Friday, March 15

Nuclear (Nielsen) Family - Part 5.



Saturday began early (10am!) with a knock on the door. My family had arrived to help clean the house, and fortunately for my regular TV viewing habits, my 6-year-old nephew came along for the ride. I had a couple of shows I wanted to share with him.

12:30-1:00 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (DVR – NICK)

1:00-1:30 – WWE Saturday Morning Slam (DVR – CW)

The TMNT reboot is fantastic, with Nickelodeon already ordering a ton of new episodes to meet fan demand. I’m also doing my best to introduce Evan to pro wrestling early by watching the (kid-friendly) Saturday Morning Slam with him. You may be thinking I was just doing this to take a well-deserved break from cleaning, and…well, you’d also be right.

A handful of hours later, and my house was spotless; as clean as it ever was in advance of our refinancing. My only goal between now and appraisal day was to not touch anything. As far as I was concerned, my house was a museum exhibit. The Missus and I purposely made sure that our evening was completely free so we could relax, grab some dinner and bask in a job well done.

4:00-4:30 – Degrassi (DVR – TeenNick)

Degrassi is Celia’s jam, and quite an important TV show in the grand scheme of things. After over 350 episodes spanning nearly 20 years, this Canadian melodrama seems to be as popular as ever (at least in my house it is). I’ve never seen another human being, myself included, blaze through so many episodes of television in a futile attempt to catch up than Celia has with the Degrassi universe. She’s been watching for at least three months straight, and I think she’s only up to 2001.

4:30-5:30 – Kentucky at Arkansas (Live – CBS)

A lot of my most treasured TV moments revolve around sports, no more so than in 1996 and 1998, when my beloved Kentucky Wildcats won the NCAA Basketball Championship. However, the Wildcats were also in attendance to the single most heartbreaking sports loss of my entire life; a loss that created a lifelong hatred of the consensus most-hated franchise in all of collegiate sports: The Duke Blue Devils.

Saturday, March 28, 1992. The East Regional Final between Kentucky and Duke. Sports Illustrated would go on to proclaim this the greatest college basketball game of all-time. It probably was, because as a 10-year-old, I had never experienced such a profound feeling of loss from something as insignificant to my life as an Elite Eight game.

You know what happened. With 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime and Duke trailing 103-102, Grant Hill threw a pass the entire length of the court to a waiting Christian Laettner, who dribbled once, turned and hit a perfect jumper as time expired. Duke won 104-103, and went on to win the championship that year. Even as a kid, I knew how big this game was. My cousin and I were screaming at every point; it was back-and-forth for the entire contest. If you’ve never seen the finish of this game, I promise, PROMISE you that you will if you watch even an hour of March Madness footage over the next month. CBS seems to love nothing more than to show that shot in every package they edit.

I still love KU, even though their tournament hopes are looking quite grim (they are, however, the defending champs). Duke continues to be my most-hated sports franchise, a deep-seeded loathing that was set into motion nearly 21 years ago on that fateful Saturday.

5:30-7:40 – UFC: Barao vs. McDonald (Live – FuelTV)

I watched this while Celia was catching up on Degrassi. Having 'DirecTV Anywhere' on your phone is a godsend.

7:40-8:00 – Cops (DVR – FOX)

There are a few ‘sure things’ I love about TV. Saturday Night Live. The Simpsons. America's Funniest Home Videos. Cops. I wonder where we would be, culturally, without even one of these three shows. I’m not arguing that they are equal in terms of goodness (or even if they’re good); but they’re American classics, like it or not.

8:00-9:00 – Woodstock (DVR – Palladia)

A lot of people claim to have been born in the wrong generation. Usually this drivel comes from the mouth of a girl in a vintage clothing store when she finds a dress that fits, not taking into consideration war and civil rights and…I digress. Not me; I'm definitely a product of my era. I really quite like the fact that I was an 80’s kid, a 90’s teen and an 00’s adult. I can’t speak for the future (the cure of AIDS and/or sex robot integration will be welcome technological advances), but I probably would have been miserable in the 60’s and 70’s.

Those decades in particular seemed to be horrible in their own unique way. Case in point: Woodstock. I understand the significance and adore most of the music to this day, but it really looked like a disaster. In fact, I’m glad I watched the (four hour) documentary, because it reminded me that the problems Woodstock had in 1994 and 1999 were the exact same they had in 1969, problems that seem to get glossed over with time and revisionist history.

Faulty plumbing, mud, no food/water, and claims of violence were there from the beginning, which sort of made me happy. In 1994 and 1999, I was convinced that my generation had ruined everything for everybody. Turns out it sort of sucked ass from the get-go, and I’m fine with that.

9:00-9:30 – UFC Prefight Show (DVR – FuelTV)

9:30-12:00 – UFC: Silva vs Stann (DVR/Live – FuelTV)

Silva vs. Stann was a war. A great fight between two fearless athletes, made even more impressive when you realize that the fights were live from Japan. I’m not great with time zones, but I think that means those guys were fighting at 10 in the morning, which has to go against a lot of warrior instincts. I’m sometimes too lazy to make coffee at 10 in the morning, let alone attempt to knock another co-worker unconscious.


12:00-12:30 – UFC Postfight Show (Live – FuelTV)

12:30-12:55 – Bleach (DVR – Adult Swim)

12:55-1:20 – Naruto (DVR – Adult Swim)

1:20-1:45 – Soul Eater (DVR – Adult Swim)

While I admire the philosophy and risk-taking of Adult Swim, I usually don’t watch a lot of their programming. Shows like Metalocalypse, Tim and Eric, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Off The Air have made their way to my DVR from time to time, but I more like the idea of Adult Swim than their actual execution. Enter Toonami.

Toonami is an Anime/Action Animation block that enjoyed immense popularity for over a decade on the Cartoon Network, only to be cancelled in 2008. However, after a one-off return as part of an April Fool’s stunt, the fans came back in droves, giving Toonami another shot on the Adult Swim airwaves. Airing newer shows like Bleach, Deadman Wonderland and Soul Eater, next to classics like Cowboy Bebop, Ghost In The Shell and Naruto, there’s nothing else like it on American television.

