It’s not me, it’s you

As further evidence that everything is always about me, and also that the mind makes interestingly tangential connections to all sorts of things, the recent news that CBC’s Sophie was sold to ABC Family made me realize that I really need to downsize my cable package.

Nothing against Sophie. This isn’t my feeble attempt at a protest. Though I did bail on the show after its second episode, I’m not on a crusade against it. The connection is far more tenuous than that, with a lot more mind clutter on the way between Point A and Point B.

I wasn’t surprised by the announcement that CTV’s Flashpoint and The Listener were picked up by strike-starved CBS and NBC, because they got in on the series before production started, meaning they can put their own stamp on them early on. I was surprised that ABC Family is going to air the already-produced first season of Sophie, episodes they’ve had no creative control over. Then again, it’s not a major network, and they haven’t announced scheduling plans, so who knows if it’ll be the usual acquisition of late-night filler. I don’t get that sense, though.

I’ll be more surprised if the already-produced first season of The Border gets picked up by one of the Big Four, though there are strong rumours a deal is pending so I’m likely about to be proven wrong. Americans love stereotyped portrayals of their country … when it’s their own stereotypes being upheld. I’m not sure an American audience will know what to do with a peek at a world where they’re not the protagonists.

Intelligence, for example, is being retooled as a pilot for FOX — by John Wells, the man who ruined The West Wing — and I wonder how much of the trenchant critique of both sides of that Canadian/American relationship will be lost in translation. I suspect die-hard fans will be seething at the Americanization of it. I also suspect that’s the only way the show would survive in the US, so I will try to restrain my seethiness when — if — the time comes.

But besides all that, most of which has nothing much to do with Sophie, what really surprised me about the announcement that ABC Family was picking it up was: what exactly is ABC Family, then? Sophie is as much a family show as CSI or JAG are history shows, or Intervention is arts and entertainment.

Do I know any shows on ABC Family? I don’t think so.

Do I get ABC Family? I’m not sure.

Which brought me to the thought: why am I not sure? The answer: I have too many channels, and watch too few of them. I didn’t know I got AMC either until the hype around Mad Men started up, and then I realized oh, yes, it’s that old movie channel where I once caught a Cary Grant movie. I recently resisted the temptation to keep the Every Channel in the Universe cable package and not only haven’t regretted it, but haven’t noticed there are channels I don’t get.

During a writers strike it’s far more pronounced, of course, and life has become far busier for me in recent months, but still, it’s inescapable: for the amount of TV I watch, I spend way too much money on cable.

The one reason — the only reason — I have all the channels I do is that I love my Eastern time zone feeds of the big US networks. I love coming home from work and having House waiting for me. I’d like it even better if House himself were waiting for me, but I’ll take what I can get. I love coming home to Pushing Daisies or The Office or 30 Rock on my PVR.

Except come tomorrow, after the last House in inventory, none of those shows will be waiting for me, not for a very long time. And even when they start up again, it’s not such a difference to watch a couple of hours later, or even — in the case of everything but House — a couple of days later. I don’t even need the extra time zone channels in order to record two shows at once, now that my PVR can do that anyway. I’m not quite in an on-demand world, but especially with DVDs in the mix, it’s close enough for my purposes.

I’m also sentimentally attached to my Eastern time zone feeds, though. They let me watch House at the same time as anyone else on the planet, so I didn’t feel left behind when my Central and Eastern time zone friends felt compelled to write and say how much they loved that night’s episode. They let me do same-day reviews without collapsing at work the next day. They let me interview a writer from the show at 9 pm on a Tuesday and still be able to talk about that night’s episode.

But sentiment doesn’t pay the cable bill. So as Shaw ponders how to get rich off my cable rates and not paying for Canadian shows, I’ll ponder how to break it to myself that I just might be breaking up with my beloved Eastern time zone feeds.

Tomorrow. After 7 pm Eastern. Don’t want to keep House waiting, after all.

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