“DEADLIEST CATCH” SUPER FANS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom and I are huge fans of a reality show called “Deadliest Catch”. We’ve watched it religiously for 13 years. The show follows six or seven crab boats, based in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, as they fish for crab each year in the Bering Sea.

Crab fishing used to be known as the most dangerous profession in the United States because of the high rates of injuries and deaths on crab boats each season. It’s less deadly these days, but still treacherous. An intrepid production crews live on the boats with the fishermen while they fish. They film conversations with and between the captain and the crew as well as following the ups and downs of the hunt for large quantities of the lucrative crab.

Why do we avidly watch people fishing day after day? Well, the viewers also get to know the captain and crew very well. There’s always tension between crew members and/or between crew members and the captain. On several boats, the captains bring along family members as part of the crew – brothers, sons, nephews, even a daughter once. So there’s plenty of family drama as well.

We’ve followed medical crises, including heart attacks, injuries, addiction, and even the death of a beloved captain. We’ve watched fights and feuds as well as bonding and friendship both on the boats and between the boats. You get to really like some captains and hate others because of their style of leadership, bad judgment, arrogance or quick tempers.

It’s fascinating to watch these men live in close quarters for weeks at a time under stressful work conditions in the middle of nowhere. This definitely creates an unusual dynamic. I used to think that the personal relationships and the personalities of the captains were the main elements that kept us watching week after week, year after year.

But I realized that I would not watch this show, with the same people, if they were on fire trucks instead of crab boats. It’s not just the characters or their dangerous jobs that keep us watching. The sea and its unpredictability is a major character in the drama. That’s what makes the show riveting. There are frequent, treacherous storms throughout the season. Winds can get to more than 60 miles an hour and the seas and waves can grow to be more than 30 feet high. Yet the men fish through all but the worst storms!

It’s mind boggling to watch these boats take on giant waves, smashing through them or being catapulted from side to side like children’s toys.

The sea is also isolating. Each boat fishes over 100 miles from their home port. They are often far, far away from any land. The boats are often far away from each other as well. So when something breaks on a boat, which happens frequently, the crew is totally on their own. They have to figure out how to fix it without a trip to the store or any outside advice. They at least have to be able to patch things up enough to be able to limp back to shore for repairs.

There is something mesmerizing about these men, alone in a giant and tempestuous sea, trying to find crabs and stay afloat and alive. This is one of the few shows we actually watch on the night it airs. We can’t wait to see the next episode.

We’re not alone. The show airs in over 200 countries and has lasted for 13 seasons!

Who’d have thought anyone would be at the edge of their seats, waiting to see if a crab pot coming over the edge of a boat is full of crabs or empty? Who’d have thought the same story every week would keep us coming back for more than a decade?

And there’s no sex and almost no violence. Go figure!

SPENDING TIME WITH TELEVISION FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve found that I like watching weekly series on TV because of the people, not the plots. The storylines are an important part of the overall picture. But the reason I’m drawn back, week after week, is because I love hanging out with the series regulars.

Some series have an amazing ensemble of characters and actors. There’s magical chemistry between the fictional characters as well as between the actors who play them. I enjoy watching how my TV friends deal with each week’s crises and plot twists. I wait for the tidbits we’re thrown regularly that enrich our understanding of the characters’ psyches and the relationships between the characters.

One of my long time favorite crime shows is “NCIS”. The original one. It involves a team of Naval crime fighters in Washington, D.C. The team banters and sleuths its way through each episode’s case. The relationships are complex between the people on the team. The layers have layers after all these years. And over each season, you learn more and more about the personal lives of all of the main players.

Long running shows like “NCIS” have stayed successful all this time — despite cast turnovers –because they keep the group dynamics constant. You hate to see your favorite actors leave, but the replacements manage to integrate into the show seamlessly. Crimes are still solved the same way. The teasing, joking and office gossiping go on, uninterrupted.

Two of my other favorite shows revolve around extended families. “Life In Pieces” is a half hour comedy and “This Is Us” is a one hour drama. These shows have amazing character development and deep, rich, interrelationships.

“Life In Pieces” is incredibly well-written! It deals with three generations of a close-knit family – older parents, three grown siblings, their significant others and their children. Much of the humor is based on character. The family members are quirky and over-the-top enough to be funny, but they’re also believable. So are the jokes and situations.

I love these weird and wonderful people! I can’t wait to see what they’re going to be up to each week. I used to feel this way about “Modern Family” but for me, it has crossed the line into caricature these days.

“This Is Us” is a drama about a set of triplets and their parents. The story is divided into two timelines, an interesting device. There is the present when the triplets are in their thirties, and the past which follows their parents through courtship, marriage and parenthood, into the kids’ teen years.

