A Vaster Wasteland
I have digital cable, and thank God too, because I don't watch any network TV anymore. I watch "The Simpsons"...and that's about it. I never got into "Arrested Development", which I think is a show that I'd find amusing, in large part because it's on at the same time as the Sunday night NFL games. But beyond that, I don't watch any network offering. 97% of network TV shows can be lumped into 3 categories. You have the sitcom featuring a dipshit father married to a way out-of-his-league wife who battles with his appalling children. You have the medical shows, where people who once enjoyed lives full of promise, hopes, and dreams, are reduced to corpses and/or lab animals for the show's heroes to exhume, dissect, and pontificate over. Then you have the cop/lawyer shows, where we see one of the greatest creations of Western civilization, the Rule of Law, treated like an obstacle course for the clever, ruthless, and amoral among us to overcome on their way to riches and glory.
So I turn instead to cable TV. I watch Food Network, and the History Channel. I watch BBC America (an example of socialism that actually WORKS). I used to watch European soccer until we dropped that channel, alas. I watch weirdo movies on the Independent Film Channel.
Comcast recently added a feature called "On Demand", where you can order up shows from the menu and watch them at your leisure. This is good stuff. They usually have a couple "Monty Python" episodes to pick from, you can watch 10-minute recaps of the weeks NFL action (especially satisfying for we Steeler fans) and a wide assortment of movies. And it's all free. Well, there's no charge for selecting a show--we cable subscribers know that the words "cable" and "free" don't belong together.
The other night I was checking out the On Demand listings and they had a new tab for "Fitness". Hey, I'm trying to get fit (and I've lost about 20 pounds since I began my poker hiatus) so I checked them out. Most of the shows were 10-30 minute aerobic programs. Hmm. I selected one, and was soon watching an instructor and two assistants working out. In rather revealing outfits. The main instructor had a bright yellow tank top and black shorts that might've been sprayed on her. The one assistant had abs that looked like they'd been sculpted by Michaelangelo. If you were asked by a police artist to describe the third woman, you would almost certainly begin by saying, "Well, she had absolutely INCREDIBLE bazooms!".
I watched this show for about 5 minutes, but the only exercise I got was when I slid a bit forward in my chair to get a better look. I quickly got a grip on myself (and not in THAT way, you sickos) and stopped the program. Slavering over scantily clad women may be a nice hobby, but if I want to get in shape I need to do less gawking and more sweating. I continued my search.
And found a tab titled "Gambling". Hmm, you can gamble thru your TV now? I clicked the tab and was rewarded with about 8 listings for "Texas Hold'Em". Indeed? I selected it, and what I saw was a poker show featuring Mike Matusow, David Sklansky, Todd Brunson, and some TV producer guy acting as moderator. They watched and commented as a game featuring six players was played. As you might imagine, they had my rapt attention.
Though, I have to say, not for long. Each episode was only 11 minutes long, and with a quick intro at the beginning (and, before that, an anti-gambling commercial, the one with the guy doing all the magical card tricks? Doesn't showing someone doing incredible tricks like that ENCOURAGE people to pick up a deck?) you only got to see a few hands per show.
And, sad to say, the quality of these hands was awful. For the life of me, I don't understand why they had a show like this, featuring 2 pros and perhaps the most respected author on the subject, commenting on play that was like Party on a Saturday night. If it was informative to hear Matusow explain why the guy on the button should have raised with his A-9 suited instead of calling, it wasn't so informative the next 5 times it happened. I remember one hand where a guy holding top pair after the flop checked his hand when there were straight and flush possibilites out there, and Brunson said, "That was a horrible play", and Matusow shakes his head sadly and says, "Yeah, that was horrible", and I thought to myself, "Then why the hell did you SHOW it? And, more to the point, the hell am I doing WATCHING it?"
Well, there were a few good things to it (I admit I've only watched like 3 or the 8 or so shows). There was a brief but informative discussion between Sklansky and Matusow about playing AK. It was funny to see Sklansky, who had written seminal works about poker, struggle to come up with a definition of "semi-bluff". And one of the players was rather nice to watch. I believe her name is Brande Roderick, she was one of the celebrity players featured during the first WPT Celebrity Invitation event (the tournament Layne Flack won, to my mind the worst WPT show of the first 2 years). I don't know how Brande qualifies as a celebrity, since I've no idea what she does, but was she does do very nicely is wear a light blue dress and sit there looking very blonde and tan. She lost a hand where she checked down an 8-high and lost to a guy holding a 9-high, and Brunson and Matusow couldn't believe neither made any sort of play at the pot. Not much of a tutorial, alas.
Matusow was perfectly behaved and rather good with his commentary, as he was when he was the guest host on the "Ultimate Poker Challenge". I guess it's only when he sits down with chips himself that he turns into an animal. Brunson was I think a bit dismayed at the play yet couldn't rouse himself into outrage. Sklansky made his oracular pronouncements yet didn't get ticked when Matusow would, at times, gently disagree with him. All in all, not a complete waste of time, but pretty darn close. I'll probably catch the last few shows tonight, as I feel lousy and fear I'm getting the flu or a major cold. I shall keep you posted. About the shows, not my medical condition. Like you care.