By THOM HAWKINS
0400-0500: I wake up at 4am now, just to have some time to myself before I leave for work. Well, it's not totally just me--me and the TV. And one of the cats. There's a lot of paid programming on at 4am, and not much else good. Sometimes I scan through the channels to look for coincidences. This morning, for example, Animal Planet is showing Ocean of Fear: Worst Shark Attack Ever, while TNT is featuring Crimson Tide. G4 has Real Genius and TVONE has Higher Learning.
0500-0600: At 5am, the early morning news shows start, staffed by persons even bleaker than myself, in ill-tailored double breasted suits vice my pajamas. My wife thinks these shows look drearier in Baltimore than they do in Philadelphia. They do seem to be having a problem with their lighting--there are more shadows, making the set look almost sinister, as if the guy with the suit and the severe haircut and the forced cheeriness will suddenly grow horns and a forked tail, and the set will burst into flames ... which will at least provide better lighting and make these people hot.
0600-0700: More news, more religion, more paid programming, and at last we start with the syndicated sitcoms: Becker and Wings on USA and a full hour of Married... with Children on TBS. On Nickelodeon, Full House morphs into SpongeBob Squarepants, so we've identified a programmer's threshold for when insomniac (and none-too-choosy) adults tune out and little kids tune in. CNBC chimes in with Squawk Box, which seems rude for thus now awakening, and doubly so for those with a jarring hangover.
0700-0800: ABC has Good Morning America while CBS has Early Show--both seem to be making wrong assumptions about my schedule, and I don't appreciate it. As penance, they must themselves watch Squawk Box, continuing on CNBC. One of the Spanish channels has something called Despierta America, which I translate as "Desparate America." This is on three hours late. I must note that Creflo Dollar is on uperstation WGN. Creflo Dollar, people. Channel 26 has Winslow Wheeler: America's Defense Meltdown, whose host must be at least a little perturbed about this unfortunate listing.
0800-0900: Channel 4 has college lacrosse. Who watched college lacrosse at 8am on a Monday morning. Who watches lacrosse? ABC Family has Sabrina the Teenage Witch while TNT has Charmed--I scan through the listings to see if Ann Coulter is on anywhere. I also have a choice between Morning Inspiration with Brother Gerard on BET and 15 Infamous Child Star Mugshots on E!. I file this combination under "codependent listings."
0900-1000: QVC begins its first of two hours devoted to selling the Joan Rivers Classics Collection. It's followed by Flameless Candles. Hmmm. Clifford the Big Red Dog vs. the US Senate? Too easy. How Its Made on the Discovery Channel--a hidden gem. It tells you what you need to know, without repetition or teasers, and even keeps going as the credits roll. I'll get my hour's worth there.
1000-1100: Vs has The Best and Worst of Tred Barta. I don't know who or what Tred Barta is, but I'm intrigued that the best and worst of it encompasses no more than thirty minutes. Perhaps one morning I will tune in to find The Best and Worst of Thom Hawkins. Bravo, meanwhile, is showing Mulholland Falls at 10am, a ballsy listing if I've ever seen one. I can watch that or Pokemon.
1100-1200: US Senate vs. What Not to Wear? Still too easy. The Sci-Fi Channel has a big block of "To Be Announced" that will be broadcast in HDTV. TVONE has Black Men Revealed while MTV has T.I.'s Road to Redemption. Who am I kidding, though? The Price Is Right is on.
1200-1300: In case not knowing the outcome of the game is too exciting, channel 4 has Classic MLB Baseball. News, news, news. Wait--the "US House of Representatives" is starting on C-SPAN, one channel below US Senate, which started three hours ago. What's with that? Do they get to sleep in or something? I'm starting to see some synchronicty here. We have the full Congress on two channels, Spin City, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome all playing simultaneously.
1300-1400: The Dead Zone. The soaps are on, and the only antidote is My Big Redneck Wedding followed by Trick My Truck.
1400-1500: Jerry Springer is a repeat. It's the one where random ignorant people are called out on stage for the equally audience members to insult, while they show their breasts and scream obscenities. More feces are flung than on Orangutan Island on Animal Planet. Appropriately, Just Shoot Me is on TBS.
