Friday, November 5th, 1999
It’s kind of a tidbits-scribbled-on-crumpled-sticky-notes week, first, an advertisement: tune to WUPA, channel 69, right now for the best of television as it used to be! Well, sort of.
You see, I was working and watching (that would be television) the other night around 1 am and there, in a sea of infomercials was James Earl Jones-a very, very young James Earl Jones as the president of these United States, in "The Man," the kind of old movie even TBS is embarrassed to air now. It exists in that limbo between "new enough to be run on the big networks" and "old enough to be deemed a classic"-it was released in 1972 (and is available in avocado and harvest gold.)
But wait. It was written by Rod Serling-maybe the best guy ever to bat out teleplays. And, wow. Jones is quietly powerful, not yet a voiceover cliché. The supporting cast-Martin Balsam, Georg Stanford Brown, Janet MacLachlan, William Windom, and Burgess Meredith as a wicked Strom Thurmond type-are as strong an ensemble as you’d ever expect to see decked out in early seventies bad fashion. Heck, there’s even a Jack Benny cameo-what a refreshing change from Jay Leno turning up on every movie character’s TV. (Odd, fictional characters don’t watch Letterman or Nightline. Hmm.)
For every lousy rerun, for every time their transmitter blows a fuse (they’re now rivaling WPBA/Channel 30 for most outages), they up and go and do something great like run "The Man."
It’s these little stations, like tiny WNGM Channel 34, run out of an industrial park in Athens, and WPXA Channel 14, licensed to Rome that make surfing the fuzzy UHF band an occasionally rewarding exercise. Yes, if you do have cable, they’re being carried these days, coming in bright and clear (more or less), but what’s the fun of that?
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You notice those "Closed captioning sponsored by" ten second blurbs on most syndicated shows these days. Yep, you guessed it-another ad. More revenue. What next? "The appearance of the color green on ‘Friends’ tonight made possible by"
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Holyfield vs. Holyfield. I’m sorry, I just don’t get what WXIA’s trying to communicate in these promos. Okay, Evander talks with Brenda Wood, we get that. He’swhat? A man of contradictions? A divorced guy? All of the above? And then there’s that profundo tagline from the champ himself: "If someone asks me, I’ll tell them the truth." Wow, compelling. The 11Alive folks seem increasingly lost these days, and the attempts to stick hip music behind nonfocused promotion does little to help. "Right here, right now!" Uh..yeah. Please, stop.
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If you have hypertension, do not take happy fun ball. If you’re pregnant, do not look at the package in direct sunlight. When ads for prescription drugs started appearing on television, I didn’t realize it was the start of a burgeoning trade for voiceover announcers. Apparently there are those out there who advertise that their specialty is reading those novel-length medical disclaimers in a non-threatening way: "This product in some cases causes your liver to explode, but hey, live a little!"