Like I’ve discussed on here before, I’m a sucker for a good programming block, and Toonami presents itself as more of a test of attrition than anything: Six hours, 12 shows, midnight to 6am on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Each week I proclaim that I will watch the entire block in one sitting, and each week I’m asleep on the couch by 2am, which is exactly what happened tonight. Hey, I had a long day.


10:00-10:20 – Thundercats (DVR – Adult Swim)

10:20-10:45 – Symbionic Titan (DVR – Adult Swim)

10:45-11:05 – Eureka 7 (DVR – Adult Swim)

11:05-11:45 – 120 Minutes (DVR – VH1 Classic)
11:45-12:45 – Saturday Night Live (DVR – NBC)

12:45-1:05 – Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (DVR – Adult Swim)

1:05-1:25 – Tenchi Muyo GXP (DVR – Adult Swim)

1:25-2:30 – Badgers at Purdue (DVR/Live – ESPN2)

2:30-5:00 – Thunder/Clippers (Live – TNT)

5:00-6:00 – Nashville (DVR – ABC)

6:00-7:00 – America’s Funniest Home Videos (Live – ABC)

7:00-8:00 – Once Upon A Time (Live – ABC)

8:00-9:00 – The Walking Dead (Live – AMC)

9:00-10:00 – Talking Dead (Live – AMC)

10:00-10:30 – The Simpsons (DVR – FOX)

10:30-11:00 – Bob's Burgers (DVR – FOX)

I know. This was sort of an atypically lazy Sunday, but I’m not making excuses. I needed it. The Walking Dead is Appointment Television at my place; we have friends over and stuff, so we always make sure to watch that live, but everything else was a hodgepodge of anything we didn’t have time for throughout the week (mostly Saturday stuff).

11:15-12:30 – Ren and Stimpy (DVR – TeenNick)

I remember seeing Ren and Stimpy for the first time when I was 9 years old in 1991. It was one of the first shows I ever remember seeing on cable, as my only early exposure to cable TV was when I got to stay at my cousin’s house. Needless to say, it blew my mind. I remember the night clearly, because I also saw MST3K for the first time that following morning, and my life hasn't been the same since. It was a pretty good weekend for me. This wasn't too bad of a weekend, either.

Time for some math.

Over the course of the week, a typical television-watching week, mind you, I somehow crammed over 90 shows and over 90 real time hours of programming into my brainball, all while writing 20 pages about it and preparing my house for an appraisal. It's personal data I don't know what to do with, quite frankly.

I wasn't planning on doing this experiment with the overall goal to gain any sort of insight into why I like television so much. I just thought it would be interesting (although I didn't know in what way). I do know this, though. If more than a few hours of television a day will rot your brain, I should have been nothing more than a gooey husk years ago.

And the appraisal was successful. Thank goodness, because I heard a rumor they're bringing DirecTV Titanium back and really need to scrape together that $7,500.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, March 14

Nuclear (Nielsen) Family - Part 4.



I just finished reading Top Of The Rock, about the meteoric rise (and fall) of NBC’s ‘Must-See TV’ lineup on Thursday night. The (pretty good) book was written by the President of NBC at the time, Warren Littlefield, and it’s an oral history of the ups-and-downs of a network that has experienced more feast and famine than the other three majors combined.

The book starts with Cheers and leads into the major NBC comedy hits of the 90’s, such as The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier and Will and Grace. At this point in the Thursday night block’s run, Littlefield is unceremoniously fired and the book ends, but it’s as good of a place for the book to end as any; most TV historians know that following Littlefield’s departure, Jeff Zucker eventually took the reins and drove NBC directly into the shithouse. In fact, NBC is currently ranked fifth in network broadcasting ratings, behind CBS, ABC, FOX and Univision. Univision!

Anyway, Must-See TV has always been part of my life in one way or another. From the classic 1986 lineup of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court, to the outstanding 2013 lineup of Community, 30 Rock, The Office and Parks and Recreation, I’ve always been watching. Even more flash-in-the-pan shows like Wings and Boston Common at least got a chance in my house, and I remember owning a pair of flip-up sunglasses just like Dwayne Wayne in A Different World.

As far as I’m concerned, Thursday night is all NBC has left at this point, and even that glory is fading. Despite all the TV I watch during the week, and despite me being in that coveted 18-34 year old male demographic that advertisers seem to salivate over, I only watch primetime NBC on Thursdays. With the exception of Saturday Night Live, there is no other show on NBC that even remotely interests me, and with the departure of 30 Rock, The Office and (let’s face it) Community this year, they’re pretty much depleting any hope of keeping me around as a viewer. I’m not so much bummed to lose these sitcoms (it’s time for them all to go), I’m more bummed that I’m losing a beloved block of TV that’s stuck on a network verging on embarrassment.

But hey, more shows will come along. That’s the beauty of a struggling network; they’re more willing to take creative chances when they’re desperate, more willing to give creative control to those who deserve it. When the FOX network first launched, they took chances on everything, and most of it was crap. But their hits from those early days (The Simpsons being the most notable) were what eventually launched it into first place many years later. The acquisition of the NFL certainly didn’t hurt, either.

4:35-5:00 – The Late Show With David Letterman (DVR - CBS)

Tina Fey was on, equating her time on 30 Rock to getting out of prison and acclimating to a new reality. I think she’s gonna be okay.

At some point over the last few years, Letterman’s approach to his job has changed, in my opinion, for the better. He’s a bit more opinionated, a bit more curmudgeonly and a bit more honest with his guests (particularly if they are uninteresting). His knowledge of politics is vastly underappreciated and his abilities as an interviewer (despite over 30 years of experience) are vastly underrated. I grew up with this guy on my TV, and I rooted for him to take Carson’s job in 1992, but it was probably better for his career that he ended up blazing his own trail at CBS.

5:00-5:30 – Pardon The Interruption (DVR – ESPN)

Our home appraisal was only days away, and we were still running errands like crazy in advance of it. We weren’t sure what we could do to boost the value of our home other than clean it up and light some candles, but by God, we were going to accomplish that minutiae to the best of our abilities. ALL THE POTPOURRI!

