Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Boob Tube in Africa

I have a request to fill you in on the TV situation here.

I've been thinking about how to describe it, and it's kind of "Flintstones meets the Jetsons". Like much of Ghana, there are some truly modern elements like cars and computers, co-existing with more old fashioned stuff like Tribal Chiefs and pounding yams in giant wooden bowls.

We have a satellite dish nailed to our house. It's pointed, generally, UP- we aren't exactly satellite central here.
That dish pulls in DSTV- a South African outfit who beams programming all over Africa. We contract with a local company called Multi Choice to get access to a decoder box that will allow us to watch what the dish collects.

The first five stations on our TV are mostly movies, although M3 will also show Oprah (six month old shows), Days of Our Lives (I have no idea how old they are but they are not recent) and Bold and the Beautiful (ditto).

We get movies pretty fast- usually just as they come out on DVD or even a little before and they show all the movies uninterrupted.

After that is 8 channels of Sports Net (which includes some ESPN) and it's nice to get Wimbledon and the World Cup Games with no commercials.

Then some series channels that show old American and British shows, E!, Reality Zone, Nat'l Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, History, BBC Food, Cartoon Network, Channel O (an African network that shows British and American sitcoms and soaps), and three MTV channels. Sprinkled in there are some french and other language channels, plus the BBC, CNN, SKY news and EURO news.

Anyway. If you come to my house to watch TV, you will be hard pressed to name your decade. You can get Barnaby Jones, Grey's Anatomy, Butterfield 8, and The Hours all on the same night.

There are almost no commercials, except for upcoming shows, although occasionally we get
hilarious commercials from South Africa.

If you are a fan of Ballykissangel, Home and Away, Keeping Up Appearances, Perfect Strangers, Mad About You, Alf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, or god help us all, Jerry Springer, you can watch them at my house. It's a real mixed bag.

We are currently watching Survivor Guatemala, about 15 days in. We also have Lost (about 5 episodes into the second season), and Desperate Housewives (about 8 episodes into the second season). We got WEEDS and Dead Like Me and Nip/Tuck and Sopranos just started season 5. But we don't have most of the current U.S. or British TV.

Oh, and we have Africa Net. They run movies and soap operas made mostly in Nigeria, and let me tell you, two words they have no concept of in Nigeria are "production values". These are some seriously bad programs- bad acting, bad sound, bad lighting, bad scripts. If you ever made a movie for your parents when you were eight- you could get hired to make Nigerian movies, complete with cap guns.

The Flintstones part comes in when the power goes out. You have to run outside to the generator, crank it up (feed the Pteradactyl), run to the porch and haul on the power switchover handle then run back to the living room while the TV searches for the signal just in time to see... something crucial happen that you don't know why it happened!

Who is that?

Why did they go there?

What's happening????

It's amazing what can happen in the 3 minutes it takes to re-wire the house. ;-)

What, you might ask, do they do with the extra time in an hour that happens because there are no commercials? They run music videos. Most programming (with a few exceptions) ends at 20 after and 10 or 20 'til the hour. A few show previews and a music video or two, and on to the next show.

So what does all this cost us? $75 bucks a month, U.S.

Is it worth it?

Nah. But we are slaves to our need for popular culture and suckers for movies of all kinds. So we fork it over.

When Duke's family is here, one of their favorite things to do is watch cartoons. Looney Tunes speak the universal language. Warner Bros. could probably make world peace break out if we could just find a way to beam them into every building on Earth.