WEATHERING THE WEATHERMAN
In the days before cable, the weather could have an adverse effect on television. Especially where I grew up, in Paris, Tennessee. Everyone had an antenna on the roof pointed towards Nashville. If it rained or stormed or even if it was just cloudy you might get bad reception. I can remember going out to turn the antenna, trying to pick up stations in Paducah, Jackson, or Cape Girardeau when there was a storm between our house and Nashville.
But with cable, you don't have to look at the skies to see if you can see your favorite show or the big game.
Or so you would think.
Last Tuesday night, I settled down in the easy chair to watch my favorite TV show, N.Y.P.D. Blue. Anyone who follows the show, knows that it was an important episode -- Lt. Fancy was leaving the precinct (and presumably the show). But Memphians didn't get the opportunity to see the episode, because it was raining in Cross County, Arkansas.
Actually it was storming in Cross County. Lightning, high winds -- the works. There was even a tornado watch in the area. So, of course, Channel 24 preempted network programming to provide more than an hour's worth of detailed reporting. Channel 5, Channel 3, and Channel 30 all did the same.
If I had not been so mad about missing N.Y.P.D. Blue, I would have laughed. The poor weathermen were having to scramble their brains to come up with enough prattle to fill the hour. They went to the radar every two minutes, but nothing was happening. They promised us compelling video as soon as they had some. They repeated what to do if a tornado touched down. About a hundred times.
You know, people who live in Eastern Arkansas surely know what to do in case of a tornado. They certainly see enough of them. Besides, since when is it television's job to teach tornado safety? And what about the Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf effect? If they make a big deal every time a thunderstorm blows into the area, won't viewers take it less and less seriously?
The real reason all of the Memphis stations presented wall-to-wall weather on this spring night was because they have bought expensive, sophisticated weather equipment and their consultants tell them that they need to use their weathermen to boost the station's ratings. It is all about brand, ratings, and gadgets.
There is a weather channel for people who want weather all the time. For everyone else, a crawler beneath the picture should suffice. Local affiliates have some obligation to carry network programming. Making Memphians miss a fine show like N.Y.P.D. Blue because of a thunder storm in Arkansas is just plain dumb.
This was not an isolated incident. In fact, it is becoming more and more commonplace. It is a stupid trend. Somebody should stop it.
A friend at work made a tape of the program. He has Dish Network and was not affected by the injudicious decisions of the Memphis stations. He brought the tape to work and all of us N.Y.P.D. Blue fans were able to see Lt. Fancy's last day on the job.
Other Memphians will just have to wait for the reruns and pray that it doesnÕt rain in Earle that night.
COMING TO TERMS WITH TIC
I had planned to write a scathing indictment of the McNeese State University administration for hiring former Tiger head basketball coach Tic Price. Price, who was forced to resign at the U of M before the 1999-2000 season, spent the past year as an assistant at McNeese. When the head job became vacant, he was promoted.
What could they be thinking? Don't they know what he did at the University of Memphis? I was ready to let them have it.
Then I was eating lunch on Friday with an official at the U of M. He told me that Price had called him the day before. "I bet he wanted something," I said suspiciously.
"No. He said he just wanted to thank me for everything I did," my friend said. "He said that he was too ashamed to talk to me at the time of his resignation."
Price reports that he has weathered the storm and that his marriage is stronger than ever. He told my friend that what he did in Memphis was wrong and that he was sorry.
I suppose everyone deserves a second chance. Even Tic Price.
SKINNY RADIO STARS
Is there anybody on the radio in Memphis that isn't pitching that miracle product that Òburns fat and builds muscle while you sleep?Ó Do you think it is just a coincidence that the company picks personalities that we never actually SEE?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I saw the video. If I had come through spring practice last year, I would have cut my wrists. Any time I want to get in a bad mood, I just watch video from last spring." -- Memphis offensive line coach Rick Mallory on the abject state of the offensive line when he arrived in Memphis last August.