Surf’s up: Channel Surfing with Poor Scholars


We’ve all got our own comfort zones when it comes to watching TV.

You may try to refute that last statement, assuring yourself that your television tastes are more diverse than a conference of the United Nations, when odds are that your palate is as tired and predictable as an episode of Full House.

If you’re unsure about where you stand, just ask yourself these quick questions:

  • Have I ever turned on my television and decided that there was nothing on worth watching?
  • How many channels do I have?

If you answered “yes” and “more than twenty” to these questions, then you have no excuse for not finding a captivating program at any moment of the week.

Sorry, non-cable viewers, but this article isn’t for you. I advise you to take your self-fulfilled, active lives elsewhere; this content won’t cater to your kind.

As for those who do enjoy a wide range of channels, you may be wondering how you’re going to muster the time and patience to expand your list of favorites. Don’t worry, I’m here for you. Every week I’m going to be surfing channels at random to try to cover all varieties of programming.

Here are the ground rules:

  • I’ll be making my channel selection based on numbers 1-400 given to me by this random number generator.
  • Each show has to stay on for five minutes or until a commercial break.
  • Channels showing public access or product sales content will be skipped

This first segment was written based on shows viewed from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 23rd. Let’s do it.

And the first number is 6, looks like I’ll be starting off in my comfort zone. Check that, turns out that I just tuned in for an episode of Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns. The old folks are arguing over something that I can’t even begin to understand, and now one of the younger children is complaining to her mother because she isn’t being allowed to go to a rap concert. He may not relate to them in any way, but all of the elders happen to love that rapper! Ha….

Next up is 353; now I’m truly headed into the television abyss. It appears to be an episode of the classic sitcom All in the Family, circa 1972. Recognize the name and little else, and for good reason.  The first two and a half minutes have revolved entirely around a wife, Judith, trying to please her crotchety husband, Archie, who seems to genuinely disdain his wife. Don’t worry, Edith didn’t quit, she finally won her husband over to play a game of cards. That doesn’t mean that Archie plans to stop railing on his wife for tearing him away from the newspaper. Archie’s constant venom actually grows on you a bit; I would liken it to a more extreme version of Gloria and Jay in Modern Family.

Channel 153 was literally five seconds of honey badger footage before cutting to commercial. Too bad, I always value coverage of this juggernaut of nature.

Channel 324; oh boy, it’s one of ID’s seemingly limitless crime documentaries, and this particular dime-a-dozen space-filler is called Desperate Measures. It looks like the seemingly happily married man finally cracked under the pressure and killed his mistress. These shows are pretty cut and dried; if you like these kinds of shows, Desperate Measures is no different. If you don’t like these kinds of shows, then Desperate Measures is no different.

Channel 157 features another show from the 70’s, The Waltons. Oh no, John is trying to steal an onion from the general store, stop him! Well, stealing might have been generous; it was more like staring down the store owner and awkwardly waiting for a reaction. I’m willing to give John a mulligan on this one, because the kid could turn out to be a world-class vegetable thief.

Channel 400 looks like a little MLS soccer, and to say that there are 1,000 people in the crowd is generous. A scoring attempt from the right side sailed wide, and we’re headed to commercial.

I’ve hit my first movie on channel 304. The info on Margaret says that a high school student tries to overcome the guilt she feels after becoming involved in a fatal traffic accident. Even from a short look, the drama in this plot is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. If five minutes is any indication, and it’s not, then the both of the female leads are at least serviceable and potentially above average in their roles. Matt Damon also supposedly has a starring role, which intrigues me to see how he plays with this script in a longer look.

Looks like I’ve got time for one more and it’s channel 385. AMEN! Nothing like a little religious enlightenment to wrap things up. The program is entitled Old Landmark, which I would like to think is the name of the church that is hosting the broadcast. The pastor is fired up about abstinence. “And the sistas keep their legs closed and the brothas keep their pants zipped!…GOD puts folks together!” And the crowd broke out in a chorus of boos; bibles are being hurled at the stage! Not really, but I’ve already wondered if a preacher has ever had to win over a hostile church crowd. Now THAT would truly be clutch.

Final rundown
Instant Gold (5 Stars) –
Thoroughly Entertaining (4 Stars)-
Worth A Closer Look (3 Stars) – Margaret, All In the Family
Bearable, if only in a pinch (2 Stars) – Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Desperate Measures, The Waltons
Total Garbage (1 Star) – MLS game, Old Landmark*
*I’ll admit, it was pretty funny for a short stretch of time, but I can’t justify giving it two stars.

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