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Test Patterns

If you are of a certain age, you will remember that late at night network TV stations actually broadcasted a test pattern instead of a show. In those days there were three major networks, CBS, NBC and ABC, accompanied by some local stations on channels 5 and 11. Public television broadcasted on Channel 13. It was not unusual for families to gather around the black and white TV set and watch a popular show. It’s actually not that long ago.

Today there is never a test pattern broadcast, because time is money and the TV is broadcasting 24/7. In addition to the original big three major networks, there are literally hundreds of stations available in multiple languages no less. And if that is not enough, streaming services provide a huge amount of content, for additional fees, to fill your time.

But still, with all that content available today, there are times when there is absolutely nothing on TV worth watching. I have a friend who cannot sleep, at all, and stays up watching some of the strangest shows ever. He is now an expert on Aliens Among Us, and is convinced that Antarctica is actually a landing zone for the alien space ships. He heard it on cable one night at three in the morning. In addition, he now knows more about Wicked Tunas who have seen Hitler’s Ghost in remote parts of the Pacific Ocean.

Having watched the Mystery of Oak Island now for eight years, he is convinced that the mystery will soon be solved and revealed. But that would be a terrible thing, because then he would have to watch reruns knowing that the conspiracy theory was actually just a story made up by someone who was paid to write a story to fill dead time on TV. Hope he doesn’t read this!

Binging has made TV an unenjoyable process. No longer do you have to wait for the next episode, or spend a week discussing what happened and what you think will happen on the next episode with all your friends. Instead what happens is that you find a dark room, all alone with chips and multiple six packs of Coke and watch all 11  episodes of a show in one day that took a year to make. Having gone through the marathon of watching the entire series, you find that you can’t even discuss it because it takes too long to actually process what you just saw, and your eyes are too tired to keep open, and must be rested for several days.

And the really great news is, if you aren’t home to binge your favorite shows, no worries because you can watch them on your smart phone. Oh joy! I was recently at a concert and the performer asked the audience to put their smart phones up with the spotlight on. It was impressive, eighteen thousand lights immediately went up in the arena. When I was young and went to shows, we used to light a match and phones were nailed to a wall.

But, rather than leave the house for a concert, especially in the age of the coronavirus, it’s probably safer to just stay home and pay a little extra to see the show on TV. I mean I can just as easily light up my phone in a darkened room, right? At Christmas time some smart marketing guy came up with the idea of having a continuous yule log burn as a TV show. It probably gets high ratings. Imagine what ratings a test pattern would get!

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