Monday, July 28, 2008

The Black Box

My parents purchased me an incredible Flat Panel LCD television as a gift last year. Apparently, there was an irresistible deal at Target for a 19" LCD TV with a DVD player built in. Despite some shortcomings (including the fact that the DVD player features a blue bubble thing that persistently sticks out of the side of the television), the TV features some miraculous abilities.
Most notably, the television can not only receive HD signals, but it can seemingly extract them from unauthorized sources. That is, I have never purchased the HD package my cable company offers, but consistently receive all of the local stations in HD (in case I ever want to see the Ft. Wayne anchor's facial creases), as well as some other random HD stations. And I do actually mean random.
I initially set up my television at my parents house in Detroit's outlying suburbia. Much to my surprise I could watch the Tigers in HD on Fox Sports Net Detroit HD. I also could tune in to some miscellaneous movies on the higher channels. The television downstairs had no such access to these channels; I reasoned it was because it lacked the HD tuner.
At my downtown Detroit residence, I likewise installed the television, along with my roommates TV (a 42" flat panel his brother loaned him while he was out of the country, yeah, I know ridiculous, right?). Now I was able to get ESPN HD but my Fox Sports Net HD did not have sound, and seemed to be on different channels every night. My roommates much more expensive TV still could not receive any of these channels despite its HD capability.
Finally, I was lounging at my desk one day watching a movie on one of the random channels I had and it started rewinding on me. The movie then went in fast motion before pausing, restarting, and finally disappearing. Weird, I know. The mystery was confounded over the next few weeks when I had similar experiences with various movies (all recently released on DVD) that would be seemingly controlled from another venue.
And I believe they were. My hypothesis that I was watching whatever my neighbor's were watching "on demand" seemed to be confirmed by the commercial-less sit-com episodes I occasionally could tune into and the random . . . ahem . . . "inappropriate" videos that would grace my screen when I was looking for a good flick to watch.
Granted, this phenomena is very cool. Here in Indiana, I have seen Semi-Pro, Knocked Up, Be Kind Rewind, and a host of other movies which I never learned the titles to (not those movies). I have dialed through (okay, and maybe watched a little of) My Super Sweet 16, Rock of Love 2, Entourage, and various other cable series that I am embarrassed to have watched.
However, the ability to watch what other people are watching is like some weird invasion of privacy. For example, when I cross my neighbor's path in the morning, I have to wonder, is that the dude who watched My Super Sweet 16 last night? Or was he the guy rewinding the explosion in Starship Troopers like fifty times? Does someone in my complex have kids? Or do they just really enjoy the shows Noggin has to offer? Is it the same guy watching Knocked Up every night? Or is that movie really just super popular? And of course . . . who is the lonely guy ordering up the "interesting" movies?
Alas, I am not going to complain and I have no idea how my TV gets these channels or when it will stop. All I know is that in every location I have had this TV, I get random movies and stations that other TV's don't. Just hope I don't move into your neighborhood if you have a thing for "A Shot of Love with Tila Tequilla" or something.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Daily Office

I have an unhealthy relationship with television. The magazines at the checkout line of the grocery stores always evoked wonder inside of me. Not the stories about the alien boy with thirteen toes or the women’s world with a new diet that was the result of 2000 years of diet innovation since the last supper. The magazines that had more in-depth stories about soap opera’s stupefied me. How could anyone seriously want to read more about the only entity in the world which makes my television set worthless between the hours of 12 pm and 3 pm every day?

That is until this summer I recently discovered the immense pleasure I can draw from one television show. I no longer feel unconnected to stay-at-home moms or jobless, mindless television consumers because when feeling down, I too now have an outlet. That is, when I want a mindless outlet, I can pop in a DVD, grab a cool beech wood aged beverage and all will be right with the world. Because when Pam, Jim, Dwight, Michael, Angela, Kevin, Oscar, Toby, Stanley, Andy, Phyllis, Crede, Kelly, Ryan, and the rest of the hilarious crew beam through my television, I beam back.

The simple do-de-do, do-de-do, dun-dun-do-do of the theme song leaves me mentally salivating for perfectly crafted humor the way a bell causes the pavlovian dog to do the same (not for humor, but for steak . . .which, I too can understand). I cannot explain the affinity I have for the show, because unlike America’s Funniest Home Videos (maybe my other favorite show on television), I rarely laugh out loud.

The Office is essentially the antithesis of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Where AFV makes a spectacle of outlandish moments that actually happen, The Office tries to turn the spectacle of outlandish characters into people I see everyday. And both work wonderfully. So, at the end of a long hard day of work, once the baseball games have ended, I can pour myself another fine American classic and know that if Jim and Pam are together, all is right with the world. And as sad and pathetic as that may sound, in no way do I find it depressing.