1500-1600: I think I forgot to go to work. "Dr Phil" is on opposite General Hospital, which is fitting because I once left a hospital emergency room while birthing a kidney stone because I couldn't stand one more minute of Dr. Phil on the TVs in the waiting area. Wife Swap is on Lifetime. Does that strike anyone else as weird? Meanwhile, the Praise-a-thon continues on the Trinity Broadcast Network. Because, W.W.J.D.?
1600-1700: The Cosby Show on Superstation WGN provides a gateway to a decent run of sitcoms, leading into primetime. But if the Cos ain't your bag, there's always VH1, with 40 Most Shocking Celebrity Divorces. Right. Shocking.
1700-1800: VH1 continues with "shocking" celebrity divorces, but now it's up against the 20 Most Shocking Unsolved Crimes on E! CMT has Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Seriously, people, if I had gone to work, I'd want to be unwinding right about now. And no, not with Glenn Beck.
1800-1900: Vs. clocks in an hour late with Holy @#%*! Maybe channel 2 is so far from channel 70 that it's in a different time zone. Then again, CNBC (channel 54) has Mad Money on now. "Unique Whips" catches my eye, but it's on the Speed channel, not HBO, and it's several hours too early to be interesting. VH1 has "Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels" because nothing says "love" like a bus. Or Bret Michaels. At least the bus isn't still wearing a fucking bandana on its head in the 21st century.
1900-2000: What's in the Bag? might be interesting on the Game Show Network, but not on the Golf Channel. In the early afternoon, I could find nothing to watch, and now Jeopardy! is running opposite The Simpsons--is there no justice? QVC is making another two-hour run at selling the Joan Rivers Classics Collection. That's so pathetic I almost buy a set out of pity. US Senate versus Little People, Big World? Still too easy.
2000-2100: TV Guide has TV Watercooler. I feel sorry for the TV Guide channel and want to fix it up with QVC. Oh, despierta America! The Golf channel has The Golf Fix, a "weekly recap of tournaments with an eye to notable shots"--but G4 has Happy Gilmore. Fake golf is so much better than real golf. And why isn't miniature golf televised?
2100-2200: WWE Monday Night Raw (USA) versus Dancing with the Stars (ABC). The only way I would watch either of these shows would be if they were shot at the same time on the same set. Table for 12 (TLC) is sandwiched between Destroyed in Seconds (Discovery Channel) and Ax Men (History Channel)--c'mon, calamity!
2200-2300: Now Jon & Kate Plus Eight is sandwiched between Ax Men and now Rampage! on the Discovery Channel. I still have my fingers crossed--though I can't decide on whether I'm ultimately more disappointed in the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel for their content in recent years. Spike has UFC's Ultimate Knockouts 5--the highlights format is absolutely necessary because otherwise--yawn ...--I might as well watch the Golf channel.
2300-2400: News, news, and more news. Plus, Seinfeld on two channels--which is an interesting programming decision from a competitive standpoint. The one on TBS is a classic, but the one on MyTV 24 is followed by a second episode. The TV Guide Channel is showing Film's Sexiest Men of All Time on two channels, but, alas (or not), it's the same episode.
2400-0100: I think I forgot to go to bed. But I have to get up in a few more hours, so I might as well continue watching. Jay Leno? Nope. David Letterman? Nope. George Jefferson? Yep, followed by an episode of Good Times.
0100-0200: Another dead zone. For the macho, World Extreme Cagefighting on Vs. For the intellectual, World Series of Poker on ESPN-2. Just when I'm about to tune in to the Praise-a-thon, I find CB4 on TVONE.
0200-0300: There's no question I'm going to watch How It's Made (Discovery Channel). At least this way I won't feel like my day has been wasted. I learned how peanut butter was made. That could be useful in a survival situation. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome starts again on G4, this time not opposite the US Senate. I wonder briefly if the Senators are watching Mad Max right now.
0300-0400: I tune in to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to find out if it has become funny. It has not. "Smell ya later." I say to Nickelodeon. Besides, The Jeffersons is on three channels away. Is Nick counting on people channel checking all the way to 41 and then deciding that the Banks family is funny enough at 3am? I should turn the TV off now, but Good Times is on at 4.