Screen Savors: More yellow than gold

The sorrows of a HOT subscriber.

tom hanks 88 (photo credit: )
tom hanks 88
(photo credit: )
In the land of TV hype, even what you see isn't always what you get. For several weeks, HOT has been trumpeting the arrival of a new movie channel, HOT Gold, promising all kinds of cinematic goodies. A similar promotional campaign heralded the launching of HOT Kids, a children's channel that began broadcasting recently and turned out to be so uninspiring that even our TV-hungry daughter isn't interested. We're not sure why HOT rushed to bring a new movie channel to its digital service before addressing the absolutely abysmal state of its analog Movie Channel. The level of films there is just awful, with most so bad that people wouldn't watch even if the only other choice were the parade of (mostly) reruns on Channel 1's nighttime programming. Still, after they took away CNN, it was encouraging to see that HOT promised to give its paying-through-the-nose viewers something new, so we looked forward to the new channel. Until we turned it on, that is. There was The Bodyguard, already shown to death on existing HOT movie channels - we think it may even have trickled down to HOT Movies, which is the way of all flesh when it comes to cable. True, HOT Gold offered Borat Sunday night, and there are hints of newer movies in the pipeline, but even Mr. and Mrs. Smith, touted as a big deal, has been shown before. And yes, Saturday night brought the third The Fast and the Furious movie - if that's your idea of a good time - but Monday's listing includes already-screened Volver, The Terminal (shown to death on cable), and at 1:30 p.m. something called Undercover Christmas, apparently involving a lot of wrapping paper. Tuesday night's listing was even more embarrassing: Three Kings, the George Clooney vehicle shown many times on HOT Action, and On Any Given Sunday, the Al Pacino-Cameron Diaz football flick that's also been seen before. Wednesday night? How about the lightweight comedy Laws of Attraction, a Pierce Brosnan clunker, and American Beauty - a fine film, but also nothing we haven't seen before. In short, mostly old stuff, with a niggardly sprinkle of goodies given enough hoopla to make you think you're actually getting something good. On the plus side, HOT Prime is preparing to offer movies that won prizes or were standouts at important festivals, including Sundance. Indeed, HOT Prime, in our view, is the only HOT movie channel that's getting better. The HOT Gold experience so far resembles years past, when HOT would offer a channel ahead of the Academy Awards promising nothing but Oscar winners. Then they'd fill it up with movies which might have won for best lighting, best computerized titles, or any other category that allowed a film already shown on HOT to qualify for this supposedly special channel. We're willing to give HOT Gold a few weeks to improve, but we're hearing from more and more HOT subscribers that there's simply not enough to watch. Having taken away CNN, removed most of the good stuff from the Family Channel, and left us with the awful MGM channel but without TCM, HOT's packages have left too many Anglos cold. If the cable folks are going to call something HOT "Gold", it should glitter with debuts, new formats and other offerings that live up to the name. Otherwise, the owners of the cable goose that has layed golden eggs may find some of us have wised up and taken our shekels to their competitors, or (gasp!) the Internet.