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Author Topic: Quality in public broadcasting.
Victor Von Mediaboy
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posted 08 August 2001 05:29 PM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I've been watching a lot of PBS lately. Almost nightly I get blown away by the quality, originality, and sometimes even the audacity of the programming. It's hard to believe that, in the crass, commercial, corporate US there can be such a beacon of great TV like PBS.

This week I watched Bill Moyer's documentary about Joseph Campbell, and his documentary about dying. There was a great episode of Scientific American Frontiers last night about nutrition and fitness. Every night they have the best tv newscasts. On the weekend I'm glued to their public affairs shows, and Frontline is some of the best investigative journalism on tv. Great movies on there too, and wonderful feature documentaries. Even their website it top-notch.

Are any other babblers PBS-addicts? Anybody else wish public broadcasting in Canada could be this good?


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 08 August 2001 06:15 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I watched PBS once and I swear to god I almost went nuts because they were constantly begging for contributions. The US government really needs to fund them more.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Pimji
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posted 08 August 2001 07:02 PM      Profile for Pimji   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
True. I'm glued to CBC Radio 1, which too is suffering from something I'm not sure what., could be funding. I've noticed the programing has really gone to the dogs. It's pretty fluffy now. I don't know why they have developed a love affair with the Fraser Intitute in every one of thier political segments.
From: South of Ottawa | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
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posted 08 August 2001 08:03 PM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Some PBS stations are better about their funding drives than others. I'd rather put up with a few funding drive interruptions than commercials. The CBC panders to advertisers too much, IMHO.
From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rabble
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 283

posted 08 August 2001 09:46 PM      Profile for rabble        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
NOVA rules.
From: rabble | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Croesus_Krept
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posted 08 August 2001 09:54 PM      Profile for Croesus_Krept   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thankfully, I gave up watching tv more than a few years ago... Now it's just the odd bad american movie, can't get any international flicks here in hicksville... Remember kiddies, when you fail at everything else and the gov't, corp and uni refuses to publish you - there is always purgatory: you can become a tv writer, ha, ha, ha... Then you can be proud to be a successful person, and you won't have to be shy at all about being just another money-grub, almost as immune to hypocrisy as pop-stars and entertainment moguls...

I say: f--k TV to hell!

cr..s.s


From: Taiwan | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 13 August 2001 02:06 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think CBC Radio's Ideas is a truly awesome program. Not every program is good, but they often are extremely good. And there's nothing like it anywhere else. It's a shame that funding for this show has been cut too. Some of the Massey lectures are classics in their own right.

PBS's recent and much touted Jazz series by Ken Burns was actually commercial trash in my opinion.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
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posted 13 August 2001 02:09 PM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
"Welcome to Notions, the radio show with topics not good enough to be Ideas." - Old Air Farce radio sketch.
From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Dawna Matrix
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posted 13 August 2001 02:15 PM      Profile for Dawna Matrix     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
"This is Havi Toomuch, host of CounterProductive, reminding you that everybody has a price, and you're worth nothing."

-Fukermann


From: the stage on cloud 9 | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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posted 13 August 2001 02:16 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
We admire the Lehrer Report a lot -- only very occasionally do they shock me by reminding me that they are, after all, only Americans.

We seesaw back and forth between the Buffalo PBS station and TVO, depending, I have to admit, on which one is running the best British imports at any given time. The science and nature shows are fantastic, although sometimes I feel I've had enough of watching the food chain working itself out murderously for a while.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
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posted 13 August 2001 02:22 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Dawna, you may be being a tad harsh on Avi et al. but I confess I have always found the show distasteful for some reason. Its formula really bugs me. It's not much better than that CNN show with the right wing people facing off against the left wing people. Or Bill Maher's PI. I don't think the level of discussion is terribly high, and Avi keeps to all the discourse-cramping commercial formulae -- keep comments short, stick to sharp "story lines" (if you don't readily fit into the right/left categories you won't be on the show), etc. And OTOH I don't think Avi works on TV. He's uncomfortable with the camera. That makes him seem sincere, I guess.

On Ideas: quality has been dropping lately, OTOH most of the shows are old repeats.

[ August 13, 2001: Message edited by: rasmus_raven ]


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Trinitty
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posted 13 August 2001 02:36 PM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I like counterSpin, I haven't been able to watch it lately... no cable. It's the only show where I see Canadian politics and issues discussed.

