Network Family Trees

I like it when an innocuous comment on a show makes me go and do some research. This time it was Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, when he said he remembered when the Bravo network used to show operas.

That makes sense, when I think about it. Bravo is a great name for a network that shows operas. It’s not quite the network it started out as though. Nowadays it shows reality fare such as The Real Housewives, Top Chef, and Celebrity Face/Off*, but when it first launched, it was a subscription channel focusing on the performing arts and film. It only broadcast two days a week, and shared its channel with a soft-core porn network. Inside The Actors Studio is the only hangover from that time that’s left.

It also faced competition at the time from three other high-minded networks, ABC Arts, CBS Cable, and NBC’s The Entertainment Network. Only after NBC bought Bravo, did it start to move away from its roots, beginning with the huge hit Queer Eye For The Straight Guy.

It’s not the only channel that has strayed far from its beginnings.

Take TLC, a channel now known for its reality shows too. That was started by NASA and The Department Of Health, Education, And Welfare, as a kind of Open University channel. In 1980 though, it was renamed The Learning Channel, before being bought up by Discovery in the early 90s.

This weird lineage also explains why Pat Robertson had a regular show on Disney’s ABC Family.  Even now, as Freeform, the channel is legally obliged to show The 700 Club. Why?

TV Insider explains:

ABC Family/Freeform began in 1977 as CBN, part of Robertson’s religious mission. By the late 1980s, the channel had gone mainstream and adopted the name The Family Channel. The network became too profitable to remain a part of Robertson’s nonprofit CBN, and was spun off in 1990 as International Family Entertainment.

At the same time, CBN and IFE struck a deal to keep The 700 Club on the network in desirable time slots. Robertson sold the Family Channel to Fox Kids in 1997, keeping the stipulation that CBN can program The 700 Club on the channel, no matter its name, in perpetuity.

When Disney/ABC bought Fox Family Channel for $5.3 billion in 2001, it too was saddled with that agreement. The deal says The 700 Club can’t be buried in the middle of the night, but must air during certain dayparts.

The 700 Club airs in the morning at 10/9c and nightly at 11/10c. That late night slot, in particular, has become a desirable time period for cable networks–but with The 700 Club there, it prevents ABC Family/Freeform from developing a late night franchise.

It gets worse:

According to insiders, Disney has approached Robertson in the past about buying him out and removing 700 Club from ABC Family. But the price he’s requesting is astronomical. CBN’s most recent tax audit claims that its airtime on ABC Family/Freeform is worth $42.4 million annually. CBN pays Disney/ABC around $1.2 million a year to cover the direct costs incurred by ABC Family for giving up the program time.

Always read the contract, I guess.

(*not really)

Killer Of Hogs’ Cornflakes

Chatting to a friend about the etymology of names, and how it’s quite common to name a character, then look up their name and discover that the meaning of the name reflects a characteristic of said character, he came across this fun fact.

Kellogg, you know, like the bloke who done the cereals to stop people playing with themselves, means the killer of hogs.

It’s the occupational name of a pork butcher from the medieval times.

I’m off to enjoy a nice bowl of Killer Of Hogs’ Cornflakes.

That fact about cornflakes being invented to stop people jiggling their wiggly bits brings a new dimension to the strap line in this incredibly sexist ad from the 1950s:

Not sure how splashing white creamy stuff all over your breakfast is meant to stop you thinking about mastering your own domain, but there you go.


How Have I Not Seen This Episode Of Seinfeld Before?

Last night, I had a strange and unnerving experience.

I saw an episode of Seinfeld that I’ve never seen before.

I mean, how is that possible?

It was called The Wait Out, and while it’s certainly not a classic instalment, it’s by no means unmemorable. It has the physical comedy of the jeans, it has a brilliant call back in the shoelaces bit, it has George, Jerry, and Elaine in a tussle, it has Elaine concocting the scheme.

