Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Golden Age


The Second Coming.

Haven’t been around much so far this year. Been super busy, and hope to be able to get caught up on bunch of blog reading in the next few days. This year has been super busy so far, and I am just now starting to get on top of the work-pile.

Been watching a lot of television recently. We have both been so tired when we get home that by 8pm in the evening, all the wife and I can do is plop down in-front of the HDTV and veg before we pass out.

Netflix and downloaded content from Usenet (played through my AppleTV) is all we watch anymore.

Without all of the media saturation that comes across the broadcast airways and cable, our view of the world has shifted significantly in the past few months.

I am actually happy to say that we really don’t have much of a clue about what is going on locally. There are a bunch of killings and scandals and other trivia that go on in Phoenix, Arizona, be we know little about them. A co-worker made the comment about two young African-American girls that were raped in South Phoenix last week, and I admitted that I had no knowledge of it. The world would not change if I did know about it. While it is sad, it is also just the story-de-jour. It will be forgotten with the next anxiety soundbite that comes along.

Once you learn how to search Netflix and Usenet, and empower yourself to watch the kind of programming you would be interested in, as opposed to the programming that someone else markets to you, things start to look a lot different.

Recently, I have been forcing my wife to watch a lot of documentaries. At first she rolls her eyes since she assumes they will be boring. But after about 10 minutes she becomes engrossed. If you have never watched documentaries before and think they will be akin to a two hour lecture on calculus, think again. Modern documentaries are light years ahead of their predecessors. We recently watched The Smartest Guys In The Room which documents the rise and fall of Enron. Highly recommended. It shows the hypocrisy in corporate America and government in an almost overkill fashion. Followed up by Bernie Maddoff and the real estate bubble, you realize that we are all pretty much screwed for the next 20 years. Other exceptional documentaries of note have been King Corn, Smash His Camera and In Search of Beethoven.

However, television isn’t always about truth. Sometimes it is about fiction as well. Many may have forgotten, but there was quality television prior to ‘reality television’. Much of this television has been forgotten, but it is still out there. Either on DVD from Netflix or from Usenet.

Some of the gems that I have run across of late have been;

- The 1950s and 60s Christmas Specials. I played these through the month of December on the AppleTV. Such gems as ‘A Petticoat Junction Christmas’, Christmas with the Beverly Hillbillies, The Donna Read Christmas Show and my favorite, the ‘Car 54 Where Are You?’ Christmas episode.

- Numerous episodes of Highway Patrol starring Brodrick Crawford. This was basically the pre-cursor to the television shows ‘Cops’....where a world populated totally by Caucasian people, drove 1950 late model cars and solved rather simplistic crimes with a Gestapo like efficiency.

- Several Episodes of "77 Sunset Strip", with Efram Zimbalist Jr. Ulta hip, ultra cool, thin as rails and smoking in every scene. Sort of like Mad Men in Black and White, only solving crime instead of doing advertising.....and the hair on Cokie Barnes is not to be missed. Hilarious.

- Companion episodes to Sunset Strip were a spin off called Surfside 6. About three hunky bachelors that live on a house boat in Miami Beach and solve crimes. The theme song alone is worth watching. It dawns on you while watching this show, that it is basically an advertisement for Miami Beach, for cold folks living in New York and New England during the winters of the early 1960s. Margarita Sieraa as Cha Cha Obrien is hilarious. She looks and acts like she just stepped out of the Sharks gang from “West Side Story’.

- Before there was Hawaii 5-0, there was Hawaiian Eye. Another escapist crime solving hour, this time in the tropics during the 1960s. Robert Conrad (of Wild Wild West and Black Sheep Squadron) stars in this along with Connie Stevens. The opening credits showing them all on surf boards with Diamond Head in the background is worth watching alone.

Add to these some British television documentaries, such as “Lost Gardens”, where a team of folks from the BBC find and restore gardens that have been overgrown and lost to the ages. Sounds ridiculous, but it is actually very interesting. This is something that could never make it in the US, even on cable, but the Brits do a very good job of it. Watching it makes me want to plant a garden.

Then there is “Narrow Boat Afloat”, about a guy that restores an old English canal boat and powers it all over southern England at 8mph through century old canals. There is a whole subculture of this in England, which at first seems odd, but after watching a few episode, I am seriously considering taking a narrow boat holiday in Britain sometime this decade.

So after watching this sort of fair, I am actually proud to say, that I have never seen an episode of “Glee” and I have no idea what is going on with “The Bachelor”, or when the award shows are on, or who won. I don’t care.

I program my own channels to watch....and the world is a much better place.