Again, superior writing and character development. The timelines are woven together subtly and cleverly. The time I spend with these people flies by and I’m always shocked when the hour is up so soon. There are some mysteries about the past which are revealed slowly, of course. Still, the main reason the show was a big hit in its first season, was because of the interesting, real, multi-level people who populate the show.

More and more I turn on the television to spend time with my old TV friends. Like the gang on “The Big Bang Theory”, the bickering partners on “Hawaii 5-0” who go to couples counseling, and the present day Sherlock Holmes and female Dr. Watson on “Elementary”.

I miss these people when their shows go on hiatus. I’m excited to see them again when the shows return. The murders, mysteries, plots, and punch lines are great fun. But I’m in it for the characters. They are all part of my life now.

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP – DIRECT TV AND KAFKA – BY TOM CURLEY

The following story is true. The names have not been changed because I didn’t really get any of them anyway.

I’ve had Optimum cable as my TV, telephone and internet service for years. My cell phone provider was Verizon. I had no complaints. They all worked great.  Life was fine.

Then Ellin and I decided we should try to cut down some of our expenses. A friend who works for AT&T as a store sales representative told us to switch to AT&T and get Direct TV.

It would be great and we’d save money. I didn’t think we’d save that much but I’d had a Direct TV account for years. I only used it on my boat for six months each year. Spending the extra money for that account and Optimum was costing too much money, so I closed it.  I figured that now, if we had DirectTV for the whole house, I could also go back to getting it on the boat. That would be a plus

So, we did it. They said they would cover any cost for switching phones. Except they didn’t. They paid some. But not all. But okay, fine.

They set up our house for Direct TV.  I asked if they could switch the box on my boat that I had actually bought and owned for years  to our new account.  They said no, they can’t do that. Those boxes don’t work anymore.

“But”, I said, “it works just fine”. They said  it doesn’t matter.

“OK, can you send me a new box? It has to be Standard definition not an HD box because my antenna on the boat only gets SD channels.”

“No”, they said.  They don’t carry DirectTV standard boxes. THEIR OWN BOXES. I would have to buy one from a third-party. I said, “OK, where do I get one?” They said they had no idea. So I bought one from Amazon. Except that apparently, the company Amazon gets them from is either out of business or just doesn’t have any. So, now, my only option is to install a Dish Network box that does work that I do own. and pay extra money for six months every year. Just like I was doing before. Totally negating the reason I did all this to begin with.  These are “”first world problems” to be sure. But come on!

There goes the “saving a few bucks.”

At this point, I have spent about two hundred dollars more than I would have by switching  the phone carriers and I’m gaining nothing by switching to DirectTV.  I could just go back to the way things were. But I can’t. If I do I have to pay three or four hundred dollars in “Early Termination Fees”.

OK, fine. Live and learn. But I haven’t gotten to the good part . To quote Al Jolson. “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”

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I recently got a 4K TV. It’s amazing. After having it a few weeks I noticed that DirectTV had some 4K channels.

Cool. So I went to one and the TV said, “You don’t have a 4K TV”.

I said ” I most certainly do!” The TV ignored me. Even though it has some kind of voice activation feature, it’s not a very good listener. After doing a little research I found out that I need a “special 4K DirectTV box.”

The service is free. Or at least that’s what they say on their website. So, what the hell. I call them up, I order one and last Monday a technician came out and set it up. Fine. But then we started to notice that the audio kept cutting out. Just for a second. It did it every four minutes. It did it on every channel,  HD channels, 4K channel, recorded programs. Everywhere. And only on that box.

I did a quick Google search and found literally hundreds of thousands of complaints that the DirectTV 4K box is defective. The audio cuts out.

Notice where it says about 108,000 results

Many people also complained that it sometimes turns their TV off on its own and frequently just locks up and doesn’t work at all.

I didn’t have that problem. Until two days later when my TV would turn off and lock up about every five minutes. And every person complaining pointed out that no matter how many times they had their box switched out for a new one, none of them worked.

Did I mention the fact that for the privilege of getting the “FREE” 4K service, I was charged 160 dollars in fees? 99 dollars of that was to apparently buy the box that I would then have to pay a monthly fee to lease!

So, I called DirectTV back. Spending the half hour necessary to finally talk to a human. I was very calm. I explained that this box is defective. I wanted it removed and my old box replaced. I wanted my money refunded. I wanted any extensions on my contract removed. They said sure. They apologized profusely. It took about an hour but they told my money was refunded and my contract was not being extended.  They set up an appointment to have a technician come out Monday. Exactly one week later and switch out the boxes.