Celia came up with the idea of refinancing the house, as now seemed to be a good time in the market to do so. We were in a position to lower our monthly payments without having to increase our mortgage length, which meant more money in our pockets. However, with home prices in the gutter, there was a chance the refinancing would come in at too low of an amount, which meant that not only would our monthly payments stay the same, but we’d be out the several hundreds of dollars it took to set this thing up in the first place. It was like a weird Catch-22; a lot was on the line.

We treated ourselves to a quiet dinner, hoisted a pint to our inescapable success or failure (one or the other was guaranteed) and headed back home.

7:30-8:15 – Arcade Fire Live (DVR – Palladia)

If you didn’t catch on, we have the Palladia Channel free for the week, so I’m taping literally anything relevant off of it. It’s part of an awful tier that I would never spend money on (would you pay extra for the Smithsonian Channel?), but while it’s on my radar I plan on taking advantage of it. I mean, I think the Smithsonian is awesome, but I don’t need to pay an extra $10 a month to see the same Hope Diamond documentary every six hours.

8:15-8:40 – Community 
(DVR – NBC – ‘Alternative History Of The German Invasion’)

The Office and Parks and Recreation were reruns tonight, so Community was all we had of NBC’s Must-See TV block. And while Dan Harmon’s public departure of Community has left a noticeable (if somewhat intangible) hole in the overall flow of the episodes, it’s still a good show with good characters, jokes, meta-humor and heart. I’m still standing by it, and if you’re no longer watching specifically because of what happened to Harmon, all you’re doing is depriving yourself of a show that’s still as good as when you watched it.

8:40-9:00 – TNA Wresting (DVR - Spike)

TNA Wrestling is the worst show in the history of television and should not be watched by anyone. Although I will say that few things are funnier than Jay Lethal's Randy 'Macho Man' Savage impression.

9:00-9:30 – 76’ers at Bulls (Live – TNT)

Disgusted by the abomination that is TNA Wrestling (an abomination I suffer weekly, by the way, because I don’t learn), I caught the end of the Bulls game for no other reason.

I enjoy basketball more now than I have since I was a kid; I think there are some teams and players now that resonate more with casual fans, and I for one have hopped back on board. I still think the regular season is too long, and the playoffs diabolically too long, but much like baseball, I like finding a game on at night that I can check out when I just want to relax.

9:30-10:15 – Mysteries At The Museum (DVR – Travel Channel)

I have no idea how many people watch this show, but it’s awesome. That’s all I’m going to say; any further attempt to sway you would come off as boring, but it’s great. One of the best educational shows on TV (and as they focus on artifacts from American museums, it’s all stuff you can visit for yourselves), I watch this excitedly every week. I cannot tell you how many things I’ve learned from this show that have randomly come up in conversations days later. If this was what the Smithsonian Channel was actually like, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

10:15-12:30 – Timberwolves at Lakers (Live – TNT)

With the Missus in bed, and with me no longer wanting to work on the house or even passively concentrate on a drama or sitcom, I opened a beer and watched more basketball. I find the Lakers far more interesting when their team is having personnel problems, and that’s all they seem to be known for this season. Kobe is the most entertaining athlete in all of sports when he’s frustrated and pissed off (which is quite often). It’s riveting.


5:30-5:45 – Conan (DVR – TBS)

5:45-6:00 – The Daily Show (DVR – Comedy Central)

6:00-6:15 – The Colbert Report (DVR – Comedy Central)

6:15-6:30 – Pardon The Interruption (DVR - ESPN)

TGIF! Whooo! Typically, the Missus and I would spend our Friday evening at a restaurant with friends, reviewing the week that was before heading home for more drinks and conversation, but Friday was Zero Hour in regards to our upcoming home appraisal. All week, we had been cleaning and accessorizing, but on Saturday, my mom, sister and grandmother elected to come down for one final sweep and deep cleansing.

A couple things to clarify. I know it seems that, by all the cleaning we’ve been doing this week, my house is a disgusting nightmare of Hoarders-esque feces and sadness. Not true; in fact, it’s always pretty clean. But because I’m not sure what this appraiser is going to be looking at, I wanted to leave no stone unturned. I want it as clean as it was the day we bought it; corners dusted, every inch of carpet vacuumed, closets organized, the works. I don’t care if this jackass is in my house for all of five minutes and doesn’t once take into appreciation the steam-mopped linoleum and lilac diffusers, I’m putting my best goddamn foot forward.

Fortunately, Friday night is a ‘death slot’ for most TV networks and shows, so there isn’t much left to watch but DVR’d stuff left in the queue. It was good background distraction while the Missus and I made sure that all the liquor bottles, cocaine and left wing propaganda were tucked away somewhere discreet before my family paid a visit (half kidding).

9:00-10:00 – Bellator Fighting Championships (DVR – Spike)

10:00-10:45 – Friday Night Smackdown (DVR – Syfy)

10:45-11:15 – Inside MMA (DVR – AxsTV)

11:15-12:30 – AXS TV Fights (DVR – AxsTV)

There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, less gay than three-and-a-half hours of sweaty, shirtless guys either beating the crap out of each other, or pretending to beat the crap out of each other. Nothing.

As I sat there on the couch, I thought about how hectic Saturday was going to be with my folks in our house. They were going to be moving my stuff around, opening drawers and asking me where things are supposed to go. They were going to be secretly judging me, my cats and the way that I live. They were going to wonder aloud why I had so much Tupperware, and I wasn’t going to know what to tell them (really, I don’t know where it all came from). It was enough to give me an anxiety attack. I was nervous, but extremely grateful that they were willing to help.

I sometimes think my mom wonders why I decided to move 100 miles south to Madison 11 years ago with my future wife. I think she wonders why we couldn't have just stayed in Winnebago County and attempted a quiet-yet-successful life in one of the many unincorporated towns that litter the landscape of northeast Wisconsin. Truth was, we were stuck there and need something different as quickly as possible.

We were graduated from high school, our jobs were menial at best, and we wanted to attend college in Madison. We didn't have an apartment, we were unemployed and we hadn't even visited Madison too many times before making this decision, but we had each other, and it was all that mattered at the time. Sometimes, when you have nothing and get desperate, positive things happen. You take chances, and these chances work out for the best in the long run...

Am I attempting to tie together the triumphant story of my adulthood with that of NBC's 'Must-See TV?'

Yes. Yes I am, and yes I did. I consider it a personal victory.

