There's nothing like a few weeks in the Old Country to put things in perspective. Put it this way: if you think TV here is bad, you haven't seen anything yet. Upcoming on CBS: Armed and Famous, where real celebrities are trained as police before going out on the job.
No doubt that series will end up on some English-speaking channel here one day - if there are any left. After a short trip to the States, we returned to find our fellow Anglos up in arms about the imminent removal of two English-language stations - BBC Prime from HOT and Star World from YES - that have stirred the usually dormant Anglo viewing community.
It's good to see that the move has served as a wake-up call to the masses, since the great cable/satellite TV rip-off has been going on for some time now. Apparently people have forgotten that Star World was unavailable on YES for years, while the dropping of TCM and the Cartoon Network didn't seem to get very many people incensed, at least not enough to make HOT take notice and rescind the evil decree.
So is there any hope for success this time? Most likely only if viewers are ready to go the limit and consider going cold turkey for a while. That option might actually not be such a bad one, considering the alternatives available. Our colleague David Shamah has already outlined ways of adapting one's computer to be able to watch current US TV shows screened by the networks the day after they're shown abroad.
Meanwhile, while the legal implications are at the viewer's own risk, Web site www.tv-links.co.uk offers the ability to see a whole slew of shows, including some new ones, on your computer. Although watching TV by computer isn't quite as comfortable, it's free and no one pulls your favorite shows off the air at the blink of an eye.
While this column wishes the current revolt well, and supports it fully, we can only hope that the uprising is not too little, too late, and that the current communications minister - who does not even have a television - will finally put some teeth into the hands of the regulators who are supposed to monitor these robber barons.
THAT SAID, for now, we're stuck with what we've got, in our case HOT, which recently filled the Sunday night 10 p.m. slot on Xtra HOT, where Life on Mars previously ruled, with the rather annoying What About Brian?
We caught the first episode on our return from abroad and can't for the life of us fathom why it's been given a second season in the States, other than the beautiful people populating this series about a self-described "seventh wheel" who hangs out with three other couples, all wondering when he's finally going to find a nice girl and settle down.
Perhaps it's the familiarity of the cast, particularly Barry Watson (7th Heaven) as Brian O'Hara, the hunk at the center of this show, naturally based in California where everyone has great houses, great jobs, and great sex.
Well, almost everyone. Brian's first set of friends, Dave and Dina, have three kids. "Kids are awesome," explains Dave, "especially if you're not into having sex." Then there's Brian's other friend, Adam (Matthew Davis of Legally Blonde), who just proposed to Marjorie (Sarah Lancaster of Everwood), with whom Brian's discovered he's in love. The last couple is Brian's own sister Nicole (Rosanna Arquette, looking about 60) and her Latino husband.
The opening episode revolved around Brian's developing passion for Marjorie and his attempt to dislodge himself from a relationship with "Cargirl," a horrific pick-up named Karen he met when he rammed her car.
"You're everybody's friend - everybody loves you" Marjorie tells Brian, just a few hours before he and she end up smooching in a closet. Meanwhile Dina wants to have an open relationship with Dave, whose attempts at rekindling their sex life on the kitchen table are interrupted by their daughter. Time to child-proof the kitchen!
Ultimately, however, we found ourselves caring not a whit whether all these Thirtysomethings had more or less sex, survived in their hi-tech jobs or learned how to turn off the wispy guitar music that starts up every time
The series, created by J.J. Abrams, he of Lost and Alias fame, makes references to serial killer Ted Bundy, and rips off "the pact" from Seinfeld. With little soul of its own, it's hard to muster much enthusiasm for these La-La-Land lovelies. In the end, we don't really give a darn about Brian.