If you have Sky, you’ll probably have done this yourself. You’ll flick through the EPG looking for something to watch and none of the main channels will be showing anything. So slowly you start scaling your way up the EPG to channels that have roughly seven viewers each and are dedicated to useful things like dog-bonnet crocheting.
I came across the most bizarre one the other night. The Bonanza channel. Yes, an entire channel dedicated to that lovely Western starring Lorne Greene. It’s something you can do I guess: the series started in 1959 and finished in 1973, so that’s 14 years of episodes that you can show. I shudder to think of the DVD box set possibilities.
But seriously. How many people want to watch nothing but Bonanza? And if they did, would they not worry about missing episodes when they have to do things like go to work, eat and sleep? I wonder how long it would take for the channel to get back to an episode you’d missed. Or do they just show the same series repeatedly for a month or two then work their way onto the next series?
Everyone’s fifth-favourite channel, Five, unveiled its multi-channel digital strategy a little while ago. One of the main elements of the strategy was to have a channel called Five US dedicated to US imports. It wasn’t long before Hallmark threw a spanner in the works by refusing Five US access to some of the most popular imports, such as House and Law and Order.
Well, it looks like Hallmark – in conjunction with the Beeb and ITV, which is busily trying to expand its US import roster – has done it again. It’s just acquired four new US shows:
Smith, starring Ray Liotta and Jonny-Lee Miller as genius tacticians who plan and execute multi-million dollar robberies (hasn’t started yet in the US)
Jericho, a drama about the chaos that ensues in a small town in the wake of a nuclear disaster (hasn’t aired yet)
Psych, starring James Roday as a fake psychic (starts on the USA Network next week) and
Saved, about a paramedic who’s a compulsive gambler (Airs on TNT. I’ve already reviewed this. Twice).
With ITV already having picked up the forthcoming Six Degrees (by Lost and Alias‘ creator JJ Abrams), Raines and The Black Donnellys, I’m guessing that Five US isn’t going to be the best network for US programming we’ll ever see.
I love Property Ladder. I’m not desperately interested in property development. My strategy for property development, which amused my wife no end when I spelled it out to her, would be a simple three-step approach:
Buy a house
Hire a bloke to knock it down
Hire another bloke to build a new one
Simple, really, yet probably not destined to make much money for me should I ever decide to implement it.
In case you don’t know, screeners are what the press get given so they can preview shows that are either going to air or the networks are thinking about airing. Despite the first ever entry on this blog being about US screeners, this year I haven’t reviewed any. Sorry.
But I’ve now had a chance to watch a couple (busy, busy, busy). Tomorrow, I’ll review Hidden Palms, but today, let’s start with Rules of Engagement.
Ah, time capsules. They’re so fun. You look inside and you get a glimpse into a distant past that you’d almost forgotten. My, how different everything was then! Wait. What’s this? Rules of Engagement was made this year? So why does it look so tired and old?
Here’s the set-up for this 30-minute, 4:3, studio sitcom with canned laughter (mmm, smell the 70s): a young guy proposes to his girlfriend of seven months and starts to worry about his decision. His girlfriend’s already picking out the wedding gifts from the catalogue, just a day after his proposal. And there’s nowhere for his Mets poster now he’s moved in with her!
If he’s going to make it work, he needs to know the ‘Rules of Engagement’. Oh! Do you see what they did there? They’ve made the show’s title explain the entire set-up for you in just three words. How clever.
Fortunately, there are people on hand to provide ‘advice’. Next door to his girlfriend live a married couple who have been together for years. Jeff, the husband, is bitter about all the compromises he’s made over the years and is happy to point out the problems with marriage. And there’s young guy’s wild single friend who gets to highlight all the things he’ll miss by being married, such as constant one-night stands and acting like a frat boy.
Gosh, if only everyone’s social calendar were so evenly balanced between archetypes at various points in the relationship cycle. No people living together happily. No single friends miserable they’re single. Just useful people who can illustrate situations and provide dilemmas and neuroses for our hero. It’s almost like they’re in some television show where everything has been written according to a strict formula, where the guy is a clueless idiot when it comes to women and relationships, the woman is wise yet willing to confess her own vulnerabilities, and every problem is solved by the end of the show in a touching scene where the two lovers reconcile their previous concerns.
It’s not all bad. Jeff, the next-door neighbour, has a nice line in world-weary dialogue, I guess.
But that’s it. Everything else is by-the-book predictable. No one acts or talks like a normal human being – there’s even the classic ‘insightful’ line, “If you don’t know what’s wrong, I’m not going to tell you.” Everyone makes the same classic sitcom mistakes that no one ever actually makes in real life. Nothing happens the way it would outside sitcom world. Salient example: the three heroes discuss young guy’s only having had three girlfriends – except they use code, of course, since this is primetime network TV and no one can actually discuss relationships using adult language. Single guy reveals that actually they’d ‘hired’ girlfriend number three for him. “But I dated her for six months!” Course you did. That’s exactly what would have happened. And you’d never have realised the whole time, would you?
Sigh. This will make it to a series. Of course it will. It’ll die within three episodes, but there you go.
PS If you wanted further proof that Joey isn’t coming back, the star of Rules of Engagement is Paulo Costanzo, who plays Joey’s nephew.