I like Avi's style, I especially enjoyed the way he handled the sanctions against Iraq issue with American UN Weapons inspectors and bureaucrats. I do hate the commercial interruptions.

It will be interesting to see how Mesley does with the new "This hour has Seven Days" starting this fall.

I watch and listen to CBC everyday.

I don't think I can get PBS, I watch TVO all the time, Great Canadian Parks is a wonderful show.... I learn a lot about my own country!

Trin


From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
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Babbler # 554

posted 13 August 2001 02:44 PM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Kinda funny: I get two PBS stations with my rabbit ears, but TVOntario (and even Global) barely come through.


My favourite show of this genre is The Editors. It runs on PBS stations near the border. They get an equal number of US and Canadian pundits to discuss the news of the week. It's shot in Montreal. The governor of Vermont is almost always one of the pundits, and he's really great. Very level-headed.


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Dawna Matrix
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Babbler # 156

posted 13 August 2001 05:44 PM      Profile for Dawna Matrix     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Me? Too hard on Avi Lewis? That's the Fukermann boys, not me. I'd bring his Nabob to him everyday if I could.

There's no too 'hard on' in comedy.


From: the stage on cloud 9 | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jared
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Babbler # 803

posted 13 August 2001 10:05 PM      Profile for Jared     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
PBS's recent and much touted Jazz series by Ken Burns was actually commercial trash in my opinion.

I didn't think it was that bad. I was working in a record store when the series debuted, and it bordered on crass how much cross-promotion we were doing...not only the various albums, but all other sorts of merch as well. Ergo, I was expecting typical commercialized, dumbed-down Americana, but was pleasantly surprised. I could see how nose-in-the-air purists could be put off, and it didn't really teach me much I didn't already know (though I didn't really expect to), but a lot of the archival footage was a delight. My only gripe is how they condensed the last forty years into essentially one half of an episode. Considering how this venture was supposed to be the magic elixir which "saved" jazz as a genre, I could think of worse things than introducing the public to up-and-comers rather than exclusively legends who, by-and-large, are already dead.

The problem with PBS is that they are not above doing little more than propogating on behalf of their sponsors. For instance, a while back I watched three programs, one on the Nixon visit to China, one on the Gulf War, and one multi-part biography of Ronald Reagan. With all three programs, I was reaching for a gag supressant little more than fifteen minutes in. The term "puff piece" does not do proper justice regarding the Reagan program. Nixon was a great visionary of phenomenal intuition and intellect (OK, that's why he taped himself and then just plum forgot). Norman "Friendly Fire" Schwartzkopf is the second coming of Christ. Two of the shows were, at least in part, sponsored by Carnagie-Mellon university, a well-known Republican training ground. It slips my mind who sponsored the other, but it was in the same vein.

Put me down with the other CBC Radio lovers, both One and Two. I fall asleep with Brave New Waves on every weeknight (Patti Schmidt's voice is the aural equivilant of a sleeping pill. That's not an insult, it's cool). Radio One is always on in my car, and it never ceases to amaze how they manage to dig up cool odds-&-ends on a daily basis. For example, today they played an "en francais" version of that seminal beach blanket hit "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini." After hearing such a gold nugget of kitsch, colours just seem brighter.

By the way, could someone please let me know who Fukermann is? The name seems to have popped up several times.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 13 August 2001 10:09 PM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Jared, about Ken Burns... you're right, it wasn't that bad. I wouldn't have reacted so strongly if I hadn't been told how wonderful it was by gazillions of gushing people. I'll dig up some old reviews for you, btw, that shed some light on it.
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
free radical
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Babbler # 1200

posted 13 August 2001 11:52 PM      Profile for free radical   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
www.counterpunch.org has a critical review (by editor Jeffrey St. Clair, a jazz buff himself) of that aggravating Burns show on jazz.

I could not stand the trumped up efforts to make jazz appear as not only quintessentially "American" but as a supreme art form.

In a crass commercial culture like the US many have wondered if it was capable of "art". It has no independent Ministry of Culture, which is sequestered in the trade ministry, wouldn't ya know?

The only indigenous art form it produced was abstract expressionism, whose "success" depended heavily on big infusions of cash from the CIA.

