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Television: Finding good things to watch during the day can be a challenge

Newton Minow, a Kennedy-era chairman of the Federal Communications Commission once described television at a “vast wasteland.”He must have been watching daytime TV.

Being able to watch it is a talent in itself. My odd schedule gives me the chance to watch television during all day parts.

Daytime is the most challenging, especially if you’re trying to watch something of substance on a free station such as Channels 3, 6, 10, 17, and 29.

Five people save the morning and afternoon from being utterly contemptible. They are Kelly Ripa, Ryan Seacrest, Hoda Kotb, Jenna Bush Hager, and Rachael Ray. In a pinch, I could add a few others to the list – Judge Judy Sheindlin, who has a new show about to debut, Drew Carey, and the various local newspeople that provide respite from the endless prattle, chatter, and palaver that forms the basis of most daytime fare.

The problem with it is it’s just plain vapid. It conveys a fake chirpiness that becomes downright cloying when you see/hear now empty, formulaic, and inane most conversation on morning programs is.

I can get through Kelly Clarkson and others who want to keep things congenial and jovial and stay away from the deep end of the topic pool, but in general, daytime television drives me to the bookshelf, to housework, to neglected real work that has deadlines that keep getting closer, or to my car to be whisked someplace television can’t find me.

But don’t you know it can. Diners and breakfast joints, and just about any restaurant these days are equipped with televisions. Just when I was so happy to flee from Tamron Hall or Joy Behar, there they are on the wall of where I was hoping to read while eating my spinach-feta omelet with rye toast and lettuce and tomato in lieu of potatoes (although I love potatoes).

Here’s the problem I have. People are just not witty any more. They natter away without saying anything truly funny, substantive, or revealing about who they are under their personas.

If only the idle chitchat triggered a modicum of interest on any level.

That’s why I like Ripa and Seacrest and turn at 10 a.m. to NBC’s “Today” to see Kotb and Hager.

Either of those combinations can have guests that spout the same trivia you can hear several places on any morning or afternoon. It’s when the mikemates talk to each other I sense a spark and feel entertained.

Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest both have active lives that include a lot of people and a lot of experiences. My favorite part of their show is listening to them talk about what each the night before, even if all they did was stay home. They convey the idea of a full life, crowded with interesting occasions. They are the perfect pair to derive vicarious pleasure from.

In addition to their byplay, which includes shrewd observation, sarcastic comments, and a sense of worldliness, Kelly is brilliant at saying something that sounds benign and innocent but that has the right touch of venom to make it more amusing and demonstrate she’s nobody’s fool.

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager have a different kind of conversation, but they are worth listening to when they speak like friends to each other about things they are going through at home, aty work, in the world, whatever.

Kotb and Hager have the perfect touch. They seem like neighbors who get together for coffee and a light breakfast after the kids are off to school.

The bonus is both women are smart. There’s some insight in what they say.

Besides, Jenna Hager loves books and authors, and you can see how real her knowledge and enthusiasm is, something rare in a cookie-cutter world of daytime TV personalities.

Rachael Ray has no sidekick, but she is so good at speaking directly into the camera and giving the impression she is talking to you one-on-one, her script is delivered as if it was a conversation.

Ray gives the impression of being down-to-earth, unimpressed with her fame and following, and totally happy with making things she can share from kitchen.

No one on daytime television seems more real, more what-you-see-is who-I-am than Ray. She has a bouncy way of entertaining while speaking of ordinary things in an ordinary. She is also unique among hosts of cooking shows for really showing, demonstrating, and explaining the steps that go into the simple dishes she teaches people to prepare for themselves. I feel as if I’m learning something I can practice when I watch Ray. Most other foodies are like math teachers. They rattle off their recipes, rush through steps and never takes time Ray does in showing how she folds one food into another or stirs something, or wraps something for cooking.

About the only other place I see exchanges as brisk and diverting as those between Ripa and Seacrest, Kotb and Hager, and Ray to her audiences, is the 9 a.m. segment of Channel 29’s “Good Day Philadelphia when Karen Hepp, Alex Holley, Sue Serio, Mike Jerrick, and others, sometimes including Thomas Drayton discuss a news story or popular phenomenon they deem worthy of comment.

I find the “Good Day” crew smart and thoughtful while also being glibly entertaining. I also enjoy a noon show featuring Holley and Drayton riffing on videos and other matters, some crazy enough to merit Darwin Awards. That show reprises at 11:30 p.m.