I haven’t gotten to the good part yet.

I get an automated call from DirectTV telling me the service tech is on his way! And the visit will take one hour and 15 minutes.  I chuckled. All he had to do was to plug to the box into the wall and into the TV.  Easy! Five minutes tops.

A nice man comes to the door. I hand him the 4K box and tell him where to put the new one.

But he can’t do it. The order was put in wrong. This is supposed to be a service call. I need an upgrade!

“It’s not an upgrade” I say. “I’m trading a 4K box for an HD box. If anything it’s a downgrade.

So he calls it in to get it changed. Did you know that DirectTV technicians have to go through the same voicemail automated hell that we all do to talk to one of their own supervisors?  You’d think they’d have a back door number or something to help those poor guys out.

When he finally  got a hold of someone and explained what was going on, he was informed that they could only make the exchange if I paid a 120 dollar fee for the “Upgrade”to replace the equipment. That until a week ago I ALREADY HAD!

The tech then told his boss. “I don’t think that’s going to happen”.  I spent the next ten minutes explaining the situation. I told the boss that on Friday, when I cancelled the service, I was ASSURED that everything was taken care of and that I would have no problems at all.  So of course, I got transferred to her supervisor.

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I went  through the entire story AGAIN.

She transferred me to her supervisor.

And we did the dance again. This one said she could take care of me but for some reason it took her about 25 minutes to find this out. The “upgrade fee” would be waived. But to do that I had to pay 22 dollars from a credit card that would then be refunded to my DirectTV account.

At this point I was beaten. Sure, fine. Do it. Make the “upgrade.”

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Another ten minutes go by. She keeps telling  me she’s almost there.

Almost there.

Almost there.

I just have to put in these two things and…..

I’m on hold. I’m hearing that horrible “on hold” Musak.  “Hello? Hello? You still there? Hello?” And this is what I hear. “Your call is important to us. Please stand by for the next available representative.”

The tech goes,” You gotta be kidding me.”

“Well all righty then” spectrumculture.com

So we wait.

For almost 30 minutes.

And we finally get a person. AND WE GO THROUGH THE WHOLE DANCE ALL OVER AGAIN.  After another 15 minutes of silence she says that they have to DROP SHIP A NEW BOX TO MY HOUSE!  It will take at least five days. And then a tech will have to come out and install it!!!!

But, I say, “He’s already here!!!! He is holding the box in his hand!!!!!”

“Sorry. That’s the only way we can do it.”

At this point I told them to forget the whole thing. I’ll keep the box. The tech and I shook hands and he left.

To sum up, in order to “save a few bucks” I now have no DirectTV on my boat and a 4K UHD receiver plugged into an old analog TV in my guest room that doesn’t even get HD. And I think I’m paying extra each month for the privilege of owning what is basically a paper weight.

My audio theater group performs a very funny piece called Till Death Do Us Not Part.”  You can click here to hear it. It’s about a guy calling the cable company to cancel his dead father’s cable account.  We tried to make it as absurd as possible. This real-life experience exposed levels of absurdity that even my twisted brain could not in a million years, ever conceive.  The shear incompetence and insanity of the DirectTV bureaucracy rivals that of the current President and his administration.

Franz Kafka is going. “Wow, they are seriously fucked up.”

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What have I learned from all of this?

When things are working just fine, leave them the hell alone. You are never ever ever going to save money by switching your cable or your phone company.

And when you want to “save a few bucks”? Just cut out a few coffees at Starbucks.

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THE LIMITS OF LOVE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love my husband but we have a mixed marriage.

I’m a total Rom Com/Sit Com/Doctor/Lawyer Show kind of girl. Tom is a Super Hero/Sci-Fi/Tolkien kind of guy.

When we were first together, I’d religiously watch all his shows and movies with him. And he’d watch all of mine. After 18 years together and 14 years married, that isn’t going to happen anymore. Our relationship has reached a new level, where it can survive intact, even if we go off separately to watch our favorite guilty pleasures.

Tom won’t watch endless cooking competitions or HGTV house makeover shows anymore. I still love him. I won’t watch every superhero movie or TV show (there are a lot). He still loves me.There are some areas of crossover. I genuinely like some of the early super hero movies, like the original Superman and Spiderman. I even liked the first Transformer movie. I love time travel shows of all kinds.

Tom truly loves “When Harry Met Sally”, my favorite movie, and others of its genre. So he gets a couple of free passes for that. He also likes some of my favorite TV shows, like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “The Good Wife”, “NCIS”, “This is Us”, etc. We both were addicted to the on demand series like, “House of Cards”, “Grace and Frankie”, “Outlander” and “The Crown”.

