Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Cable Guy

Well, I did it.

About a month ago I signed up for cable, something I resisted doing for a long time.

Ya see, it's like this. My sister-in-law asked me if there was anything of Mom's that I wanted. I asked for Mom's TV since it was about twice the size of the one I had. I don't watch much regular TV, but I do rent movies from Netflix so I figured a big screen would be nice when I watched a movie. This new, bigger TV didn't have "rabbit ears" or an external antenna, so it was pretty much cable or nothin.' I signed up for the bare bones, no frills, most basic, basic, basic of packages (all the broadcast networks, PBS, C-SPAN, and a couple of Christian stations) because all the other packages were more expensive with a lot of stuff I'd never watch anyway.

I have to say that even with this minimalist approach it's been interesting. I can now get not one, but two NBC stations (why I don't know), while before I couldn't really get even one, except in good weather. One show I've discovered via cable is "Sue Thomas: F. B. Eye". It's about a young deaf woman who lands a job with an elite team of FBI agents specializing in surveillance because of her acute powers of observation and skill at lip reading. Since the show originated on the former PAX-TV channel, a Christian cable station, it's light on onscreen violence and heavy on a positive, uplifting, vaguely religious message. Sue frequently tells her fellow agents or the people who come to them for help, "I prayed for you," or "God brought your daughter back," or something similar. Think of it as "Touched by an Agent," a cross between "Without a Trace" and "Touched by an Angel."

Sometimes, however, the show's efforts to be heartwarming come across as just plain sappy, and if you want gritty realism and hard hitting crime drama, this isn't the show for you. Sometimes the plot twists make my implausibility meter go off the scale. In a recent episode, an agent's gambling addiction that he had concealed resurfaces when he goes undercover to catch a crook participating in a high stakes poker game. This is the FBI, for Pete's sake! Don'tcha think they'd know if one of their agents had a gambling problem because he'd be a security risk? On second thought, some of the worst spies and security leaks in this country in recent years have been FBI agents, so I guess it's possible.

What makes the show interesting to me is the fact that Sue Thomas is a real person (albeit a good bit older and less telegenic than her TV alter ego) who did have a real job with the FBI, and the actress who plays her is really deaf, so there is a grain of truth in these highly dramatized and romanticized adventures. I'm encouraged to see somebody with a disability playing a lead role in a series with a positive message.

Unfortunately for fans, however, PAX-TV was recently bought out by somebody else, who changed the name and appears to be in the process of changing the station's focus and programming. The producers of "Sue Thomas" had already stopped making new episodes, and now the parent company wants to scale the reruns back to once a week and possibly eliminate the show altogether. There are no plans to re-release the show on DVD. I just checked on the show's website, and the small but vocal fanbase who post on the message boards are upset. I can understand why. Even though I can see flaws in the show, and even though I've only been watching a short while, the show has grown on me. This looks like yet another example of a corporate TV behemoth obliterating an original, entertaining show that didn't score high enough in the ratings (i.e., make enough money), in order to replace it with just more of the same ol' same ol'. That's the free market at work, baby! *Sigh*


Fidelio said...

Congratulations! We keep downgrading our cable, one package at a time, as we see that less and less TV is really necessary to life.

Find out if your cable company carries EWTN.

K T Cat said...

The History Channel is a great reason to have cable. Or, as a friend and I call it, "Hitler TV. All Hitler, all the time!"

Seriously, once you get hooked on the History Channel, you'll never watch PBR again.

K T Cat said...

I meant PBS.

Dorian Speed said...

My resistance to getting cable is slowly wearing down. We do the Netflix thing but there are a few shows I'd really like to watch, and we get no television reception in the absence of cable.