Occasionally, I’ll wend my way to Judge Judy and am usually rewarded by hearing her issue some hilarious rebuke or by watching her use, and explain, her logical, common-sense approach to her main job as judge.

I enjoy game shows and would probably be a natural viewer of “The Price is Right” if I wasn’t so put off by what the contestants wear to be on television. (I realize they don’t know for sure whether they’ll be on TV, but I have an aversion to the sloppiness of American clothing. Steve Wilkos and Maury Povich have guests that dress better than the “Price is Right” folks. Drew Carey does fine job as host of “Price,” but I can’t get interested in or root for people who look as if cats dragged them to the studio.

There is one quiz show that makes me pause and watch an entire episode when my remote lands on it. That’s “25 Words or Less,” an old-fashioned show in tone and production that features Meredith Vieira as host, four celebrities, and two contestants who compete over who can get teammates to guess five words while using the fewest possible clues.

Wayne Brady keeps “Let’s Make a Deal” hopping, but the game itself doesn’t hold my attention. I’d rather seek out Alex Trebek on “Classic Concentration” or Gene Rayburn on “The Match Game.”

The show I avoid the most are the ones in which panels, usually all woman panels, talk about topics and issues of the day.

Whoopi Goldberg can be logical on “The View,” and Joy Behar can be funny, but I don’t find it worth waiting for the sporadic moments when Goldberg and Behar shine to sit through an entire show,

The reason is I hear babble unaccompanied by authority.

That’s what panelists on “The View,” “The Talk,” “The Real,” and similar shows remind me of, parrots, because I rarely hear an original or interesting comment of opinion, just a rehash of the latest backyard fence squabble on CNN or Fox News Channel.

The shows I mentioned are editorial by definition. Panelists are hired to speak their minds. They do that, but rarely do I hear anything that hasn’t been bruited elsewhere.

I find “The View,” “The Talk,” etc. loaded with inanities, begged issues, partisan rant, and opinion offered as if it was fact.On occasions when I’ve been forced to watch – those doctors’ waiting rooms, those diners – I was stricken more with panelists’ ignorance and kneejerk spouting that I was impressed with anything they uttered.

Tamron Hall does better research than her “View” or “Talk” colleagues, but her show exemplifies two things I loathe on any program. One is the tone of intensity Hall uses to introduce every segment. She comes across as a latter-day Donahue who hasn’t been informed that format was ushered out 25 years ago.

The other is bias. You know exactly the guests Hall sides with and can tell which she’ll dismiss or ignore entirely.

The haughty favoritism might work if Hall came across as an authority on anything she covers. She isn’t. She’s just another ideologue.At 11 a.m., I more often than not turn to Channel 10 for its local newscast.

In the afternoon, I can enjoy Kelly Clarkson in a way I don’t enjoy morning’s Drew Barrymore or Ellen DeGeneres on the show that follows Clarkson’s.

Clarkson doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a curious person who likes talking to people who happen to be her guests. Her show doesn’t have the edge Ripa and Seacrest’s does, but she is amiable. DeGeneres is just a sadist. I always hated her games and competitions. They are meant to be degrading, which is why I say Ellen is a sadist.

Early morning folks can catch reruns of “Perry Mason,” “Matlock,” and other vintage shows on MeTV. They often become a haven.Especially when the alternative is Pat Robertson!

Bialik is right for ‘Jeopardy!’

Mayim Bialik is doing a great job as the host of “Jeopardy!”

She is smooth, efficient, and personable, and her wardrobe, while not yet first class, has improved markedly.

Of course, Bialik comes to the show at an opportune time. Viewers are looking less at the host that at Matt Amodio, the graduate student from New Haven (read Yale) who has an amazing range of knowledge and parlays Daily Doubles into dollar amounts his opponents can’t hope to match.

In about 35 shows, Amodio has amassed around $1.5 million in winnings. He is enjoying the second longest run as “Jeopardy!” champion, surpassing James Holzhauer and inching up on Ken Jennings.

Amodio’s bashfulness and obvious delight in how well he’s doing also works in “Jeopardy’s” favor.

Polec wins Lotte Lenya Competition

Andrew Polec, who starred in London’s “Bat Out Of Hell” and gave an amazing concert at Bucks County Playhouse this summer, won this year’s Lotte Lenya Competition for singing the works of Miss Lenye’s husband, composer Kurt Weill. The victory includes a $20,000 prize.Polec, who lives in Buckingham, is the son of Don Polec, who for several years, contributed creatively delightful stories about unusual people at events for Channel 6.

Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.

 


Source: Berkshire mont

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