Screensavors: Blue (collar) on demand

HOT has hit upon a new plan to shake just about every shekel it can get out of us: It's called video on demand.

Message to HOT subscribers: Make like a cow and moo! It seems that our cable company has hit upon a new plan to shake just about every shekel it can get out of us: it's called video on demand. The service initially offered movies and specials of various kinds but has expanded to include foreign series, local Israeli series, children's programming and, most recently, offerings from the HBO network. In case you didn't check your bill lately, digital cable subscribers - the only ones who can get the service for now - pay NIS 12.90 a month for it, even if they don't order any VOD programming. To access the HBO "library," a HOT customer service rep told us, one has to pay a further NIS 19.90 per month. While for now there's enough on "regular" TV to make it easy to resist temptation, recent reports hint at a plan to put some of our favorite programming - such as Gilmore Girls or other popular US series - into VOD format. That means big bucks to see your favorite shows. Want to see the new season of The Sopranos, for example? That'll cost you NIS 32.80 a month. Add it up, and we're talking a nice hunk of cold cash for HOT porridge. Still, when we saw the HBO deal advertised, we were excited - after all, who doesn't want to see programming like The Sopranos or Six Feet Under, even to catch ones we've missed? And at least it seemed to indicate that HOT is going after better foreign programming - a category sadly lacking lately. So it was that when a preview of a new HBO series turned up at the office - Lucky Louie, which debuted last summer in the US - we decided to give it a go. Half an hour later, we were still cringing from the misogynous attempt at humor that seems to qualify for HBO status more because of its non-stop vulgarity than for being anywhere near intelligent. Created by comedian Louis C.K. (The Dana Carvey Show), the show focuses on Louie, his wife Kim and their daughter Lucy. While harboring a few traces of both The Honeymooners - oafish husband, wise-cracking wife - and even Roseanne (blue-collar couple with money problems), Lucky Louie walks a weird tightrope between traditional family comedy and raw, filthy dialogue. The opening sequence, in which little Lucy and Louie are having breakfast at 5 a.m. and the little girl keeps asking "why?" after everything he says was wonderful, with Louie finally explaining that the reason the economy is in such a mess and he has to work at a muffler shop is "because God is dead and we're alone." "OK," says the finally satisfied four-year-old. But then there are the scenes involving Louie hiding in the closet with a men's magazine, or of Louie and his idiotic work buddies discussing their sex lives in Neanderthalese. "Women are bad... dangerous," explains Rich before heading off to the bathroom to sell weed to a co-worker. When Kim (Pamela Adlon of King of the Hill), apparently realizing how horny her hubby is, promises a week straight of sex, it turns out she's got more than loving on her mind. Desperate to have another child, she jumps Louie's bones before he can stop her, explaining that in their current money situation, he sees her as "a chamber of financial ruin." While it's easy to sympathize with Louie's concerns about having another child ("I feel like a lobster walking into trap after trap") and there's genuine chemistry between the two leads, in the end this comedy chooses the low, low road of shock humor rather than focusing just a little more on the family stuff. A perfect example had the two cashing their paychecks - hers for $1,200, his for $118 - paying their bills, and getting ready to go out to dinner with what's left. When that turned out to be a nickel, Louie romantically asks Kim if she at least wanted some gum from the machine at the check-cashing place. However, when the nickel gets stuck, it's back to foul language and that closet again. Too bad. As for HOT VOD - if this series is a sample of what's in their vault, we'll keep our wallets closed for now. After all, just because they want you to pay for something doesn't mean you have to or that it's good. Meanwhile, HOT customers should do what they can to stop becoming cash cows.