Really though, if this appraiser doesn’t notice how clean the house is, I’m going to boot him right square in the sack.

Wednesday, March 13

Nuclear (Nielsen) Family - Part 3.



Growing up, the only thing I loved more than TV was a Snow Day. On those days where the weather was on the cusp of closing school, I would watch the morning news with unparalleled anticipation, my cereal spoon missing my mouth as all of my concentration was focused solely on the crawl at the bottom of the screen.

When your school showed up, it was like winning the proverbial Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes; the possibilities for the day were virtually limitless. It was a free day of your life, and you could do anything you wanted.

6:30-7:00 – NBC 15 Morning Show (Live – NBC)

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, snow had blanketed everything I could see outside my bedroom window. I live in a subdivision that isn’t fully connected to the rest of my city (seriously, our Main St. is split in two, and we're on the neglected side of it), so when the inevitable blizzard arrives, we usually don’t get plowed out until the afternoon.

The Missus doesn’t give a shit about snow, ice or her personal safety, so she went to work. I, on the other hand, wasn’t playing around. My anxiety on slippery roads is not one of my more entertaining quirks, and judging by the fact that every school in the county was being shut down for the day, I gladly flung my hands in the air and took a Snow Day. I didn’t have much to do at the office anyway, besides I had plenty of domestic things to take care of in advance of our home appraisal at the end of the week.

7:00-7:30 – Today (Live – NBC)
7:30-8:00 – Conan (DVR – TBS)

I want to go on record by saying that I would make a great stay-at-home dad. I keep the house clean, I can stay self-motivated and I haven’t taken a nap in over 22 years. The Missus has conceded to this truth; if we ever decide to have a baby, I will be the one who changes the diapers and…ugh, we’re never having a baby. Point is, I’m really good at staying home, and once I can finally support a career without having to leave said home, I’ll have achieved personal happiness in its purest form.

Celia does the laundry, but once it goes into the washer/dryer and the correct buttons are pushed, her job is over. I’m responsible for taking the clothes out and putting them away, which is exactly what I did from 7-8pm today. It’s a peaceful task and I don’t mind it. Furthermore, I watched both of my neighbors get their cars stuck as they were attempting to leave the subdivision, which once again made me happy to be pantsless in my bedroom on such a terrible Wednesday morning.

8:00-8:20 – The Colbert Report (DVR – Comedy Central)

With the laundry put away and the bed made, nearly 90% of my domestic chores were done for the day. With our home appraisal for refinancing looming, we had been tidying up around the clock (a big push would be made this upcoming Saturday), and there really wasn’t all that much for me to do. I made myself a cup of coffee, put some pants on (in that order) and made breakfast.

8:20-9:00 – SportsCenter (Live – ESPN)

Remember that stay-at-home dad stuff I was talking about earlier? Well, I prefer living that sort of life with my cats instead of a mewling, pooping spawn of my own hideous creation. As I was eating, I wrestled, chased and played fetch with my cats (yes, some cats know how to do that), hopefully tiring them out so I wasn’t so bothered this afternoon, as I had a few writing and business projects I wanted to do with limited feline interruption.

Before that, however, I had a new satellite channel I wanted to check out.

9:00-9:45 - iDolm@ster: Xenoglossia - Episodes 11-14 
(On Demand – The Anime Network)

When I was told that my DirecTV Genie would have Internet connectivity, I was excited about the On Demand channels in the event I accidentally miss a show. What I forgot was that I now had access to The Anime Network, which was one of only two Anime channels on satellite television in the United States.

My relationship with Anime is probably different than most. I didn’t grow up with it; I discovered it in the late 90’s as the Missus was into stuff like Pokemon, Ninja Scroll and Serial Experiments Lain. As a teenager, I gave it a chance but it didn’t really click with me. However, much like discovering comics well into my late 20’s, I gave Anime another chance as an adult, and while I’m keeping a respectable distance from the obsessive culture and lifestyle that tends to drive most well-adjusted folks from the genre, I’m loving the stuff that fits into my wheelhouse.

Now I wonder why I waited so long. For example, in 1999 I had a clerk at Suncoast Video (remember that place?) ask me if I watched Cowboy Bebop, and I sort of ignorantly made fun of her. Now, after seeing it (and naming a cat after one of the characters), I feel like a large chunk of my teen years could have been even more packed with pop culture goodness if I had let Bebop into my heart when it initially aired.

Also, I really miss Suncoast Video.

iDolm@ster: Xenoglossia was not good. In fact, a lot of Anime isn’t good, and it’s the job of the American fan to sift through the garbage that floats down the river, hoping to strike gold. I was told to watch this show as the music was supposed to be good, but it most certainly was not. Just another half hour of women piloting giant robots in Antarctica. I buzzed through four episodes while answering e-mail and leafing through our 2008 home appraisal chart.

9:45-10:30 - Infinite Stratos - Episodes 9-12 
(On Demand – The Anime Network)

I thought Infinite Stratos would be more action-oriented, but it reminded me a lot of current Toonami mainstay Tenchi Muyo GXP. I mean, there was action, but for crying out loud, there was an entire episode revolving around trying on swimsuits. There were more girls and fighting robots (topics I find more boring than most), but the American voice-acting was hilariously good.

As I am still new to the game, I would come to find out that these sorts of shows (where one sad boy’s affection is pined for by many women) are called ‘harem shows,’ which means that this storyline happens so much that it’s been given its own name and genre. Like I said, if you sift through enough garbage, you will strike gold. However, my time with The Anime Network was over for now; I had work to do.

10:30-10:50 – We Are Scientists Live (DVR – Palladia)
10:50-12:00 – Hurricane Festival 2012 (DVR/Live – Palladia)
12:00-1:00 – No Doubt Live (Live – Palladia)
1:00-2:00 – Mythbusters (Live – Discovery)

I work well with music, and as Palladia was one of the new channels I received with my Genie (for a week), I took advantage of their around-the-clock festival footage. We Are Scientists are a great band I had the pleasure of seeing in Madison a few years ago, and the Hurricane Festival featured performances from bands like The Cure, Rise Against, Zebrahead and Lagwagon. No Doubt’s new album is pretty much rubbish, but I liked their old catalog enough to not take the time to change the channel while I was writing.

