geocities rescue


We recently got on-digital.

Yes - we're the one.

We almost didn't. When I went into the local Dixons to hire, the sale person was all too quick to tell us to get Sky 'Because its better". But we didn't want Sky, and not just because of the whole Rupert Murdock ownership conscience. You see we live atop a high rise and in strong winds, saucer sightings are sure to increase. So is Sky better, or is on-digital, though not necessarily cheaper, simply better for your health? Let's look at the evidence, channel-by-channel.

NB: Even though our set is an 'ordinary' shape we've set the thing to 'widescreen' ratio - out of curiosity. So now you know.

BBC One / BBC Two/ ITV / Channel 4 There is something initially quite disconcerting about watching regular television in widescreen. For a start, there is all the extra space for everyone to move. But more than that it's impossible not to mentally work out how the full screen picture would look. Is it actually better - well yes - to a point. Study based dramas and soaps don't actually look any more like film, and sitcom especially tends to look plain wrong. News programming becomes necessarily more cinematic and so more dramatic, although the weather maps are even smaller.

ITV2 is something of a televisual ghetto for US programming. Letterman is shown here a night after the states, and there are stripped re-runs of 'Northern Exposure'. 'Townies' an ensemble sitcom set in the big city - a sort of blue collar 'Friends' featuring Molly Ringwald and a pre-Dhama Jenna Elfman - pretty funny, even if some characters don't have much to do; 'Sheena' - Gena Lee Nolan trades in her bathing suit for a leopard skin bikini - not exactly Buffy; 'Felicity', basically 'Dawson's Creek' in college, if grungier and with more of a 'My So-Called Life' view on life - one the Channel 4 imports that got away. As a channel, lack cohesion. We like that they show youth shows and the like, but seems like an excuse to have an extra digital channel just in case. SKY viewers not missing too much.

Channel 5 is missing from our programme list. Not in the right area. A good thing? Discuss.

BBC Choice is an excuse to re-run BBC programming and like ITV2 seems to be an excuse to have an extra digital channel just in case. Runs the same CBBC programming all day - so back-to-back episiodes of The Tweenies, Teletubbies, Chucklevision and Pigeon Street of all things ('One looks up, one looks down').

BBC News 24 could do with letting its hair down a bit - the only newsreaders who seem to have a personality are on in the middle of the night, perhaps because no one is watching, so who cares. Good for spotting Radio Five presenters getting in some TV experience (cat in headlights doesn't even begin to describe Five Live lynchpin Ian Paine's appearance the other day) and washed-up BBC One newscasters (Andrew Harvey, Philip Hayton).

BBC Parliament offers a blank screen, some text and politicians direct from the commons. Who other than politicians and broadcasters would watch?

E4 currently showing near 24 hour coverage of Big Brother. Much has already been written about this, but it really has to be seen to be believed. Probably the most banal programme ever created (even more so than the 'Open Door' tree incident - ask your Dad), wrings excitement from whether someone will have tea or coffee. Trouble is, its so damn compelling. Sat today watching the housemates piling up sugar cubes into towers and trying to work out the best technique. Perhaps of most interest to fans if only to see how biased the highlights show on Channel 4 actually is. What of the rest? Good to see 'The West Wing' early - and 'The Priory Clinic' has the distinction of being funnier than the main show.

Sky One is a good place to go if you like 'The Simpsons' and 'Star Trek'. For the rest of us we have early showings of Buffy, Angel and Roswell. Like ITV2, difficult to pin down as a channel, attempts at homegrown programming just seeming inferior to everyone else.

Granada Plus seems to think that we want to watch re-runs of Miami Vice and Kojak every night. They'd be wrong. Odd seeing Taggart from when the title actually meant something.

MTV seems a poor relation to its US cousin. Surely Mike Nesmith never wanted us to sit through 'Lady Marmalade' on such heavy rotation? And although we like some R&B, there is other music around.

British Eurosport like things that move fast. Cars. Motorbikes. Superbikes. Slow down.

Carlton Cinema feels like the old BBC2 strand, Moviedrome, a veritable Scorsese wetdream. Pity the Nine O'clock 'recent' films aren't up to much. Does anyone really want to see tonight's offering 'Men at Work' - the Emilio Estevez / Charlie Sheen 'comedy'? Currently running a Russell Crowe season - seemingly his entire back catalogue from before LA Confidential.

Discovery Kids - science shows for American kids. Johnny Ball not in sight.

Discovery Wings. Someone at on digital must be an aviation fan, because rather than offering THE Discovery channel, we have this. Some good space documentaries however.

Granada Breeze for all your daytime TV needs. 'This Morning' for hours on end.

Granada Men & Motors or rather Discovery Cars and free porn.

PLAY uk is what I was expecting from MTV. Pop videos for hours on end. Inconsistent re-runs of BBC shows (how?). Home grown comedy includes Pop Profiles in which Jamie Theakston (the busiest presenter on TV) interviews George Doors in a variety of guises (ABBA, Bucks Fizz, Steps).

Taste CFN or what the chefs off-of Ready Steady Cook do instead. Wall to wall food programmes. And they aren't kidding. Even more fun for spotting old BBC kids presenters (Mark Curry, Debbie Greenwood, Paul Coya). Features one of the dullest game shows in existence, a 'general knowledge' quiz about food with the scouser from the Holiday programmes who thinks he's Craig Charles. Features contestants 'Wipeout' would reject. Also has panel game with Paul 'I'll do anything' Ross. Typical guests - Floella Benjamin, Geoff Capes, Jim Bowen.

UK Gold was my actual reason for getting this whole thing. Doctor Who, you see. Pity about all that comedy. Do we really need to see that same episode of 'My Hero' the Ardal O'Hanlan sitcom so many times?

Cartoon Network. Johnny Bravo, we salute you.

UK Style / UK Horizons - three days of one, four days the other. For fans of make-over shows and docusoaps. Strangely compelling.

Nickelodeon, Goody. Rugrats. We like Alex Mac though.

Paramount Comedy Channel reruns of Frasier, Taxi and Cheers. Ten year old episodes of Drop The Dead Donkey. Whose Line is it Anyway with John Sessions pretending to be Dylan Thomas all the time. Timeless.

well being, at the end of the dial and watching it you feels like the end of your life. The production values of a shopping channel, despite the face they aren't actually selling you anything. Call in if you have an ailment and want advice on treatment. I thought that was what the NHS hotline was for . . .

So is on digital worth it? For me certainly (weekly Who) and it is nice to see imports months ahead of schedule. And if you are at all interested in food, there is always something on. But on-digital's lack of success is easily attributable. Inconsistencies, such as channels with a very narrow focus (airplanes, health) coupled with odd scheduling (UK Style / UK Horizon) can make for some confusion. And the price. The various film channels (unreviewed) are available, but cost an extra £21 - not terribly competitive in comparison with those men with dishes. Close call, then. ****

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