you're a TWC customer and a fan of anything on Comedy Central, VH1, Spike, Nickelodeon, Logo, CMT or (if you're completely blind and deaf) MTV, you're boned.
When I'm not pumping out my latest TV rant for the ol' Squad here, I write pretty infrequently for another blog with some old college roomies called The Suite Spot. It's really nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled twentysomething males talking about whatever we want.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, my buddy Keith wrote something that astounded me: he's canceled his cable TV service. And not just cable - I mean everything. Basic service too. The man is TV-less.
Wha?!? Just how the heck can a red-blooded American male say no more to cable TV? Good-bye ESPN? So long crappy late night soft-core porn? Farewell Desperate Hou... wait, nevermind. That one sounds great, but you get my point.
Is Keith still watching TV? Sure, tons of it. But he's doing something that many of us only use as a supplement to our normal TV viewing. He's watching everything online.
RTN is a channel that shows a lot of old TV shows. It's sort of what TV Land used to be, a long time ago, before they started to get into reality shows, movies, and Extreme Makeover.
The channel is still at a time in their history where they have the freedom to not only air cult-yet-mainstream shows like the original Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Leave It To Beaver, and Magnum, P.i., they're also airing such shows as Delvecchio (!), It Takes A Thief (!), Kate and Allie (!), the original 50s version of Mike Hammer (!), Run For Your Life (!), and The Bold Ones (!). As you can see, this is one eclectic network. They also have original programming such as talk shows, RTN Mystery Theater, and Offbeat Cinema. Robin Leach is going to host a show on the network, too.
This season (Jay reviewed one a couple of years ago), Comcast, Cox, Time-Warner, and Bright House all have the Yule Log on their On Demand service (via iN Demand). It's that scene of a crackling fireplace to get you in the Christmas mood. It's especially good if you don't have a fireplace of your own (duh), and it's in HD! I have Comcast digital, and to access it, go to your On Demand menu, then scroll down to HD On Demand, then go to TV Entertainment. You'll see a "Yule Log & More" category (not sure how to get to the section on other cable systems - maybe it's the same?).
But wait, there's more...
HBO knows Simon and Fontana's work really well. Simon was the creator of The Wire and Fontana's brainchild was Oz. This is also not a new collaboration. Fontana turned Simon's book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, into the Homicide: Life on the Streets TV series for NBC.
Let the Digital Television Revolution begin! Oh, wait, millions of us have converted to digital cable boxes already. Let me try this again. Let the Government-Enforced Digital Television Revolution begin! Okay, much better.
In order to test out the conversion of all media outlets and consumer televisions to digital service by February 17th, 2009, Wilmington, North Carolina decided to beat everyone to the punch and perform the conversion early. So, at noon on Monday, Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pulled a huge, symbolic power switch to convert all of the city from analog to digital broadcasts. Of course, things went off without a hitch. Uh-huh. And, Platyrrhini Cebidae soar out of my tushie!
Not long after the cut-over broadcasters in the area reported dozens of calls from residents within the city limits and surrounding counties who either weren't prepared for the conversion or couldn't get their brand-new digital-converter boxes to work with their old analog sets. Both the networks and the FCC knew that this would happen and expected to receive calls over the next few weeks from the 14,000 households who received their signals from over-the-air broadcasting.
Um....OK, so I just turned on MSNBC to get the latest news and I get a notice on the screen that says this.
To order MSNBC service on channel 114, call 1-800....
What the hell? So I go to channel 114 and it has the same message. At first I thought it was one of those temporary glitches that sometimes happen to cable systems (in this case, Comcast), but then I read this over at TV Newser. Seems that Comcast is starting to drop MSNBC from its basic package in many areas and putting it in the digital package. They're doing it in Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Connecticut, and now it looks like it is affecting Massachusetts, too. Anyone else out there not have MSNBC?
I think we pay approximately $4000 a month for cable and we have a digital package, so I would hope MSNBC would be covered (especially since CNN and FOX News are there). I'm going to get my paperwork and find out why this move isn't included in it. This isn't even remotely Comcastic.
This just might be child abuse.
OK, I'm kidding, but I know this would have freaked me out when I was a kid. A mom in Salt Lake City was spending so much money on cable television that she had to cancel it so she'd have money to commute to work. And what did her kids do? They protested, of course! The woman's two daughters, Pyper and Sadie (two very television character-ish names) got out protest signs and started walking up and down the streets to protest the high price of gas. And in a remarkable twist, the big oil companies saw the protest the girls created and have decided to lower gas prices all across America starting immediately.
Well, no, but the girls did get in the paper! (By the way, I think the AP really has to change the pic that accompanies the link above, unless the girls' protest went really far.)
Turner Classic Movies seems to be providing a similar service for kids today, albeit by presenting great classics from Hollywood's golden era. TCM started a new series called Essentials Jr. Grey's Anatomy star Chris O'Donnell (Scent of a Woman) co-hosts with Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine). Together, they provide introductions and discuss the films, movies that are picked to be just right for kids. According to TCM, "The chosen films are ones that any cinema-literate child should know about and be able to enjoy with family and friends including grown-ups."
Gallery: TCM Essentials Jr.
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