In the true spirit of the Snow Day, I took the time to catch up on things I never do, which means I actually backed up my hard drive and re-synced my iPhone to my computer. I also worked on The Walking Dead Friday, and as the secretary/treasurer of my Homeowner’s Association, made sure that I hadn’t accidentally bankrupted us for another month. My productivity for completely benign tasks was off the chain.

From 2-4pm, I didn’t watch any TV, because I was catching up on some podcasts. In case you’re wondering what my favorites are, they’re not all that different from everyone else's: Stop Podcasting Yourself, WTF, Nerdist, Smart Wrestling Fan and a few others if I remember correctly. During my podcast listening session, I actually answered work e-mails because I was feeling slightly guilty for not being in the office. I’m stupid like that.

From 4-6pm, I was able to run some errands as we had finally been plowed out of our subdivision. I spent an hour at Target, pushing a cart full of cleaning supplies around in advance of our Saturday cleaning extravaganza. It was a pretty sexy sight if you’re into that sort of thing.

6:00-7:00 – Mollie B Polka Party (Live – RFD TV)

My wife wasn’t home yet after my Target excursion. My tasks were completed, my writing done, e-mails answered and house as clean as it needed to be. There also wasn’t anything I could watch on the DVR that the Missus didn’t want to watch as well. I didn’t really have anything to do (and reading is for chumps, says the author), so I did something I rarely get to do nowadays: Channel surf. And what I found was absolutely spectacular.

The RFD TV channel is supposed to be, I guess, a channel for the ‘rural’ satellite user. It’s basically a channel full of cattle auctions, country music collection, infomercials, Hee-Haw reruns and a show called Dutch Oven Cooking (I’m not making that up). I had seen Mollie B Polka Party other times while perusing the guide, but this time I decided to drop in and see what the show was all about.

First off, it should be mentioned that Mollie B, our polka partier and host, is surprisingly hot. From what I gathered, this show crisscrosses the nation (the south in particular, natch), showcases the local bands making a splash in the polka scene, and airs footage of them playing while unbelievably old people dance along. You’d think this would be boring. It was not. You’d also think that I’d watch it just to make fun of it in a mean, hipster way. Not true; Mollie B Polka Party was awesome.

When Mollie B interviews the polka bands before they play, it seems like this is their first time on television, and it shows. One of the older band leaders, while trying to be funny (and subtly flirt with our beloved Mollie B at the same time), said the following on stage:

This is the best show on television…even better than that…um…

He had panicked and forgotten the name of the show he was trying to mention. Fortunately, he came up with this amazing save:

Even better than…um, that Showtime show with the serial killer on it.

Outstanding. He couldn’t have wrecked that more had he done it intentionally.

The modern Dexter reference gave me pause. Despite the show being brand new, the atmosphere and filming quality give it a look that makes it appear to have been filmed in the 80’s. Honestly, if you had told me that I was watching a relic from the past, and that everyone in the audience had been long dead for over 20 years, I wouldn’t have doubted you for a second.

At one point, as they were panning through the crowd of cowboy hat-wearing geriatrics, I noticed my beloved Mollie B dancing with an African American guy. This was unbelievable to me; I was so incredulous that I had to rewind the DVR. No way did I see a willing black man at a polka show. Sure enough, my eyes did not deceive me, and I have now officially seen more black people at polka shows than I have at Wisconsin roller derby bouts (take from that what you will).

One of the acts, an accordion-playing yodeler, played alone with a drum machine accompaniment, and it was truly tragic beyond words. He had to stop singing every few measures in order to catch his breath, as he always seemed to be seconds from a heart attack (yodeling is strenuous work). He also coughed directly into the microphone a few times, which sounded great on my surround sound. Even the polka-savvy crowd was visibly stunned by some of his more bizarre antics.

Mollie B, as a host, works her ass off to make the intros, bumpers and interviews entertaining, which is no small task when you’re dealing with stage fright-riddled saxophone players and a nonagenarian audience who are using the majority of their brainpower to simply not fall over. (I should mention that I accidentally typed ‘branpower’ in the first draft, which is also fundamentally true, I assume).

One Chicago-based band towards the end, named ‘Freeze Dried,’ was pretty much a ska band with an accordion, and they were was better than they had any right to be at a Polka Party. I was so enamored that I had to get off the couch and dance a little bit with one of my cats, who mewled in general disapproval.

Finally, the last band of the night were ‘The Polka Nuts,’ who played a song called ‘Grandmother’s Polka.’ This made me miss my grandmother, so I gave her a call to say hello just as my wife pulled into the driveway.

Mollie B Polka Party. Ask for it by name. I’m sort of in love with that woman now.

7:00-8:00 - WWE Main Event (Live – ION)

This was the 3rd time this week I've seen Monday’s main event match between John Cena and CM Punk, but I watched it again anyway, as it was awesome. If you're wondering what the ION Network plays outside of this weekly WWE show, well, your guess is as good as mine.

8:00-8:25 - The Middle (DVR – ABC – ‘Wheel Of Pain’)
8:25-8:50 - Modern Family (DVR – ABC – ‘Best Men’)

Modern Family is, to me, one of the best-written sitcoms in television history. That being said, this episode in particular may have been my favorite. The Cam/Mitchell storyline was more than just them arguing (their breakup would be interesting TV), Phil continued to be my role model in life (just squeaking by Ron Swanson), and there was a Saves The Day flyer in the coffee shop where Alex’s band was playing. I thought it was a nearly perfect 22 minutes of TV. If you missed it, On Demand that shit!

8:50-9:05 - Ghost Hunters (DVR - SyFy)

You know, when Ghost Hunters premiered in 2004, I sort of believed in the potential existence of the paranormal. Even though I no longer do, Ghost Hunters still finds a way to discreetly slither its way onto my DVR, like a residual haunt would attach itself to a piece of antique furniture. Hmm.

Nonetheless, I still like to watch because I enjoy the tours of historic locations (particularly the East Coast mansions and prisons they tend to frequent). The crew, as usual, found nothing of paranormal note this week, which again proves to me that they have the easiest job in all of television. Tell me, if there were a show on the Discovery Channel called Moose Hunters, and every week they went out into the Alaskan wilderness and never found a single goddamn moose, how long do you think that show would stay on the airwaves? I’d give it three episodes, tops, yet Ghost Hunters has gone nearly nine years and counting with nothing more than grainy footage of shadows and the occasional whisper in the distance. It’s quite commendable, really.

