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Bright embers remain amidst dying CATV?

caesar novus


What is still worthwhile to watch on cable TV? I can't save $ by "cutting the cable", because they negotiated a discount to my neighborhood on the basis that everyone must pay for at least basic service. This when my favorite genre of history documentaries disappears from History channel, and reappears free on youtube. Well, some channels like Smithsonian or Arts & Entertainment have good detective-type documentaries about recent history, which BTW go by different titles in different parts of the world.


"Air Disasters" covers intrinsically interesting causes of a particular airliner crash, but gosh you have to tolerate some slow pacing from this Ontario/Quebec subsidized production. You can see their points coming a mile away, maybe amid clumsy attempts to bluff you. It's not that Canadians are slow, but I think their media experts have brain-drained to the U.S. where they are quite prominent. They tend to wash out the color into a pale grey... is this dreariness for hiding cheesy low budget re-creation filmsets? But the ultimate findings turn out to be fascinating and surprisingly nuanced. I used to think it was knee jerk "blame the pilot" which they do at 70%, but not solely or lightly since the investigators tend to be pilots too.


Smithsonian channel now follows this with another docuhour "Alaskan Aircrash Investigations", which is a bit more lively and colorful, but disturbing for a taxpayer. Alaska has a crash every other day in the summer, typically in a tiny 1950's era plane doing some kind of cowboy antics. Big budget investigations seem to be made as if they were airliners, with representatives of various federal departments, engine manufacturers, and airframe manufacturers who plod around swampy crash sites with a band of sheriffs to fight off bears or clingy family of victims.


Helicopters bring remains back, which is sometimes rebuilt and tested over a thousand miles away... presumably to see if a device from 1952 can be improved so that the one other surviving example must do an upgrade. Well, it can be good, like an illegal heater upgrade done to a whole fleet of bush planes proves to be capable of knocking occupants unconscious from CO poisoning in minutes. They get friends of the pilot to give gushy background info thru the subterfuge of filming before official final report, which often condemns pilot negligence.


Similar in spirit is A&E "The First 48" which has long covered real who-done-it murder investigations in a fast paced format. But now it is dragging with a lot of gushy emoting by the fam/friends of the victim, which may be responsible for cutting down from 2 to 1 case per episode hour. Another bad trend is the victims and perps seem to come from the same pool of dysfunctional, blatantly lawless, and self sabotaging in lifestyle. It's not a question of how to possibly dream up the rare potential killer, but how to eliminate the many obvious violent drug dealing 18 yr olds, each with multiple welfare baby mommas.


This isn't even a fair depiction of murderers in general, but more the case for poorly policed areas like Chicago - recently famous for becoming a murder war zone after implementing "compassionate" minimal prison sentences. I remember older episodes with more interesting suspects, like a cagey old hermit who would only talk (indeed confess) to a rubenesque policewomen using just a hint of flirt dangled like a carrot. Little progress seems to ever be made without deceiving suspects or brandishing a potential death sentence, practices probably on the way out.


A more satisfying series along the same lines is "Homicide Hunter" which covers a more diverse slice of cases in one city by one detective (Kenda). He wasn't the first choice for this somewhat low budget series, but his low-key skills in a non-war-zone city in Colorado forces the series to show the quirks of real stranger-than-fiction stuff that appears among apparently well-meaning people in benign everyday surroundings. It's repeating on Investigation Discovery channel which you may channel surf by due to typically cheesy overwrought re-creations of crime.


What I would like to see more of is the genre of sitcoms that satirize modern life. A trying-to-be sane or nice person like Alan Harper colliding with cheerfully off kilter types like hedonist Charlie Sheen in "2.5 Men". One of the first of this type was "Married with Children"s dad trying to survive his cheerfully out of control wife and kids. Maybe these don't age well because with time the craziness of some characters becomes more culturally accepted and the striving to be respectable is less and less identified with. But maybe one more such series for dunces like me?

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I know the feeling. Instead of five terrestrial channels we used to get in the hazy days of analog signals I now receive something in the region of one hundred and fifty, albeit some are locked out, others restricted like those ridiculous *or* channels, and radio. In one sense it's great because if I miss a program, you can guarantee it'll be repeated at least once during the week, sometimes even the same day, only.... Truth is I only generally watch five channels out of the plethora my television is bombarded with. Isn't Freeview wonderful?

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