VOD Listings On Tuesdays
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VOD Listings on Tuesdays

I’m just hoping there’ll be a new VOD movie I would enjoy—when you watch TV as incessantly as I do, everything but the very newest DVD releases (which is usually accompanied by the addition of those films to the pay-per-view VOD listings) seems pale and uninviting.

Today, Tuesday, is the day of VOD listing update—which means that by noon I’ll be able to see a new title or two. There are weeks when nothing new is added, but they are a rare few. I hesitate before using the VOD—there’s no sense in rushing these weekly gifts from the TV gods. First I read the listing, my eyes sliding right across the pre-existing titles. It’s a funny thing, but when I read a list over and over, it loses some of its clarity—I easily pick out the new listings by virtue of their being unfamiliar shapes on the blurry list—they stick out, visually.

I have become used to my latest procedural pattern—I put all the new movies in “My Cart” so that I can continue through the list without stopping. Afterwards, all the new stuff is listed in the Cart, so I can watch the previews, check the prices (sometimes they’ll try to sneak by a $7 or a $10 film) and decide on what order to watch them in.

I used to save the best-sounding one for last, but eventually I realized that the movie I put first was one I least wanted to see—so I stopped adding those to the cart—I used to be inclusionary, expecting to be surprised by a few films being better or worse than I expected. Either I’m a better judge of films or the moviemakers have become more unexceptional, because I’m now using exclusionary guidelines—wherein I discard anything ‘action’ oriented (except for Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood), everything ‘horror-genre’, everything ‘adolescent-oriented’ (it isn’t that I don’t like them, it’s just that they make me feel hopelessly old), everything on the ‘fantasy’ end of the “sci-fi—fantasy genre”, and animated films. I like the animated films but I can wait until they’re on the cable-movie channels—this is true of all the above. I figure I’m paying for those channels anyway—anything I’m not excited enough about watching on VOD is only a month or two away, anyhow.

When I began, we had a small screen B&W TV, a Magnavox, I think. When my dad hit the big time, we had a console in our Katonah house—huge piece of furniture with the color TV set in the middle, and a lift-lid turntable stereo setup inside the left-hand end of it. We still used the channel-changer control, until we got cable-TV in the 80’s—then we pushed buttons on the cable box; then we used the ‘remote’ that was attached by wire; then we got the kind of remotes you see now, but they weren’t multi-functional. We didn’t have DVD or DVR until much more recently, and the screen size wasn’t always adjustable, the TV didn’t always tell time and date, and the program-listings channel used to just scroll up the screen, instead of interacting with the viewer like they do now. We used to have to subscribe to the TV Guide to get the film data, i.e. MPAA-rating, closed-captioning, year released, principal actors, and plot synopsis.

I used to feel much more urgency about catching a TV film at the beginning, just to read that info off of the Titles—squinting at the Roman numerals and trying like mad to do the arithmetic before the screen faded to the next title—I can tell Roman numbering really fast because of that. But I should admit, in spite of all this, I still like to get a look at the NY Times TV listings—the perfect map for planning my attack on this evenings ‘prime-time’.

I’ve entered a strange modus operandi in which, for the first time in my life, I will accept the verdict: literally nothing on tonight worth watching. It doesn’t happen that often, but it is a change from my lifelong habit of always watching prime-time—I would have days I liked and days I didn’t much care for, but I would unfailingly watch prime time every night, even in summer, with re-runs everywhere.

To have this ability to use my evening for something interesting, I’d like to thank reality shows, sit-coms, crime procedurals, and cable series. I loved sitcoms (I’m anything but a connoisseur of comedy—I even laugh at knock-knocks) until Seinfeld and the years of ‘must-watch Thursdays’. They were hilarious, I watched them religiously—but when those series ended, any new comedy had big shoes to fill—plus, Jerry is an impossible act to follow. Also, the glut of Law & Order spinoffs and ER-tribute medical dramas that followed (and maybe it had to do with my aging and my perceptions as well) made all of those genres lose their luster, at least in my eyes.

Reality shows are, in my view, ‘un-Entertainment’ shows. They replace the conscious creation of an entertainment with a freshman psych experiment: take four people, make them a) lie to each other, b) eat something gross, c) embarrass the hell out of them or d) make them date each other, or e) all of the above. Then edit to Marketing’s taste, and serve. Further, they prove Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle—no one acts naturally in front of a camera.

Claire and Jessy have adopted “Project Runway” (must be a chick thing) and something in Claire’s therapy-prone mind is attracted to “Biggest Loser” as well. But I can’t even stand the Syfy channel’s offerings, about monster-make-up, about superhero emulation (even hosted by Stan Lee), and about scaring folks (Tracy Jordan hosts that one). When I watch TV, I don’t want to be a fly on the wall at someone else’s career, or lifestyle. I have my own reality show—it stars me and it’s on from wake-up until dinnertime—when it’s off the air, I prefer not to switch to watching someone else’s show—I want to watch real TV, not reality TV.