9:05-9:30 – Two Door Cinema Club Live (DVR – Palladia)

I recorded this for Celia, as she really likes these Kermit-sounding, Irish nerdlingers.

9:30-10:15 – Catfish: The Series (DVR – MTV)

This is the first show I’ve seen on MTV in years, and it was once again recorded by me for the Missus. I try not to dig too deeply into her own personal television-watching habits, but most of it centers around deception, betrayal and spousal murder. I’m sure it’s nothing.

10:15-10:35 – The Daily Show (DVR – Comedy Central)
10:35-11:00 – The Colbert Report (DVR/Live – Comedy Central)
11:00-11:30 – Conan (DVR – TBS)

It was a long, productive Snow Day, and I did a little writing and miscellaneous work before heading off to bed. Despite taking the day off work, I answered their e-mail for the hell of it. Despite being snowed in, I still managed to sneak out to run errands. And despite watching 27 different TV shows over the course of 15 hours (including a few hours of Polka and Anime), I still made sure that the Missus didn’t have to do anything when she got home but sit down and relax. It was literally the least I could do.

When I was a kid, the Snow Day was a rare gift from the Gods of adolescence. Truth is, though, you can still experience it as an adult. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if Mollie B will friend me on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 12

Nuclear (Nielsen) Family - Part 2.



One of my earliest forays into satellite television was in 1995, when my grandparents installed what is now known as a B.U.D. (Big Ugly Dish) in their backyard. I had lived with terrestrial cable for a couple of years prior to this, but 90’s satellite television was a whole other plane of existence. Remember that old Conan O’Brien skit where he would show all of the random channels the General Electric satellite could pick up? Well, that joke spawned from a true reality of just what bizarre, random entertainment was lurking out there.

Every month, we would get a satellite channel guide in the mail called Orbit. Orbit was like TV Guide, only it was about 300 pages of listings of every satellite on the planet. Once my grandparents were asleep, I would pull an all-nighter and leaf through the guide page-by-page, on an insane mission to see what was on every single channel we could dial in. Sometimes it was test patterns (a lot of time it was test patterns). Sometimes it was scrambled (which didn’t stop me). Sometimes it was plain old American programming (HBO, TBS, etc.). But every now and again, I’d stumble across the mother lode.

There were religious stations that were nothing more than one man who bought out all of the airtime on a particular channel, rambling incoherently into the camera for hours at a time. I’m not kidding. There were popular channels from Brazil, Japan, Dubai and Russia, which blew my teenage, pre-Internet mind right out of its skull. There were ‘wild feeds,’ which were raw, uncut signals from national and international networks that they didn’t necessarily want home viewers to see, but were out there anyway. Remember that episode of The Simpsons where they get satellite TV and Bart watches Tom Brokaw vomit into a pail? That all came (mostly) from real life. It was a certain type of voyeurism that could never exist again in our current TV landscape.

As you can imagine, this all was a big part of shaping my entertainment interests. When I tell people that I love Television, I don’t even mean that I love television shows. I literally love the invention of Television. I love its evolution. I love that we used to have televisions with coin slots on them. I loved the analog-to-digital conversion, which I watched live like it was my generation’s Moon Landing. I love that I could look out the window of my grandparents’ house and watch their Big Ugly Dish swivel on its axis as I continued searching for the most obscure entertainment the human race could offer.

With this in mind, there was one particular Urban Legend surrounding satellite TV that I felt compelled to ask the DirecTV guy as he was installing my Genie. And like most awesome things, it has to do with Shaquille O’Neal.

When Shaq got divorced a few years ago, his monthly expenses were made public on the Internet. One thing that caught my eye was that he claimed to spend $1,500 a month on cable TV service. This seemed astounding to me; ordering nearly every Premium, Adult and Pay-Per-View monthly still wouldn’t touch that kind of monthly price tag. Most people chalked it up to a common tendency to over exaggerate in divorce proceedings, but a few nerds decided to keep digging.

Enter DirecTV Titanium.

The website is so bizarre it almost feels like a prank, but it was supposedly an ‘elite’ subscription service that allowed you every single DirecTV channel for around $7,500 a year. Every PPV, every local, national, international, Premium and specialty channel offered, all with up to 10 DVR boxes for your (they’re assuming) massive house.

By the way, I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes. I would pay $7,500 a year for this service. I'd sell my car and donate plasma if I had to.

Unfortunately, when I asked the DirecTV guy, he told me that while Titanium did really exist, it ceased service a few years ago. Either I was another victim of the greatest trolling attempt in satellite TV history, or I was a few years late on what could have been the greatest home upgrade since the four-slice toaster. Dejected, I goose-stepped back to the living room and waited for him to finish his installation.

12:30-1:00 - WWE Monday Night Raw (Hulu - USA)

I re-watched Monday’s main event, as I sort of fell asleep as it was happening. I did this at work during lunch, because I am dedicated to the craft of both television watching as well as professional wrestling.

4:00-4:45 - Man vs. Food (Live - Travel Channel)

There’s a bar down the street from my office, and since my wife and I carpool, I sometimes stop there and have a drink before she picks me up. There, I took in an episode-and-a-half of Man vs. Food, which is actually a show I’ve happily watched many times before.

As a vegetarian, I’m not so much interested in the (typically meat-based) eating challenges, but more the cities and restaurants themselves throughout the nation. Although if I ever find myself an eating challenge that revolves around grilled cheese, you can bet your ass my picture’s going on their wall.

It was at this point that the Missus and I stopped for dinner, drinks and shopping before heading home. Like I said before, we’re preparing our home for refinancing, and we figured that it wouldn’t hurt to buy some new towels and whatnot to make the place look somewhat presentable. One thing I took away from towel shopping is that nearly every home décor item sold at Kohl’s is horrendously ugly.