So there is common ground. But there’s one other thing we’re not going to be doing together any time soon. And that’s video games. I cannot share any of Tom’s enthusiasm for violent video games. Even though I don’t participate, I’m still subjected to the incessant noise of gun battles blaring through the house at all hours. Some of these games go for realism in the form of adding the sounds of dying and wounded humans, animals and mythical creatures. I find it very disconcerting.

I’ve reached my saturation point with the new virtual reality play station games, complete with magic goggles and wands. I appreciate the amazingly advanced technology. But the glasses make me dizzy and disoriented. I like to be able to see my own hands and feet. I like to be sure where I am in my house, not stumbling around in some weird fantasy-scape. I just can’t cross that Rubicon with Tom into the virtual reality hologram world of tomorrow.

DUCK!

I’m not the only one freaked out by the new technology. As soon as Tom put on the headset with the glowing lights, one of our dogs went berserk. She would not stop barking at him as long as he had his gear on. I had to take her out of the room. If howling did anything for me, I’d be right there with her.

At least this newest toy comes with headphones so I don’t have to listen along at top volume. And Tom looks hilarious in his sci-fi get up! That’s worth a few laughs. Maybe watching him play games in an imaginary universe and listening to the dog go nuts could be a new form of entertainment for me too!

VAMPIRE COP IN TORONTO – FOREVER KNIGHT

I discovered Forever Knight when it was in reruns on the Sci Fi channel. It was showing around 2 in the morning. Garry was working the dawn patrol and had already left for work by the time the show came on. I was working from home, allowing me to sometimes see my husband before he was off to work … and indulge my taste for weird TV shows you can only see in the middle of the night.

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I became an addict. I needed my knightly fix. They were showing season two when I found the show. I didn’t see the first season until I bought the DVDs (used) on Amazon. We watched them last winter when the ice and snow locked us into the house. It proved a good antidote to cabin fever.

How cool can a cop show be? This one is extremely cool. A vampire, repenting of his formerly evil ways, joins the Toronto police department. How does he get around the whole “vampires can’t be in the sun” business? Not to mention they “only drink blood” thing?

He has this big old American car with a huge trunk in which he can hide in a “sun” emergency. Drinks cow’s blood. Works the night shift. Invents a massive allergy to the sun to explain his inability to work days.

Nick Knight is more than 800 years old. A vampire working homicide. He is trying (with the help of Natalie, a lovely young coroner) to regain his humanity. Knight is not his name, of course. He was an actual knight in the 13th century when he became a vampire.

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The show ran from 1992 to 1996, though the pilot ran in 1989. The DVDs divide into three seasons and no, I don’t understand how they count seasons. There are 22 shows in the first season, 26 in the second, 22 in the third for a total of 70 episodes.

The original broadcast channel in North America was CBS — May 5,1992 to May 17, 1996. The show also ran in Germany, England and Australia (I don’t know if it was ever shown in Canada). It has been rerun in several places since including the Sci Fi channel here. The DVD sets originated in the US and Germany. The sets are different in length, and how they were edited. The German versions are longer and sexier. Mine came in boxes that say made in USA, but the DVDs were pressed in Germany. This link (in Wikipedia) gives a full list of episodes.

A cop show with a vampire as the lead detective? It isn’t just a guilty pleasure. It’s a good show and ahead of its time. And last, but not least, it’s witty and clever.

Geraint Wyn Davies plays Detective Nick Knight. He also co-wrote and directed many of the shows. Nigel Bennett is Lucien LaCroix, Knight’s maker and the weirdest overnight DJ in radio history. Deborah Duchêne plays Janette DuCharme, Nick’s sexy vampire “sister” and sometimes lover. Catherine Disher is Natalie Lambert, the police coroner and Nick’s sort-of love interest.

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The acting is good. The scripts are coherent, thematic, often with a moral twist and some interesting philosophical speculations. And who would have guessed Toronto was crawling with vampires? Fortunately most of the show’s undead are surprisingly circumspect showing far more restraint than they have shown in their pasts, which are seen in flashback.

During the show’s final season, when the producers, director and cast knew they were not being renewed, they methodically kill off the entire cast. That third season is memorable. Fascinating. Also, unavailable.

Forever Knight Season 1 and Forever Knight Season 2 can be purchased via Amazon Instant Video. Season 3 is not — for the moment — available anywhere I know of. Netflix has some part of it on DVD, but I don’t have a DVD plan and they won’t let me search to find out which seasons they’ve got. I’m betting they rent it DVD by DVD. There are 5 or 6 DVDs per season with 5 or 6 episodes on each disc. I suspect they don’t have all three seasons.

