appreciating PBS

I don’t give enough love to PBS. The PBS stations I get on my cable system are part of my channel surfing rotation, but I haven’t sat down and watched that many complete programs.

That changed recently. I have watched two outstanding series.

PBS logoThe science program Nova Wonders was designed for younger people, but as I approach eligibility for Medicare I was fascinated, Hosted by three scientists, all of them people of color and two of them women, the show looked at biology, genetics, astronomy, communication, and other topics. All fascinating stuff.

Then there is Civilizations (note the plural). Each episode has a different take on art, starting with prehistoric art and moving up to the present day. This is not your classic Western Civilization course. The West gets plenty of attention, but so does China, Japan, India, and the Islamic World. The episode on the renaissance used the plural on its title and covered not only Italy but the Islamic renaissance as well.

There’s lots of good stuff on PBS. It deserves more of my attention.


more on immigrants and food

I hope you saw my blog entry on immigrants and food. If not, please do take a look.

There’s more on television on this topic. PBS has a new program called No Passport Required. It is hosted by chef Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, adopted, and raised in Sweden. He immigrated to the United States where he has become a successful restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality.

No Passport RequiredThe program is similar to the show Eden Eats, about which I wrote, in that Samuelsson visits a different city in each episode. Unlike that program, however, Samuelsson visits a single ethnic group in each city, and No Passport Required is a full hour rather than half an hour. This gives him time to delve in-depth into each immigrant community.

Well worth watching.

Another PBS program, related to immigrants though not necessarily food, is “Ellis Island” on the Great Performances series. Composer Peter Boyer combines orchestral music, photography, and the spoken word to provide a moving portrayal of immigrants coming to the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. Boyer says he did not have the immigrant situation of 2018 in mind when composing this work, but he certainly sees the relevance.

The program aired on television at the end of June. You can to stream it or watch on demand until July 27.

Make sure you have a Kleenex within reach at the conclusion.


sticking with nostalgia

The options for television viewing these days are overwhelming. On cable we don’t pay for any of the premium movie channels like HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime, but we still have a huge selection. For streaming services we have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Too many choices.

Netflix logoAdvertising and social media seem to tell me that I really want to watch the new streaming programs such as Glow and Lovers. I’ve tried them. I’m not that impressed.

I prefer the old stuff. I can watch That Seventies Show on Netflix and Family Ties on Amazon Prime.

Those shows are so much more enjoyable to me than the new, seemingly edgy stuff. I hate to think of myself as old-fashioned and stuffy, but gul durn it, that’s what I enjoy.


a simpler time

The options these days for entertainment are overwhelming. If you have cable or satellite, in addition to the basic channels you have the option of HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, Starz, and Epix. If you like to stream you have Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and a whole range of other services. These are services that you can get through your Smart TV, your Blu-ray player, your Roku device, or your tablet, smart phone, or computer.

It was not always so.

College AvenueMy senior year in college, 1974-75, I rented a room off campus in a beautiful old house on College Avenue in Claremont. Somehow I managed to get a portable black and white TV. I think perhaps my parents bought it for me. Claremont sits at the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, so I had access to all of the L.A. television stations via my rabbit-ear antenna and my loop antenna for UHF.

I could flip the dial for the VHF stations or set the VHF tuner to “U” and scan the UHF stations on the separate UHF dial. I think I was able to get three, maybe four, PBS stations. How incredibly cool was that?

I had no complaints. I didn’t think I was missing anything. (Except for a sex life, but that’s a different story.) It was a simpler time.


watching baseball

The Dodgers came to Los Angeles in 1958. I was four years old when the season started. I have been following baseball from that point on. I know a little bit about the game.

In those early days and for many years after that the Dodgers were on the radio on KFI (50,000 watt clear channel station, Earl C. Anthony Incorporated). Wherever you were in the West or the Southwest you could hear KFI and the Dodger games. And, of course, we had Vin Scully. Who better to teach us the game.

Today we have almost every game on TV. Joe Davis is a competent play-by-play guy and Orel Hershiser is a good color man, though he could stand to talk less. On the radio we have Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday, an enjoyable team. But the day of the single broadcaster calling the game on his own is over. Vin was the last of those.

Which is my point here. Too much chatter and too much information these days. Call the game and describe it, but skip the excess commentary. The Angels games (as well as ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and the games on Fox) outline the strike zone for you on the screen. Stop it. Please! I have been following baseball since I was four. (I said that, didn’t I?) I know the strike zone, even if it has shifted a bit over time. And as for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, they seem at times to forget that there is a game on the field that they are supposed to be describing.

But it is still baseball. And I still love watching it.


thoughts on the cancelation of The Chew

Perhaps you saw the news in late May that ABC made the decision to cancel The Chew and replace it with another hour of Good Morning America. Since I write so much about food and cooking here I would be remiss if I didn’t have something to say about that, especially since the program was, as best as I can tell, the inspiration for one of my favorite cooking programs, The Kitchen.

The Chew logoI am not a big fan of The Chew, so I am not really mourning its loss. And it’s not going away immediately. The farewell episode will broadcast Friday June 15. After that there will be two weeks of pre-taped new shows. For the rest of the summer reruns and repackaged shows will air. Good Morning America will replace the program in September.

In retrospect I suppose it’s not a surprise that The Chew was cancelled. The show’s two biggest stars are gone. Daphne Oz left on her own late last year. Mario Batali was fired after serious allegations of misconduct arose. That left Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, and Michael Symon, all of whom are extremely capable and talented, but none of whom offered the star power of the two departed hosts.

I have my Food Network and PBS cooking shows so the cancellation won’t leave a hole in my cooking or my television watching universe. The biggest question for me is what the new program will be called. The time slot in question is 1:00 pm Eastern and noon Pacific, so they’re really not going to call it Good Morning America, are they? We’ll see.


Star Trek: Discovery, season 2

Where I left things with season one of Star Trek: Discovery was that I was totally annoyed, frustrated, and ticked off (look what they’ve done to my Star Trek, Ma). I cancelled my CBS All Access account and Terry and I did not watch the final few episodes.

Star Trek DiscoveryThe folks at trekmovie.com recently offered an update on plans for season two. They quote showrunner (I hate that term, but it’s a real thing in Hollywood these days) Aaron Harberts on plans for the plots and themes in season two:

quoteWhat is the role of serendipity versus science? Is there a story about faith to be told? Leaps of faith. We are dealing with space. We are dealing with things that can’t be explained and you have a character like Michael Burnham who believes there is an explanation for everything. And it doesn’t just mean religion. It means patterns in our lives. It means connections you can’t explain.

[Season one] was an interesting season because it was set against the backdrop of war. One of things we are looking forward to in season two is a tone that we can now be in a more exploratory phase and a more diplomatic phase – maybe a bit more of a Trekian chapter.

That’s encouraging. I may just renew my subscription to CBS All Access and give it another try when the show returns in the fall.