Burns did the same thing with his series on baseball, even giving it a philosophical elevation. I wanted to puke. Is there something wrong with just enjoying these outpourings of popular culture for their own sakes? Must they be art and philosophy?

OTOH if you liked it: de gustibus non est disputandum

PBS has fallen very low from its halcyon days when good and critical documentaries were almost the norm. Nowadays it's cooking shows, nature programs, dance, dance, dance, music, daft British comedies, American triumphalism, investment advice (!), self-help shows and my all-time favourite, rebroadcast at least three times: "How to get what you really, really, really, really, really, really want." - a pure example of American infantilism.

Now you are lucky to get two decent documentaries a year, besides all the old war documentaries. I tell ya, this is not good food for a growing mind. It's intellectual popcorn.

[ August 13, 2001: Message edited by: free radical ]


From: Vienna | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 14 August 2001 01:31 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Two more reviews:

Burned

Not quite all that jazz

Here's the one free radical mentioned:

Ken Burns Jazz

[ August 14, 2001: Message edited by: rasmus_raven ]


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jared
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posted 14 August 2001 01:36 AM      Profile for Jared     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This haughty criticism bugs me. Ideally, I would have liked to have recieved more info from the jazz series too. But I realize that it existed mainly to illustrate the rudiments of the genre to those who wouldn't know Duke Ellington from a hole in the wall. I prefer to think of myself as the solar system's penultimate music snob, but I was fairly placated regarding the series. Remember, this is Ken Burns; the James Cameron of doc directors. It could have been much worse (and I hated baseball).

quote:
OTOH if you liked it: de gustibus non est disputandum

I don't know Latin, and I realize that I'm your intellectual inferior (congrats btw, I by and large shovel dirt for a living), but I have no idea what this means.

[ August 14, 2001: Message edited by: Jared ]


From: Vancouver | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
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posted 14 August 2001 02:07 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Oh Jared, it means "there's no arguing with taste". Here's a secret of mine, Jared:

Show off in Latin

The translations are not entirely reliable, but they're a guide.

I just posted those reviews 'cause I said I would.


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
free radical
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1200

posted 14 August 2001 02:26 AM      Profile for free radical   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sorry, Jared:

it means:

on matters of taste there is no disputing. I think it is from David Hume or someone earlier.

It means I can't tell you that your taste in music or ice cream is wrong. Those are matter s of personal taste and I hope I didn't imply there was anything wrong in your liking the music called jazz.

I love some of it myself, especially Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. I guess that dates me, huh? Modern jazz I find to be too cerebral. de gustibus...

I'm so angry at PBS because I'm old enough to remember what it once was like. Its big decline began in 1989 when George Bush (sr.) began taking money out of the funding the US government gave to CPB, the parent corporation.

Since then, more and more advertising (virtually NONE before) and more and more fund raising breaks.

Sorry - I'm very angry about the whole misuse of the public airwaves (which were originally intended as a vehicle for public enlightenment) for private profit. This includes radio.

TV came into my home in 1948 and I still remember how it was touted as such a great medium for education and source of information for the public in a democracy.

The same thing has happened to the Internet. Six and seven years ago all one heard was a lot of talk about the "information highway" and not a word about e-biz or e-commerce. Now not a word about the superhighway of information and almost total capitulation to the business interests that rule North America. rabble.ca is an honourable exception.

Sorry for my haughty critique.


From: Vienna | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jared
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posted 14 August 2001 02:43 AM      Profile for Jared     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Now I feel horrible. Rasmus, I realized that you would post reviews. Free radical explained himself most succinctly (not that he had to - it's very much his own opinion). I'm just cranky and in the wrong by attempting to stifle free thought. That being said, I do think that the Burns doc was a noble attempt (notwithstanding playing the race card a few times too many) to introduce Jazz 101 to neophytes. Personally, I believe it's a wonderful type of music (and it's best experienced live). My Kid Rock-lovin' pals think I'm sick in the brain for appreciating something so supposedly dated and abstract, but I say fuck 'em (and I do, much to their displeasure ).

And free radical, I've only experienced the modern-day PBS. I assume it was better back in the day. And I very much agree with you regarding PBS' corporatization and solipsistic navel-gazing in order to lure funds.