It even has the dumb subplot of Elaine’s bad driving, which would have stuck in my craw, not just for the unoriginal idea born from the wrong-headed premise, but also because it has no payoff whatsoever.

So how have I never seen this episode before?

I watched the show religiously when it first aired on BBC2 here in the UK, recording episodes to re-watch again and again. I admit I missed the odd one, and when schedules were changed, my VHS recordings went awry. This is the reason I had never seen The Doll before I got the DVDs, and why I hadn’t seen the endings of some episodes. But it doesn’t explain why I have never seen The Wait Out before last night. I have watched those DVDs over and over and over again, ever since I first bought them. Was there a glitch on the disc that meant it always skipped that episode? I did give the disc a gentle wipe before slipping it into the drive last night. Did that clear the glitch? Unlikely.

Or am I imagining a whole new episode? Did I hallucinate it? Are all the web pages about it some elaborate prank my friends are playing on me?

Is it some weird, backwards Mandela Effect?

Has anyone else not seen The Wait Out before now?

I can’t even be excited about seeing a WHOLE NEW EPISODE of Seinfeld for the first time in years, because this whole experience has freaked me the fuck out.

Help me. Tell me how this happened. Please.

The Existential Pub Quiz

Yesterday was strange, and it started badly.

I bent down, and my trousers ripped, like I was in a seventies sitcom. Luckily the Vicar wasn’t behind me sniffing a posey, but the tearing noise was really loud, and stupidly comical. I may have even made a face like Terry Medford. I certainly made a noise like him.

After that, there was nothing else for it, so I went to the pub, alone, and miserable, albeit in trousers without a buttock tear in them, and sat down to nurse a Coke. That’s when the pub quiz started.

I should have known something was wrong when I was handed the picture round, and it was just a blank piece of paper.

And when the questions began, there were only three of them.

  1. Who am I?
  2. What am I doing here?
  3. What’s the point?

For question 1, I answered Geoff Hurst, because that’s always the answer.

Question 2 was even easier, what with me doing the pub quiz at the time.

But I was a little stumped by question 3.

Eventually I wrote ‘the end of this pen’.

We swapped answer sheets, and I had to mark the answers for a man called Neil Isum. I don’t know why I bothered really, because he hadn’t bothered himself, and left all the answers blank.

With the scores added up, we handed the papers back in, and the quiz master put them in the bin, claiming that was no point to any of it.

Then a guy called Neecher jumped to his feet, started doing a jig, and singing about how great he was at everything.Then he got sad and shut up.


What Is A Hotdog?

We all know what a Hotdog is, right? It’s a sausage in a bun. But after that, it gets rather complicated.

Is the sausage the dog in the hotdog? If so, why are they called hotdog sausages?

Shouldn’t they just be called Dogs? And then, when heated, they become hot Dogs, right? So, doesn’t that make the sausage the Hot part? Because if you served them cold, it wouldn’t be a Hotdog …

The theory goes that Hotdogs got their name because they used to be rumoured to be made from dog meat, thus suggesting that the sausage is indeed the dog part of the dish. Don’t we all agree though, that if you put a British sausage like this …

… in a bun, it becomes a Hotdog? But those sausages aren’t called Hotdog Sausages like the ones above. They’re called sausages. So do you need to put a hotdog sausage in a bun to make a Hotdog?

No, we already decided we don’t.

But then, look again at that jar in the picture above, it doesn’t actually say Hotdog sausages, it just says Hotdogs. And we all know that a sausage on its own can’t be a Hotdog. A sausage on its own is called a sausage.

So, if a hotdog sausage isn’t the same as a sausage, and hotdog sausages are sold as hotdogs, and a sausage on its own isn’t a Hotdog, and any old sausage in a bun is a Hotdog, and a bun on its own isn’t a Hotdog, what part of the Hotdog is the dog, and what part of the Hotdog is a hot?

And what if you put a bun in a sausage?