We watch... so you don't have to.

The Prodigal Networks

I have emerged from the cave and seen the sun.

To quote the late, great philosopher Plato, "If this was heaven, I'd kill myself now." Or, to leave poor Dana out of this and quote the elder Plato, "At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look toward the light, he will suffer sharp pains."

And yea, what pains I have suffered. What agony I have experienced since my DSS provider started carrying the networks.

Even before I switched to DSS, the networks were the place where old TV friends went to die. On The Daily Show, Craig Kilborn and his smirking frat-boy charm were fixtures around my house. Whatever time my erratic viewing brought me to Comedy Central -- 10:00, 1:30, 4:00, 7:18 -- there Craig was, cracking wise, pausing for humorous effect, or pestering some third-tier guest about his latest unwatchable project. I actually saw The Daily Show almost daily.

Then Craig left for the greener pastures of network TV and he hasn't been seen since. At least, not by me, or by anyone else, as far as I can tell. I believe his show is called Too Late, and it's on at about 3:15 in the morning filling in the quarter hour between the last network viewer slipping into his corn chip coma and the start of Ron Popeil's latest infomercial.

Now The Daily Show is hosted by the poster boy for the Failing Upward Movement, Jon Stewart -- a man who has managed to sink so many talk shows his middle name should be "U-boat." I no longer watch The Daily Show, and neither do any of the other mental patients.

Before The Daily Show, there was Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. I used to see a lot of this show, too, until Bill took his ball and went to ABC, never to be heard from again. His show might even be the lead-in for Craig's, for all anyone knows. I won't look for it even if Harlan Ellison is going to be on.

Similarly, John Henson ejected himself from E's Talk Soup. He was last seen in darkest Peru heading east reportedly shouting, "I WILL be rich!"

And only God Himself knows what became of Downtown Julie Brown.

My irregular TV habits preclude me from becoming attached to any show with only one time slot. Therefore the networks are of little use to me. However, even with my bizarre channel-switching algorithm, and only having had the networks a few short weeks (I understand the weeks will be longer come the spring), I still have managed to spectate as several crimes against humanity were committed by the Big Three, Middling One, and Tiny Two Which Aren't Really Carried by DSS Anyway.

I saw Alan Alda on ER still playing Hawkeye, only this time for bathos. Also, I found that no one had shot Kellie Martin yet.

I caught a few minutes of the season premiere (said season being winter) of NYPD Blue. Steven Bochco owes me money for that.

I've seen several episodes of Law & Order: SVU and had to suffer thereby through a number of almost-continuous hours of Mariska Hargitay's strangely cocked eyebrow. Was she hit by a car when young, thus forcing plastic surgeons to reconfigure her face to hide where it read "Ford" backward?

I failed to rush from the room fast enough to miss the commercials where the Three Actors in Search of a Pizza Place pretend to sportscast the channel's lineup. And to think I had thought the trio were squandered talents.

Around the same time I caught Whose Line Is It Anyway? still coasting on Wayne Brady's ability to make up songs out of his head. Funny, funny, funny, find a new joke.

I saw Angel.

I sat through about seventeen hours of The West Wing. Martin Sheen never shuts up, does he?

I watched one whole episode of The Mandy Patinkin Hour Returns and not once did he sing or play the piano. I want a refund!

I flipped past Ladies Man. I might have seen a whole half-second of the show. I want a refund!

On the positive side, I did see one funny promo for it's like, you know.... And I got to see Dick Clark for New Year's. On the other hand, I also got to see Dan Blather for New Year's, so let's call that one even.

And that reminds me -- in listing the network dross, I almost forgot what I did the instant I discovered I had networks again. I watched The Price Is Right. It was exactly the same show it's always been. And that's damned good.

I have emerged from my networkless cave and seen the bright suns of CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and those other two. And I'm going back in and never coming out. And you can't make me.


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