7:30-7:45 - Pardon The Interruption (DVR - ESPN)

7:45-8:05 - Conan (DVR - TBS)

8:05-9:00 - Antiques Roadshow (DVR - PBS)

Upon returning home, I watched some DVR’d stuff while filling out the dozens of forms that come with having your home refinanced. More than anything, the Missus did the bulk of the heavy lifting, and she just let me know when I needed to initial something. Look, after 13 years together, we have a system that works, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t suggest a different plan of action.

Oh, and Japandroids were on Conan, but they sounded horrible.

9:00-9:30 – The Ultimate Fighter (DVR - FX)

If you like MMA (or are even slightly interested in it), you really need to be watching The Ultimate Fighter. It’s like American Idol or any other elimination-based reality show. 16 up-and-coming mixed martial artists are put under one roof with the promise of a UFC contract hanging in the balance. For the remainder of the season, they take part in a single-elimination tournament of ass-kicking that ends with the last man standing. If you’ve ever watched Survivor and wished that two people had to fight each other to see who got kicked off the island, The Ultimate Fighter is going to be your new favorite show.

9:30-9:45 – The Daily Show (DVR - Comedy Central)

9:45-10:00 – The Colbert Report (DVR - Comedy Central)

I skipped the guests for Monday’s episodes of the Daily Show/Colbert, as I sometimes do when I’m just trying to catch up. In my opinion, I find The Daily Show to be more of an important, cultural barometer, while I find The Colbert Report to be funnier. When I’m in the mood to be outraged, I’ll watch The Daily Show. When I’m outraged enough, I’ll watch Colbert.

10:00-10:05 - Robot Combat League (DVR - SYFY)

Sweet merciful holy shit was this terrible. I wanted to give Syfy’s new ‘fighting robots’ show a chance, because A) I remember liking Battlebots, and B) I like host Chris Jericho, but…man. I gave this no more than five minutes before I asked Celia permission to permanently delete the Season Pass. She, of course, was fast asleep.

10:05-10:25 - UFC Tonight (DVR - FuelTV)

For some reason, ESPN and the UFC don’t have the best of relationships. Speaking as a quasi-outsider, I think it’s a combination of neither company wanting to play by the other’s rules, but all it meant for the fans was that there’s no good MMA programming on ESPN whatsoever. Fortunately for fans like me (and thanks to the UFC’s deal with FOX), we get a huge amount of UFC-themed programming on FuelTV (I believe it’s Channel 99998 in the guide, if you’re curious), including their SportsCenter-esque UFC Tonight.

10:25-11:15 - Pioneers of TV (DVR - PBS - 'Superheroes')
11:15-12:00 - Pioneers of TV (DVR - PBS - ‘Primetime Soaps’)

This outstanding PBS series is currently in Season 3, talking in-depth with the stars, writers and producers of some of the greatest television shows of all-time. It’s very well done, so much so that I’ll probably grab the DVDs at some point, making it the first time in history that I ever gave the Public Broadcasting Company any of my money after 31 straight years of mooching. I’m not a great human being, but I’m also not very swayed by things like tote bags and ‘Masters Of Doo-Wop’ CDs.

It’s sort of funny. I’ve spent decades searching through space and time for some of the widest-reaching television the planet (and its orbit) can offer. I spent the bulk of the mid-90’s making my grandparents’ satellite dish spin circles into the ground so I could check in on otherworldly broadcasts that nobody was ever meant to see. I even (successfully) tracked down an urban legend that would have given me every channel known to man.

And yet, I ended this day happily watching PBS of all things, which was one of only three channels I could tune into my bedroom TV as a kid in the 80’s. And fittingly still, it was a TV show…about TV.

I find this all sort of perfect, although I could never fully explain why.

Monday, March 11

Nuclear (Nielsen) Family - Part 1.


(NOTE: For the last week, I kept a log of every television show I watched, and as a result, inadvertently kept a log of nearly everything else I did during the week. Every single show, good or bad, no exceptions. Here goes nothing.)


I left work early on Monday, as I needed to be home for the DirecTV guy to install my new Genie. If you haven’t seen the (somewhat humorous) commercials, the DirecTV Genie is the greatest upgrade to the greatest invention since the Internet, the DVR. It allows for recording on five channels at once, live viewing on any TV in the house, picture-in-picture, 1 terabyte of hard drive storage and an unlimited amount of Season Pass settings. It’s a technological dynasty. It’s not even close; it may be more revolutionary than Penicillin.

When the Genie first debuted at the beginning of the year, it was only available to new DirecTV customers for a reasonable price. As it usually goes with satellite television, loyal and longstanding customers had to shell out $300 for the hardware, plus a $15/month upgrade charge. I thought this was too steep, instead deciding to wait patiently for the eventual offer where Genie became the new norm and was bundled into my existing plan.

The Missus, however, could see how sad I was that I couldn’t 840 hours of television a week, and took it upon herself to call DirecTV and get us a sweet deal. It’s one of the nicest surprises I’ve gotten in years, although I believe she may have slept with a customer service representative to make it happen. She e-mailed me at work, and I had to step out of a meeting because I nearly wept.

The install was painless enough (the contractor was a Grade A Creeper, though), and before I knew it, I was navigating the new menu and recording options like a pro. The only drawback was that I needed to re-enter all of my previous Season Pass settings, which meant I had to search and program about 70 shows into my queue, but my dexterity with a remote control is that of a true artistic master. You may think that Carlos Santana can perform magic with a finely-tuned guitar, but you’ve never seen me adjust the recording time of a last-second live event that’s about to run over its regularly scheduled slot. I should carry that shit in a holster.

One of the new functions I received with the Genie was Internet connectivity, which carried with it the ability to access things like Pandora, YouTube and dozens of On Demand channels. This meant that not only would I never miss a program again (like I don’t already), but I could download movies and shows to my queue in the background while I was sleeping or (gasp!) out of the house.

Now that every electronic appliance in our house is wirelessly networked (including the slow cooker), our next investment will have to be a bigger wireless router. It’s starting to choke on all the crap we feed into it, and I’m afraid it’ll blow out at an impromptu time, causing me to resort to cannibalism or something. The outcome is too terrifying to even hypothesize.

Once the installation guy left, my week of television watching began in predictable fashion.

