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Friday, April 29, 2005

Hidden Gems On Sky Digital

As I've bored you with before, I have Sky. I love Sky. I'm a TV geek, and Sky - frankly - allows me to indulge that.

That said, there's a whole load of crap being broadcast from those satellites orbiting above our heads. When you first get Sky, you're amazed by the array of channels. Once you've had it more than a month, you realise that there are only actually twelve odd channels which are ever watchable, and that most of them repeat half of their output three times a week.

As a result, I very rarely do the full channel hop nowadays. By that, I mean I rarely skip from the first channel to the last on the channel list, glancing at what's on. Instead, I stick with my old favourites - the Paramount Comedys, the Sky Ones, the E4s and so on...

Yesterday, though, I for some reason found myself on a full channel hop. I think it was cos I was very tired and emotional after the final therapy session. More on that when I feel more able to talk about it without bursting into tears. (It went well, I'm just sad it's all over).

Anyway, as part of my channel hop I stumbled across the curiously named Open Access 2. I say curiously named cos I'm not convinced there's an Open Access 1. Anyway, it's one of those very, very weird Sky channels that you can't quite figure out. One of those ones which has a weird programming mix of religious stuff, black and white Hollywood stuff, and stuff about Africa. One of those ones which has programmes starting at really weird times (8.53pm start time, anyone?) One of those ones which, if I'm honest, I normally skip straight past cos it all scares me a little.

Actually, looking at their website today has made me a little more scared. They can't seem to figure out whether they're called Open Access 2 or Hollywood Classics Network. And that logo is downright disturbing. It's surely not accidental that it looks like a Christian fish?

Anyway, last night I actually found myself watching something on The Network That Does Not Know Its Name. It called the show "Groucho Marx". This was a strange description - much like calling "24" "Kiefer Sutherland". Anyway, after a little viewing I concluded that the show was actually You Bet Your Life, a US TV quiz show from the 1950s. I also concluded that Groucho Marx was a bloody funny man. I'd always suspected this to be the case - having read his very many funny quotes - but I'd always been put off investigating further by my previous discussed fear of old stuff.

Watching this show last night, though, I couldn't believe how little it had dated. I mean, the money was a giveaway that the show was old - the star prize was $1500 - and Marx kept making references to the listeners as well as the viewers (forgive my ignorance here, but I'm assuming it was simultaneously broadcasted on the radio) and the shots of the audience revealed amusingly well-dressed 1950s Americans, but other than that... it all seemed surprisingly modern.

I found myself - gasp - laughing. I could barely believe it. And with my interest in all things American, and especially American stuff around the 50s and 60s, I found enjoyment from that aspect too. I liked actually watching the sort of show that you can see playing in the background of shows I've grown up with - like The Wonder Years, for example. And they'd left in the sponsorship information - so I got to hear all about the brand new 1950s car that I should go straight to my dealer and ask for. It was kinda amusing to see the origins of stuff that I've seen gently spoofed, or accurately recreated, in stuff that I've watched over the years.

So, who knows, maybe the Highly Scary Channel Which Doesn't Know Its Own Name has turned me onto one of the towering figures of comedy. I don't think I'm ready to start watching Marx Brothers films just yet, but I have put the next edition of You Bet Your Life in my personal planner.

It's a start.

(Check it out - you can advertise on The Terrifying-Quasi-Religious-Channel-That-Does-Not-Know-Its-Own-Name for eight pounds per 30 second ad during prime time! For £250 they'll make our 30 second ad for us! For £50 we can get 15 minutes of sponsored primetime! Christ, this is enough to make me want to make a fake advert for nothing other than my own amusement. It reminds me all of Homer Simpson's short stint as Mr Plow and, more specifically, his cheap advert buried late at night on an obscure TV channel. "Homer: John Q Driveway has our number. Now we play the waiting game... Aw, the waiting game sucks! Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!")

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