American TV

I wasn't much of a TV enthusiast back in Slovenia. There was a period of a few years when I didn't even have a TV, and I didn't miss one. When I needed that kind of entertainment, I went to the movies. Some time later, and largely due to influence from my girlfriend - now my wife - we did get a TV, but I avoided watching it. The reason I avoided it is because, for the most part, the TV programming in Slovenia is worthless. It's not like there aren't enough channels - most cable packages carry 40 or 50 or so. But the problem in Europe is that there are so many language barriers. Most of the channels are in other languages you don't speak, where movies and shows are all synchronized (sometimes badly) into the foreign language. If you are Slovenian and you speak one foreign language well, say English, the channels you can watch are limited to the ones in English and the ones in Slovenian. Apart from National Geographic and Discovery channels, the channels in English are mostly news networks like CNN, which are unwatchable populist crap, and MTV and VH1, which to me are like radio, except more annoying.

The Slovenian channels are full of low quality local programming, which for me is mostly unwatchable. Rarely, in the evenings, there's some first rate Hollywood stuff; frequently, during the evenings and afternoons, there is second rate Hollywood stuff; and most of the time, during the day, there is third-rate soap operas from Argentina and Mexico.

The safest bet is National Geographic or Discovery Channel, but National Geographic shows boring wildlife documentaries most of the time, and Discovery Channel has either the Scrapheap Challenge or American Chopper - the two boring-est shows ever.

So, that's what the TV is like in Slovenia. You probably understand how I was able to go a few years without TV and didn't even miss it.

But boy, is American TV different.

Most importantly, there is no language barrier. This means that if your cable package has 60 channels, that means 60 channels you can actually watch. And boy, do you have a selection. There's a channel dedicated to just showing what's currently playing on all the other channels; it's the TV Guide Network. Practically no matter when you turn on the TV - and probably no matter what your taste is - if you just switch to the TV Guide Network and look at all the shows and movies currently playing, you're going to find something you don't want to miss; and you're going to want to watch it. And it's not just Seinfeld reruns and five year old second-rate Hollywood stuff; you get to see big movies that were just recently playing in Slovenian theatres. Some channels that come in better cable packages show recent popular movies without any commercials. Are you into the Simpsons kind of humor? No problem, there's Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy and South Park, several episodes each, several of them in one night. You like Star Trek, or Stargate Atlantis? No problem, the Sci Fi channel has whole day marathons of that.

Needless to say, since I've been here, the time I've been spending in front of the TV has skyrocketed. In Slovenia, turning off the TV was really easy. Most of the time, there was nothing very interesting on anyway. But here, oh boy. If you're a fan of Stargate, how do you stop watching when you find yourself in the middle of an all day marathon of episodes you haven't yet seen? Then the next day you're eating breakfast, and there's Bicentennial Man, based on the excellent novel by Isaac Asimov; I had never even heard of the movie, so I have to watch that. And just when you're done shedding tears for Andrew Martin at the end of that film, they hit you with "2010".

At some point, you have to gather the will power to stop watching in the middle of something you really like, just because you can't spend your entire day watching TV.

That's the difference between television in the United States and television in Slovenia. In Slovenia, you want to turn off the TV; in the U.S., you don't want to.


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