I was just as haughty - bad day at work. My apologies.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
free radical
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Babbler # 1200

posted 14 August 2001 02:58 AM      Profile for free radical   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Jared:

This could lead to what I call a typical Canadian conversation. Goes like this:

Jared: I was just as haughty as you.
f rad: No. I was more haughty than you.
Jared: No, no, no. I was way more haughty!
etc, etc.

In the US it would go:

Call me haughty and you're dead!

They're killers down there. It's part of their national character. I can suggest several books to read on that topic. Start with "Regeneraton through Violence" by Richard Slotkin, Distinguished Professor of American Studies at Wesleyan U.

Sorry I was so haughty.


From: Vienna | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 14 August 2001 05:28 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Don't feel horrible, Jared. Although, as someone here said, "you're all just text to me" (I don't believe that, btw), you seem like a sweetheart, so I interpret your remarks accordingly. You get the benefit of my doubt.
From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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Babbler # 478

posted 14 August 2001 09:00 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This is so heartwarming to wake up to: y'all got haughty, and then y'all kissed and made up. I'm not being ironic, either, although free rad's typical Canadian etc there gave me a good morning laugh.

I remember liking David Hajdu's article (NYBooks), which keeps returning to the question of whether Burns shifted too quickly from the black roots and geniuses of jazz to the more popularized (and more white) derivatives. But I wondered at the time whether any American creator can, now and for a long time, ever quite get free of this necessarily self-conscious debate, no matter how hard he tries.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 554

posted 14 August 2001 10:19 AM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I seem to remember a different doc on PBS about Jazz. Perhaps it was an episode of The American Experience? Anybody know what I'm talking about?

I don't think I ever saw Ken Burns' doc.


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Trinitty
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Babbler # 826

posted 14 August 2001 11:47 AM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
M'boy, what numbered channels do your PBS stations come in on?

TVO is crystal clear in the Glebe. But I can't seem to find PBS.

Help me Obiwan.


From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 554

posted 14 August 2001 11:53 AM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I get PBS out of Plattsburg on channel 57, and Watertown on channel 18. I live on the 24th floor, facing south. Any station that transmits from the top of Camp Fortune doesn't come in very well because it the signal has to pass through all the concrete of my building. Any signal coming from the south comes in much better.

I believe Plattsburg PBS broadcasts from the top of Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, which is why the signal is so strong for me, being up on the 24th floor like I am.

(Still, when I lived in Windsor, we couldn't pick up ANY Canadian channels, but we could pick up over a dozen American channels. And we kept our tv in the basement of our house too!)


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Trinitty
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 826

posted 14 August 2001 12:04 PM      Profile for Trinitty     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks! Trin will be busy with the bunny tonight!
From: Europa | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Victor Von Mediaboy
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 554

posted 14 August 2001 12:08 PM      Profile for Victor Von Mediaboy   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Plattsburg is WAY better than Watertown. They get the majority of their donations from Montreal. They can afford to buy better shows, and they have some really good local programming. Their Roadside Recipes shows are fantastic. They did a little tour of their favourite restaurants in Montreal, and I almost died from dehydration, my mouth was watering so much.

They also have this show called People Near Here, where they interview "ordinary" people from the area that have really led pretty interesting lives. One time it was this guy who skippers a little tour boat on Lake Champlain. The guy was fascinating. He'd worked as a carnie, been in the Navy, ridden the rails as a hobo, etc. He was SUCH a colourful character. It's the only show I've ever seen that does such in-depth interviews of "ordinary" people.

[ August 14, 2001: Message edited by: Kneel before MediaBoy ]


From: A thread has merit only if I post to it. So sayeth VVMB! | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
Moderator
Babbler # 560

posted 16 August 2001 01:13 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
When I lived in Toronto, I was addicted to the Buffalo PBS station on Saturdays from about 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. because it was all back-to-back cooking shows, and I love those.

But they don't do it that way on the Watertown PBS station, which is what I get here in Kingston, so I hardly watch it anymore. The only TV I usually see now is Newsworld when I'm watching it, or TVO and Treehouse when my kid is watching.

Regarding counterSpin - you're right, it's formula, definitely. But Avi Lewis has such a magnetic personality that I found the show very addictive. I don't think it will do well this season without him. I think he was the draw.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged

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