More than a quarter century ago, Bruce Springsteen sang the sad and prescient song, "Fifty-Seven Channels and Nothing On." It actually sounds somewhat quaint these days. Only 57 channels? What, are you living in your van and being forced to eat broccoli cutlets instead of florets?
Nowadays, we plunk down a couple hundred bucks for hundreds and hundreds of channels and unless there's a ballgame on or you happen to catch the last hour of The Martian (where they go back and rescue him), you can't help but get that feeling that you get when you go to an all-you-can-eat place and only go through the line once. They've won and you've lost.
Oh, and I should have called "Spoiler Alert," but if you haven't seen The Martian yet, you suck and you deserve to have stuff spoiled.
Anyway, I was flipping channels the other day when my computer-nerd son walked in the room and said, "What's on 241?"
On our cable system, Channel 241 is the Science Channel. Or, more correctly, the channel that passes itself off as The Science Channel. Because when I got Channel 241, what was on but The Ghosts of the Berlin Wall? How the hell is that science? It's like the Kardashian-ing of science. That's why we have Rush Limbaugh and his minions of politibots stumbling around, denying climate change.
To be fair, you can sometimes find a Modern Marvels or an Epic Engineering show on the channel, but more and more, the channel's fare tends toward the lame and/or the absurd. I understand that a network has to worry about ratings, but if you want to be known as the Science Channel, be about science. If you want to have programs like Did Aliens Build The West Bleachers at Arizona Stadium?, be something else.
I went to their website to see what else they're trying to pass off as science. At the very top of the page is a splashy ad for something called Punkin' Chunkin'. This is a show where they use a catapult or a trebuchet or maybe a giant slingshot to throw stuff, like TVs or pianos. I'm sure that the Billy Jim Bobs of the world love watching a piano break into a million pieces. Why not just drop it off a building and put it on The Bubba Channel?
"Naw!" says Billy Jim Bob. "That's just droppin'. This is throwin'!"
Yes, but most of us who want to watch something called the Science Channel already know that if we know the initial velocity and launch angle of an object, we can figure out how high it will go at its peak and how far it will travel, regardless of mass.
Among the other stuff on the cable network:
• They have Robot Wars, Battlebots, and (gasp) Battlebots Redemption. These don't belong on a real science channel and I'm not interested at all because I've actually spoken to real live women before.
• Biblical Conspiracies. Isn't that redundant?
• There's a series called Treasure Quest, with an episode entitled "Snake Island." The promo says, "The team embarks on a dangerous trek through a secret tunnel and discovers a fake wall that could be hiding the billion-dollar treasure of the Sacambaya."
Apparently, there is a river in Bolivia named the Sacambaya and, according to the myth...er legend, some Jesuit priests buried a bunch of treasure near it. So, some modern-day treasure hunters conned the Discovery Channel into funding their expedition and somehow the Discovery Channel was able to dump it on the Science Channel.
The key here is the use of the word "trek" in the promo. Like bazillions of other guys, I have a visceral reaction to that word and I hope that something great is coming on (as long as it's not Deep Space Nine). Seriously though, a secret tunnel and a fake wall?
• They have Survivorman. I'm sorry; I don't want to watch anything about Jared Kushner.
• The Science Channel also has Race To Escape. The most-recent episode involved "two teams of three strangers are locked in identical barber shops." The previous episode had "two teams of three strangers are locked in identical mechanic garages."
• There's the tandem of Alien Encounters and UFO Conspiracies.
• There's one that I might actually watch and that's Tesla's Death Ray. Nikola Tesla was a brilliant and crazy man who may or may not have actually invented the radio (for which Marconi won the Nobel Prize). The U.S. Supreme Court actually stripped Marconi of his patents and gave them to Tesla, but it may have just been a way to keep the United States from having to fight Tesla in court during World War II.
He also claimed to have invented something that he called Teleforce, which he claimed could focus electricity in such a way that it could take down airplanes or kill people at great distances. (Tesla never used the term "death ray," but it's just too cool to ever fade from the public consciousness.)
He also claimed that it could create a national energy fence that could destroy any enemy that tried to pass through it. Guess who would be way hot for that if it actually existed.
Nikola Tesla died after being struck by a car. (He probably could have used the Teleforce that day.) That's just good Science...fiction.