They may have to call me to get the final season because I own all three seasons, having bought the last known copy of season three. It was used and I’d been looking for it for years. I thought it was too expensive and was reluctant to pay the money but eventually realized it was now or never. When there’s only one of something, you don’t have a lot of bargaining power.

As Garry and I have been watching our way through the series, I think it may have been a bargain after all. It’s a lot of entertainment … a lot of bang for the bucks.

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It’s fun. Well-written. Original, Unique. Sexy. Creative. It won’t gross you out with gallons of blood and gore but I love it when Nick’s eyes glow orange or green, depending on circumstance. I like the music and Toronto is a lovely city.

I recommend Forever Knight, though I’m not sure what you can do about season three. You might have to come to my house and watch it with us.

JOYFULLY ADDICTED

Times being as crazy as they are, we have needed to find escape. When I was younger, this would have been books and more books. Then, more books on top of that.

My eyes are not happy reading text these days. Maybe its the millions of hours I spent reading throughout my life. Maybe it’s too many hours in front of computer monitors. Or maybe I’m just moving along with the years. I continue to read, mostly via audiobooks. I still read text when I can’t get an audio version of a book, or it’s short enough to not bring on eye strain. And there are books that don’t do well as audio, especially when you need reference materials, maps, and other support documents.

While I’m immersed in audiobooks, Garry puts on headphones and enjoys all the television shows he likes, but I don’t. We get to be together, yet separate. It might not work for everyone, but it works well for us.

When I’m done with my book of the day, we move into whatever current shows we’re watching. Not very many of them. We tried to count them the other day and discovered it might add up to a dozen, including shows that are not currently on the air, but will be in whatever their next season is.

A few months ago, I signed up for Acorn TV. They were just starting out and were doing a ton of advertising. We had gotten pretty far along watching “MidSomer Murders” on Netflix. When I saw that Acorn had several more years of the show available — and they had Poirot and Marple and “Murdoch Mysteries” and a lot more of them than any of the other channels, I bought a full year for $50. Now, I wish I’d bought two years.

We watched the entire series of “MidSomer Murders,” and then got one more year with another still to come. We watched all of Poirot and Marple, moved through “Murdoch.” We followed with “Foyle’s War,” which was brilliant, possibly one of the best shows we’ve ever watched. “George Gently” was next and that was great. After that we wandered a bit, finally landing in Australia.

“Crownies” and “Janet King” which were different stages of the same story and many of the same actors. Both were really good, but as do all things, we ran out of shows. Especially because we find it difficult to stop watching after we start. Still, we could stop watching … until we stumbled into “A Place to Call Home.”

I was reluctant to suggest it because Garry has a deep and abiding passion for murder mysteries. If there isn’t at least one or two corpses per show, he usually feels cheated. The star of this show — Marta Dusseldorp — was also the star in “Crownies” and “Janet King,” so I thought he might like it despite an absence of murders and crime-solving.

Within one show, we were hooked. The only reason we stop watching is because it is so late, we have to go to bed. How in the world did we get utterly addicted to an Australian melodrama?

It turns out that addiction to “A Place to Call Home” (known locally as APTCH), is a well-known phenomenon in Australia. People can barely hold themselves together until the next show comes out. We have been lucky enough to be able to fully binge on a thoroughly bingeable show. For the entire time we are watching, we forget completely about politics. We aren’t worrying about the state of the nation or what trauma our government has in store for us. We get to live in the moment, even if it’s just until we run out of shows.

There will be more shows. I’m sure of it. We have the whole British Empire of television to watch.

WARP DRIVES AND TACHYON WAVES

Garry and I binge watched the entire “Star Trek: Next Generation.” On Netflix. We had missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were busy years full of work, moving houses, digging into careers. Getting married. Moving again. Watching TV wasn’t a priority back then.

BBC America showed the series last year, but not in order. When Netflix gave us the opportunity to catch up, we did, viewing two, three, four episodes each night.

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There’s a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side of tachyon particles. I understand their science as well as I understand anything. Which is to say, not at all. I understand the engines on the Enterprise as well as I understand my toaster oven.

Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

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Effectively, life and everything in it is a giant mystery to me, yet I feel as if I understand it. When they talk about it, I nod because I get it. I’ve been listening to this mumbo jumbo for so many years, it has achieved a pseudo-reality. Because when I look closely, there’s nothing there. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st.

How many of you know how the stuff you use works? Some of you do, but most of us know how to use our devices and gadgets, but have no idea why or how it works. I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same.

Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.