So, at 57 years old, there are a few corners I can easily cut. I have seen just about every possible permutation of a courtroom scene, crime scene, police interrogation scene, jail scene, jailbreak scene, car chase scene, sitcom wordplay; even asides to me, the viewer, no longer fascinate me. I watched classic black & white movies from silent to mad-cap, Technicolor Panavision epics, all the great stars and most of the not-so-great. I had lost sleep for years, staying up all night to watch movies I’d never heard of. When the cable channel AMC premiered, it was what TCM is today—classic films with no commercials. And I was excited for the first ten or twenty years, finding so many new movies that hadn’t made it to the all-night movie programming that ABC and WOR, and even PBS, used to fill the wee-hours airtime.

However, at this point, there are very few movies I haven’t already seen many times. I could teach a film history course, especially now that Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper, Ben Lyons, Ben Mankiewicz, and Robert Osborne have graciously taken me beyond the mere listings blurbs of so many classics—and by doing so, also built up an approximation in my mind about the history of Hollywood and films—and the lives of the movie-idols, when the camera was turned off.

So, classic movies I know already. And the surest proof of that is that my son hates them—he refuses to watch a movie that wasn’t made in color. He must have sensed my obsession, to have tuned out those great flics so completely. Jessy learned to share my love of Chaplin when she was tiny—but neither of them, or their mother, have much interest in movies that aren’t actually in release right now. It was my greatest solace, in the old days, but now that I’ve run through the majority of the classics, it reminds me of the way I felt when I ran out of classic novelists to read—there are a lot of them, but once I’d gotten to know the complete works of all of them, it left a big gap in my arsenal of coping mechanisms.

I’m the same way about classical music—I’ve made all the delightful discoveries of works by the great composers that a person can make—if I’m unfamiliar with a piece, it isn’t from missing it, it’s from having heard it and not liking it enough to add it to my internal ‘playlist’. As far as a life-style perspective goes, I’d have to say the Brahms Violin Concerto is the greatest music I ever heard. It isn’t my all-time favorite, but I spent an entire semester of college with an 8-track player that broke in such a way as to play a tape over and over, instead of stopping at the end, and I had only one tape—Brahms’ Violin Concerto. It was the only music I listened to, for months. But I never got tired of it—just try that with a contemporary, popular-music album (I mean CD) and see how long it takes to drive you mad.

Don’t get me wrong. I can still give an account of much of my journey. First was Johan Sebastian Bach, then Ludwig von Beethoven, then Antonio Vivaldi and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, then George Frederick Handel, Johannes Brahms, and Felix Mendelssohn, then Cesar Franck, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, and Frederic Chopin, then Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian, and Igor Stravinsky. Also included, at various times, were Dmitri Shostakovich, Edvard Grieg, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, Charles Ives, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Carl Nielson, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, Leonard Bernstein, Leroy Anderson, Camille St. Saens, and John Williams (both the guitarist and the Soundtrack composer). That’s off the top of my head—there were plenty more—and music doesn’t end at classical. I’m also familiar with folk music from several different cultures and continents, including our own, Tin Pan Alley, Ragtime, Broadway, Swing and all the pop music that came afterwards, from Perry Como to Elvis, from the Beatles to Elvis Costello, from Grateful Dead to Punk rock. Oddly enough, the only music I haven’t much knowledge of is the music of today (or the last ten years of today, at least)—but I excuse that by claiming my own musical activities at the piano and singing.

I have temporarily taken up hobbies: model planes, rug-hooking, rug-braiding, walking, drawing, writing, poetry, piano, gardening, endurance running, family photo-to-movie DVDs, volunteering ESL, tutoring, and probably one or two others—some I try once, some I keep coming back to. I just follow my nose.

So, when someone tells me I watch too much TV, they can’t tell me I should read a book—I’ve read a bunch of books, and I’m still reading, albeit more slowly and laboriously, I’ve had a bunch of hobbies, I listened to a lot of music and played nearly as much of my own—I am a black hole of diversions—I’ve gone through multiple lifetimes of education and entertainment and I’m still on the lookout for the new and intriguing. Nevertheless, that still leaves quite a bit of TV time—and nothing stays fresh and new forever. So, Tuesday—my favorite day of new stuff.


Street Talk

Hi Christopher, long time! How have you been?

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hi Christopher, My wish to you is a very good morning and the next parts of the day. I just passed by to tell you that I like your article. When should we expect your profile and photo? Thank you very much

Reply
  about 6 years ago

My profile and photo are there--just click on my highlighted name "Christopher Dunn" and that should take you right to it. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you. I wish that you, too, will have a very good day.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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