Friday, March 23, 2007 | It’s been an interesting two weeks in front of my TV set, thanks to KPBS.
I watch it a lot, mainly because it has quality kids programming, decent arts programming, along with interesting news coverage, thanks to shows like “Full Focus.”
But to a dyed-in-the-wool couch potato like me, KPBS is never more enjoyable than during one of its seasonal pledge drives, like the one that’s been going on the past two weeks.
That’s when the quality programming that I’ve come to appreciate from KPBS is temporarily canceled so they can attract the viewers that don’t usually watch, but are willing to shell out money.
That means I have to explain to my crying, soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter, Alex, why her beloved “Dragon Tales” has been canceled in place of Suze Orman.
“Why isn’t ‘Dragon Tales’ on?” she sobs.
“Because KPBS is running this seminar from a financial planner so it can fund itself.”
“Because it’s public TV. That means it’s viewer supported.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, instead of commercials like normal television, the folks at KPBS ask the people viewing at home to send in money so shows like ‘Dragon Tales’ can stay on the air …”
“Did you send in money?”
“Is that why they took ‘Dragon Tales’ off?”
“Uh … I hope not.”
“Waaaaaaaaah. ‘Dragon Tales’ is canceled because we didn’t pay.”
And that, my friends, is how KPBS extorts people like me and Viewers Like You to donate money.
Some readers assume I’m a liberal because I don’t believe in corporate welfare. To be honest, I do (but only if some of it is earmarked towards me).
However, you probably will think I’m a reactionary but I believe KPBS and public broadcasting in general would be better off by allowing real commercials.
I think it’s a real bait-and-switch when you claim you don’t run commercials and then feature plugs for corporations before each broadcast.
After all, most of the shows feature some kind of corporate plug; everything from Toyota to a local car dealer to that famous patron of the arts, Chuck E. Cheese.
Also, PBS should be making a fortune off all the ancillary rights from selling DVDs, toys and posters based on its hit shows, and shouldn’t have to begging like a homeless bum every few months to stay on the air.
If Discovery Channel and the History Channel can make a profit without begging me for money, why can’t PBS?
Oh, you might say, PBS exists so that people don’t have to be stuck with the dreck of, ugh, commercial television. But what are those darned pledge specials anyway? Two-hour commercials for the aforementioned Orman, Wayne Dyer, has-been rock groups like Pink Floyd (Sorry, Mayor Sanders, but it’s true), or Celtic Women, that traveling stage show of fake Irish music.
This column was inspired by repeated viewings of Celtic Women. If you haven’t seen the special, you must have KPBS V-chipped out of your remote because it’s been running run night and day during this latest pledge season.
It features five or six Irish lasses with brogues thicker than the Lucky Charms leprechaun singing a variety of Celtic tunes while looking at the camera with this heartfelt, “I like you, I really like you, but … as a friend” expression.
It reminded me of every woman who wouldn’t date me in college and also reminded me that KPBS presents a lot of quality entertainment, but not when money is at stake.
If the station insists on running two hour infomercials for Rich Dad, Poor Dad, during its pledge periods, why can’t they just run infomercials from midnight to 6 p.m. like any other self-respecting commercial channel?
And another thing: Every time I’m watching one of those shows, just when it’s getting to a good part; just when things are starting to get enjoyable, the powers-that-be transition to yet another 20 minutes of begging.
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Now, back to our regularly scheduled humor column.]
On the positive side about KPBS: The station keeps up with the times. Ten years ago, most of their Pledge Season music specials focused around Lawrence Welk reunions. Now, since it’s the 21st century, they moved up to the 1970s by showing concerts of Queen and Pink Floyd, and that recent special featuring the cadaverous performances by aging members of the British Invasion.
I imagine next year they will feature a Heroes of Punk Rock special where Johnny Rotten and the one surviving Ramone wax about the old days when they used to spit on their audiences.