Friday, August 05, 2005

Just How Bad Can Television Really Be?

If you are one of the many who believe television is a vast wasteland and that cable television simply increased the acreage of waste, today's column is not for you, although it certainly will confirm your already well established opinion.

But as for me, I love television! I find much of today's television to be creative, relevant, entertaining and informative. And I'm absolutely thrilled with the nearly monthly unveiling of new cable networks. I can view over 150 stations now at the touch of a remote and am excited by each new discovery.

So I was really pleased to read the publicity about the newest and, perhaps, boldest television network yet, Current TV. Current TV promised to be television for the Interent Generation. Fast paced, informative, inventive, young and hip! I tuned in at midnight, just to catch the first seconds of this innovative new venture.

And I watched for a really painful two hours, but it wasn't easy. This may well be the worst two hours in the entire history of television. One could only pray for the return of Milton Berle.

I've watched for several hours over several succeeding days. It only got worse, much worse. Who could possibly believe this is compelling.... or interesting... or original... or even fast paced?

Each story, cleverly called pods, is mind numbingly worse that the one that precedes it. Has someone created a rule that each three to seven minute pod contain only 30 seconds of information, then padded with fuzzy, out of focus, camera shots, fast forwarded motion shots and inserted, odd, film artifacts?

I have never seen so much out of focus footage in my entire life. Most of the pods are worse than the worst home movies you've ever seen. And much less interesting.

Introduced by VJ's on MTV like sets, the segments are virtually never "current." They are hopelessly out of date and out of touch. And if, quite by accident, they touch a subject of interest, they leave the viewers wanting more information. Well, actually you find yourself wanting almost any information.

One of the first stories covered a young woman who has become the pastor of a Baptist Church. We did learn she was a Harvard graduate. And we got to see her do endless handstands in her robes (actually, it was the same shot shown over and over again). And we saw minutes upon endless minutes of poor, out of focus, color suppressed, images of her walking out of her church. And announcer mentioned that there aren't many women pastors in the Baptist Church.

I would have loved to know more. How did she chose this path? How is she being accepted in the larger denomination? Has the local church received any repercussions in choosing a women? Alas, that was not going to happen. So I went to the website in hope, like the really great NPR website, one could learn more. Fat chance.

The website for Current TV is really slick. And of course you've got to love the URL You can see what just ended and what's coming up. Cute, with absolutely no information of any value.

NO LINKS!!! How can you possible claim to be television for the Internet generation, and not provide links to those wanting more information. And, not only that, Current TV is affiliated with Google. They show a list of supposedly current list of search terms every thirty minutes. Do you think those are on the web site. Nope. The web site turns out to be as empty and useless as the network.

I can't imagine anyone watching. Not for thirty minutes. Not ever. Thirty seconds and you've got to go back to MTV. They know how to do it right.

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