Cable TV Manna: Survival Via The Remote Control

For the kids, life in a tropical climate is the prime time to play in the park, or at the community pool. Of course, this depends on actually being able to stay outside for more than five minutes. What is an adult to do, if you are living with temperatures hot enough to fry an egg? Rediscover the ‘joys’ of cable TV. When the nearest museum is hundreds of miles away, sometimes the journey to keep the synapses firing is as close as your remote control.

Unlike the networks, whose job it is to keep the advertisers happy, cable has always been hit or miss. Sure, there is supposedly a show for everyone, but would you want to bother? So far, I have been able to indulge my inner cartoon addict with newer shows like Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls and Futurama. These shows are a step up from the norm as they teach patience [Jack is fighting various enemies and overcoming obstacles to return to the family and century he was ripped from]; female empowerment [despite being little girls, the PG regularly saves Townsville from itself] and finding your own way to fit in [Fry has to learn to live in a changed Earth centuries in the future, after waking up from a cryogenic nap]. When I need a giggle after a tough day, the mix of older shows (Looney Tunes, Popeye, Scooby Doo, etc) and the newer ones always leave me with a smile.

In the dark of the night, there is no better reason to pull out the tissue than to watch an old flick from the 30s and 40s: In the age before computers, romance was not any easier to find. However, as shown in films like The Shop Around the Corner[1940], it was not impossible. Here, romance blooms between a shopkeeper and his assistant via letters—and without each knowing the identity of the other. The dialogue is smart, there may be no explosions but the ending still makes sense. Finding out I enjoyed classic film was a happy accident. In the classic film world, the gutsy women characterized by Irene Dunne (Life With Father, An Affair to Remember), Jean Harlow (Bombshell) and Myrna Loy (The Thin Man series) had their place with the good guys and gangsters. For every murder, there usaually was a reason. Families sat down to dinner together every night. The men may have been standing in front, but it was the women that were the brains behind the operation.

For the most part, the joy of reality TV has totally escaped me: Real World, Jackass and the like from MTV exposes strangers you would not otherwise care about. Compared to the early 90s, where it was an original concept, cable TV has turned the idea of stretching a series to infinity into an art form: another cast, another location, but the situations are still the same. Either that, or ‘Look Ma, no padding, no seatbelt and no brain’.

Therefore, I was ready to point out the stereotypes, but was pleasantly surprised by a new cable series on Bravo called
Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. It is no mystery that 95% of the male population could use help to shave, dress, clear the rubbish from under the sofa and to learn how to address a woman. The twist of having five homosexual men as the life experts made me pay closer attention. Though each one addresses a specific topic (fashion, culture, food & wine, grooming and design), they do not put down their client for needing the help. Well, not much. The subjects are secure straight men that seem happy enough to get any. This series uses deprecating humour to teach, and those folks with limited exposure to other lifestyles may come to understand that there is nothing wrong with being gay.

My hunger for history has been fed in one of the only places I could see the body of a real mummy 6000 years after Ramses and King Tut, as well as the results of the fatal Franklin expedition in the Arctic. The History and Discovery Channels turn back the clock and allow me to see the daily lives of people that cannot talk about themselves. I have learned the former megalomania of Saddam Hussein did have a basis in monarchs like Henry VIII, both of whom believed that they could do whatever they wanted.

Sometimes it IS possible to mentally check out to a better location—-even if you return the second you click off your set.