Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Master of Mute and your local news

The other night, my mother and I were watching some television program—probably an Everybody Loves Raymond rerun, I’m guessing—when one of those obnoxious lawyer ads comes on. You know the ones I’m talking about—they usually have some guy yelling “Are you injured? Do you want to be injured? Do you know somebody who wants to be injured?” or some such tommyrot and it ends with Robert Vaughn giving his stamp of approval of the attorney. (I wonder if that actually works in real life. Defendant: “Hey, my lawyer is personal friends with the Man from U.N.C.L.E.!” Judge [slamming down gavel]: "I find in favor of the case!)

And all of a sudden it hit me—“Why in the hell am I listening to this?” I asked myself, and I immediately hit the mute button. It’s a new experience for me, because as a rule, I generally don’t watch any other channels except TCM—where there’s no need to mute the commercials because there are none. But since my mother has become my houseguest in the interim, things have changed slightly around Rancho Yesteryear.

Now, keep in mind I’m trying to be a good host. I know that my and my Mom’s tastes differ on occasion. For example, she has a jones for both Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and can watch either program for hours on end. (And considering how often both TNT and USA schedule “marathons,” she gets that opportunity often.) I may have told this story on the blog before but one time—when we were still living in Savannah—Phil Schweier came over to the house to look at some OTR LPs I was trying to get rid of and as he came in through the front door he looked over to see my Mom watching Law & Order with rapt attention. He then says to me: “You weren’t kidding about that, were you?”

When it comes to muting commercials…my father is king of that domain. I jokingly refer to him as “The Master of Mute,” or “M Squared” to his close friends. The man is truly an artist—the only time we come close to watching a silent movie together is when he has control of the remote and the commercials come on. What’s comical is watching my niece Rachel be in the same room with him; kids love commercials because so many of them are geared to their sugar-loaded sensibilities. So when her “Pop” mutes a TV ad, she’ll turn in the direction of my mother and complain “Nana…he’s doing it again…”

Anyway, I’ve had ample opportunity to joke about muting the commercials because my Dad—while choosing not to sleep over at Castle Yesteryear—makes several trips a day to my domicile for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (In fact, he’ll be over at my sister’s house and Kat will joke: “Going to your girlfriend’s for supper again?”) He arrives around 5:00pm for supper, and I graciously allow him to watch the evening news. It’s a ritual: he watches Channel 2 (WSB-TV in Atlanta) from 5 to 6, and then we have to switch over to Channel 11 (Atlanta’s WXIA) so as not to miss The Brian Williams Show (yes, I know it’s called the NBC Nightly News—but not at my house).

For what it’s worth, I like Channel 2’s news—“Coverage you can count on”—because they’re fairly straightforward with their presentation. They don’t pussyfoot around—they give me the skinny on all the shootings, car crashes, fires, etc., suggesting that the last place I want to be in is Atlanta. WXIA (11Alive), on the other hand, is not my particular cup of Earl Grey because they’re a bit touchy-feely when it comes to news…they’re the kind of station that runs promos showing their talking-head anchors working at soup kitchens and accepting awards for outstanding community service. (It reminds me too much of Savannah’s WTOC, or “News from Mayberry,” as I used to refer to it.) WXIA also prides itself on having a 7pm newscast that’s “interactive,” meaning any bozo with a Dell can contribute their two cents during the program…and if I want the opinion of online users, I’ll visit a chat room.

I can’t say anything about WGCL-TV or WAGA-TV (the CBS and Fox affiliates, respectively) because we never watch either channel—I don’t know why WGCL is on the “no-watch” list but I strongly suspect it has something to do with my father’s intense dislike of Katie Couric—maybe he’s afraid she’s going to show up on the local newscast without warning. WAGA is a little easier to figure out; it’s Fox News…which means it’s not really news at all.

One night, I tried to sell Dad on the idea of watching an actual local newscast—and not just one out of Atlanta—by watching the 6:00 proceedings at WNEG-TV Channel 32. WNEG (the NEG stands for “North East Georgia”) was a Toccoa, GA station and a CBS affiliate for many years until the University of Georgia purchased the station in October 2008 as a training facility for broadcast journalism students. (It’s now affiliated with America One and This TV; if you’re up and about early on Saturday mornings you can catch the odd Outer Limits rerun, along with Mister Ed and The Patty Duke Show.) WNEG’s presentation of news is actually pretty impressive for a local station—but their weather maps need a lot of work (they look like they were programmed on a Commodore 64) and their sports guy has the unfortunate moniker of Cody Chaffins. (Most sportscasters are named “Biff” or “Tank” or some such.) A grand experiment—but one that didn’t take…we’re back in the fold of Atlanta news and it appears that’s where we will stay.

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Flickhead said...

Robert Vaughn's been in commercials for Metzger Wickersham for years ("Tell them YOU MEAN BUSINESS!"). It's great to hear him say "Metzger Wickersham" because either he had a stroke or has loose dentures or caps -- that name just doesn't roll off his tongue without effort.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

I couldn’t help it. I just had to give you this award:

Keep up the good work.

-- Jeff

Scott said...

Ah, someone's still doing the old "[blank] Alive"bit, eh? I remember when I moved to New York and caught my first local news show, "5 Alive!" I thought: that's not a newscast, that's a STORY on a newscast about the survivors of an Andrean plane crash.