TV Dilemma: When the Set Dies, What's a Maven to Do?

By Elaine Liner Elaine Liner Archives

Without a working television, a TV Maven is a fisherman without a net. When my 13-year-old Sony Trinitron blinked twice and died two weeks ago, it was as if an old friend had passed away. Sony and I had spent many a television season together, surviving moves to three cities, switches to six different cable companies and every episode of HBO's Tell Me You Love Me (now canceled, so put your pants back on, people)..
So what does a TV Maven do without a TV? First she clicks on the tiny, rabbit-eared portable sitting on a shelf in the back room of Chez Maven and watches the old-fashioned way. This is a set without a remote, mind you, so changing channels involves quick-twitch muscle action from chair to set. Funny how long you’ll watch golf or infomercials for mineral powder makeup when not watching them involves a trip across the room. One morning all four hours of the Today show droned on in the background and I never bothered to click to GMA or the local piece of crud show on the Fox affiliate. Dear Fourth Hour of Today: How’d Kathie Lee Gifford get THAT job? And why does she refer to her co-host, Hoda Kotbe as “Hoda-Woman”?
No surprise, a diet of only broadcast TV blows. Morning to midnight, it’s mostly crap layered between even worse crap. Local newscasts obsess about the dangers of peppers from Mexico and give empty updates on weather even when there's no weather happening. Where I am that means hearing 900 times a day that it’s hot and sunny. Sunny and hot. “Let’s get a check of the weather with Stan. Boy, it’s hot out there, Stan!” Stan predicts continued hot with intervals of sun. It’s summer in Texas. It’s going to be 105 for the next month. Today the only shade I got was when a pigeon flew over. Before it landed, it was cooked to original crispy.
Suffering from Olbermann/Stewart/Cooper withdrawal, missing the season returns of Project Runway and Mad Men (I KNOW!), I tried to do prime time with the broadcasters. Every night it’s another dreary Dateline saga on NBC about a missing woman and the crazy husband who killed her. Every one of these real-life murder tales gets to the phrase “grisly discovery.” And can Keith Morrison or Hoda Kotbe talk…any…slower? Hoda Kotbe: the new Stone Phillips.
The talent shows? All that break-dancing and dog training and singing of patriotic ballads? Couldn’t change the channels fast enough. America's Got Talent? Not so much.
Did get in on some good episodes of Gordon Ramsay and his Kitchen Nightmares on Fox. Why do failing restaurateurs invite Ramsay to their dumpy cafes and then throw hissies when he tells them what they’re doing wrong? I've boiled the Ramsay recipe for success down to one thing: meat. He inevitably tells the chefs to add a good burger and a simple steak to their menus. And ix-nay on the isotto-ray. Nobody makes it right.
Got a little crush on the CBS Monday night sitcom Big Bang Theory. It’s funny—almost Judd Apatow movie funny. Almost. But it’s followed by Two and a Half Men, the vilest 22 minutes of fart-poo-dick jokes in prime time. Charlie Sheen sleepwalks through it with a thought bubble over his fat head that says, “Paycheck, paycheck, paycheck.”
The UHF stations here in Dallas rerun Dr. Phil, Oprah and Maury in prime time. But that doesn’t mean I’ll watch them. Phil has become Maury, filling hours with lie detectors and paternity tests. Oprah, I notice, has expanded to pre-op Star Jones proportions and looks as bored with her job as Sheen. Her thought bubble is saying, “Bigger paycheck, bigger paycheck, bucket of gravy.”
Some days and many nights, I’ve watched no TV at all. I bought a Zune and filled it up with videos from Fashion Television, podcast episodes of the Dr. Drew Live daytime radio show and soundtracks from Broadway shows (go, Jersey Boys!). I’ve watched Adam Carolla’s sweet little Zen indie flick The Hammer about 10 times on DVD and now think he’s not only a pretty fine actor but also a real feminist at heart. Notice how beautifully he treats the one female character, played by Heather Juergensen.
When I once would have been glued to Life on the D-List on Bravo and Top Gear on BBC America, I instead took a kickboxing class and saw eight local theater productions and a couple of Broadway touring shows (go, Jersey Boys!).
And I went shopping for a new TV. Bought a 26” Sony flat screen for $600. After I paid for it, the salesman told me it was on back order and wouldn’t be in until the middle of August.
I hear there’s a new library in my neighborhood. That’s the place where they keep the books, right?
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