2:00-4:00pm – SportsCenter (Live – ESPN)

When I’m alone in the house, SportsCenter is my background music. In fact, I have to assume that 80% of ESPN’s viewership is primarily passive; it’s just noise so I don’t feel alone when I’m balancing the checkbook and making toast. Furthermore, if you’ve ever watched more than 10 hours of ESPN in a day (which I have done several times), you’ll realize that they have literally nothing to talk about after an hour. Really, unless someone dies or gets arrested (or dies while getting arrested), SportsCenter is about as informative as a handful of Tweets (which is all you really need anyway).

Today’s major topic of discussion was once again Manti Te’o, but not because of more Imaginary Girlfriend controversy. Nope, the sports world (or ESPN, at least) was abuzz with raw horror that Manti was currently underperforming at the NFL Scouting Combine. There were reporters on the scene and a round-table discussion as to the reasons why Te’o was unable to run a decent 40-yard dash time. They even brought in a sports scientist to drop some failure physics on us. It was excruciating, but I was making lunch and running domestic errands at the time, so my passivity made it tolerable. Also, the new Genie wasn’t updated to record anything new yet, so I was sort of stuck with it.

4:00-4:30pm – Around The Horn (Live – ESPN)
4:30-5:00pm – Pardon The Interruption (Live – ESPN)

Now that I had a moment to sit on the couch, I took the time during Horn/PTI to update all of my series settings (it was beautiful). I usually watch a DVR’d PTI every day when I get home from work, but as I was home early I could watch it live. Also, I was alone, so I didn’t have the opportunity to play the Missus at Jeopardy!, which comes on at 4:30pm here in Madison. I don’t DVR Jeopardy!, but on the chance we’re both home when it comes on, we throw down. My current winning percentage over Celia is about 90% as of present day, but I think that’s because I cry when I lose and she feels bad.

5:00-5:30pm - NBC 15 News (Live – NBC)

I was helping Celia clean the kitchen during the news. We’re preparing our house for refinancing/re-appraisal, and we’re scrubbing the place down like we accidentally murdered someone. I have no loyalty to NBC 15 News (or any other local affiliate) other than the fact that my buddy Ben works there, and I found former afternoon anchor Carleen Wild to be extremely cute.

5:30-6:00pm – Cops (Live – TruTV)

The season settings were still kicking in, which meant another hour or so of random, syndicated, live programming. I’m not making any excuses for watching Cops, mind you. It’s unapologetically one of my favorite TV shows of all-time and a welcome go-to when there’s nothing else on (after 25 years and 900 episodes, Cops is always on somewhere).

6:00-6:30 – Seinfeld (Live - TBS - ‘The Puffy Shirt’)

6:30-7:00 – Seinfeld (Live - TBS - ‘The Van Buren Boys’)

During TBS’s Seinfeld hour, I took care of two very important weekly tasks: I called my mother and pretended I was on a diet.

I came to the conclusion a few days ago that I needed to lose a few pounds, so I bought a bunch of fruit and yogurt at the grocery store with the idea being that it would be all I ate throughout the course of the next two weeks. I did this because:  

A) I don’t know how to diet,
B) I’m not a nutritionist, and  
C) I have no concept of what it means to take care of myself.

I honestly thought this would work, but when I explained my ‘diet’ to the Missus, she explained to me that I would die of diabetes long before shedding the first pound (not counting when they sawed my foot off).

Nonetheless, I had a bunch of fruit in the fridge (and nothing else), and fruit seems to last about six seconds in my house before it rots, so I was going to have to make due with my Diabetes Diet until further notice.

I seem to love Seinfeld more in 2013 than I even did in 1995 (someone wrote ‘Seinfeld Forever’ in my 8th Grade yearbook). There’s so much about it that remains surprisingly contemporary, but even the dated stuff makes me laugh (the mere invention of the cell phone would have straightened the conflict in dozens of plots). I also think that, over the last decade, we have given Tina Fey her due as one of the funniest and most influential women in the genre, but I can’t really remember if Julia Louis Dreyfus got her due in the 90’s. I think Elaine Benes may have been the funniest female sitcom character of all-time (although Liz Lemon is close), but it was perhaps lost in the ether of the outstanding ensemble cast. I hope I’m remembering that wrong.

Also, if you can remember an episode where Jerry or Elaine were ever in George’s apartment, let me know. I’m starting to think it never happened. Kramer was over there for the ‘Bro/Manssiere’ episode, but I think that’s it.

7:00-7:15 - Adventure Time (DVR - Cartoon Network - 'Vault of Bones')

7:15-7:30 - Regular Show (DVR - Cartoon Network - 'Caveman')

The 1-2 punch of Adventure Time and Regular Show pretty much adds up to the best animated half hour on TV (although Bob’s Burgers may say otherwise). Adventure Time has always been a bit too surreal and trippy for kids, but its most recent season has gone completely off the rails, giving anything on Adult Swim a run for its bizarre money.

Regular Show, on the other hand, has always been a reality-bending, alternate dimension slacker comedy, and their new episodes are as good as anything they’ve ever done. These are two perfect shows to jump right into and get caught up. They’re 11 minutes long and there’s about 20 episodes a day (each) of both shows on Cartoon Network. A great way to start off Prime Time on Monday.

7:30-10:15 - WWE Monday Night Raw (DVR/Live - USA)

Raw is my Appointment Television on Monday nights; the highest-rated show in all of cable television (except for those weeks where The Walking Dead steamrolls them), Raw represents one of the most beloved facets of my childhood: Pro Wrestling. In as much as WWE/WWF hasn’t changed since the 80’s, it has also become (surprisingly so) the most 21st Century show on TV.

Something you may not know is that Raw has become totally interactive in regards to social networking; the idea that an entertainment genre that relies on pulling one over on the fans would so lovingly embrace the Internet Age is outstanding business acumen at work. Really, if you used to be a WWE fan and it’s been awhile, give it a look the next time you’re flipping through the channels. That’s what I did in 2006 after a several year absence, and I never turned it back off.

Monday is also the night of the week where I feel most like an old man, and it’s sometimes a task to even stay awake through Raw, so I went to bed as soon as it ended. However, as I drifted off to sleep, I saw my beloved Genie continuing to work hard into the night, blue light flickering with warmth and the promise of limitless future entertainment.

Or possibly a spy camera installed by the creepy installation guy. Either way.