Where to turn for those friends you can turn to

January 04, 1995|By MIKE LITTWIN

The new year has begun, and it should be a time of hope and joy. Instead, many people are confused, hurt, saddened, alarmed.

What else can anyone expect after the Great Affiliate Swap?

You watch TV, say, a minimum of 50 to 60 hours a week. And now the local TV channels have turned your world upside down -- and with scant concern for your feelings.

You don't know how they did it.

You don't know why they did it.

Worst of all, you don't know what they did with your favorite TV shows.

Meaning every night, and some days, you find yourself desperately -- and not always successfully -- searching for the shows you used to watch. For example, I know a person, who, just the other night, missed "The Nanny."

Confused, hurt, saddened, alarmed? You bet. Erik Estrada just happened to be making a guest appearance that night.

In order to help, I have installed, at great personal expense, an 800-phone number for those in distress.

Just dial 1-800-I-AM-DUMB.

Operators are waiting. For absolutely no charge, they'll share my secret for dealing with the confusion of three channels changing network affiliations simultaneously (or "all at once.")

Here's the deal. You could write the new lineup on your palm, so it's always with you. Or you could just follow the listings in the newspaper, although that would require actual reading.

Or you could do this. Say you're looking for "The Cosby Mysteries." You get the remote control. You turn on the TV (using the power button). You hit Channel 2 (which looks very much like this: 2). Cosby's not there. Do you panic? Not with my method. You then slowly and carefully hit Channel 11 (which you get by twice punching in the 1). Bingo. There's old Coz himself.

Should we review?

If the show's not on Channel 2, you hit the remote . . . and, whew, there's Cosby on Channel 11.

See, it's not Fermat's Theory after all.

Of course, it isn't always that easy either. There are special circumstances, in which you might -- and I'm not suggesting you would, but let's just say so for argument's sake -- want to watch something from CBS' prime-time lineup. In that case, you might hit Channel 2, then Channel 11 and then Channel 13, and voila (or "look, here it is") -- "Hearts Afire."

One of the local channels sent its crack news team to a house to see how a typical family was dealing with the turmoil (or "mess").

Question to typical viewer: How are you dealing with all this mess?

Typical viewer's response: What time does the 11 o'clock news come on now?

Not only does the 11 o'clock news still come on at 11, it still comes on the same station it always did. That's confusing, too.

Here's an example. Although Channel 2 used to be NBC and is now ABC, it still features Stan and Mary Beth, friends you can turn to, doing the local news. But Channel 2 now also has Peter Jennings, who may or may not be your friend, doing the national news.

I'll confess that although I haven't been that confused by the switch, I have been a little bemused (or "weirded out") by this friends-you-can-turn-to business.

Do the local newsboys actually think we believe they're our friends? Do they really think that we warm up to their sit-in-front-of-the-fire scenes wherein your favorite anchor delivers words of seasonal cheer?

Here's my idea of a friend -- someone who will give you 50 bucks till the end of the week. Call Channel 2 and see if Stan Stovall could spare you $50.

The thing is, you shouldn't be confused about local news because the shows are basically all the same. Take your pick.

They open with a killing/fire/kidnapping. The anchors look concerned. A weeping mother is interviewed. An anchorperson jokes with the weather guy. The weather guy says the weather isn't as bad as you'd think -- unless there's snow, in which case it's much worse than you think. There's health "news." There's a world wrap, which generally takes an entire minute. There's the sports, with the obligatory bloopers. And it wouldn't be the news without a cute ending, often at a zoo, after which everyone smiles.

Of course, the anchors are smiling. They already know what channel they're on.

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