Street TVs

TV Street

They seem sad, dejected and lonely sitting on a curb, waiting and hoping to be picked up, carried off and brought back to life by being plugged in and surrounded by a family who happens to love watching sitcoms together. Television sets appear life-like to me because they talk. This explains that melancholy I feel seeing an abandoned TV. Sure the words televisions say are actually the crap they broadcast but they can take the vision of one world and bring it into another one. That’s not to say you can have a real conversation with a TV.

TV close up

Recently we wanted to watch, or maybe I wanted to watch, a preseason football game while working on our kitchen renovation. My wife, Ronna, suggested I hook up the old set in the basement. I hauled it up, attached the antennae and watched the snowy image on the screen before a hazy memory became clear. The heavy-ass set needed a digital converter box. I flashed back to that murky time when the digital transition was going to be happening and it was all over the television being explained and hyped. I’d forgotten. The old analog set was not going to pick up a signal. I tried to explain this but ended up committing to that day’s work out of lifting and carrying the old set down to the basement. There’s been at least one reason not to ditch it on the curb, besides the heartbreak, VHS tapes and old DVDs still look great on that set. So on that rare occasion when it’s necessary it will be there serve its duty as a monitor.

TV note

But it was the digital conversion that wasn’t that long ago that has created a nation of semi-obsolete televisions. You can still find a converter box. The new ones may cost 40 to 50 dollars, but you could probably get one cheaper, like you can find everything, online. It’s seems sketchy because you’ll be watching a digital image on an analog set. I’m sure these digital converter boxes work fine but why make the investment in old school technology when you can get a new, slim, sleek model for cheap. So out go the old sets often with a reminder note that explains that they work great or that the set is free. I’m especially fond of the giant televisions, wide-screen, state of the art in their day, that seem to take up a city block and would have to be moved by a crane. They make it easy to see how far technology has progressed.

TV curb

I had an eye out for old TVs years ago when I had a plan to make a music video about a guy watching a music video on a mountain of television sets. I suppose the logistics of carting televisions around and hoarding them in the basement killed my inspiration. When I worked in a group home and one of the televisions broke, I made my one and only curbside TV grab. I got the set back only to realize the electrical cord had been cut. I had to drop it off at Far West Recycling Inc.

TV crap pile

Sad, abused, orphaned, to say the least, it’s a difficult question on how to deal with the street TV dilemma. I wonder why there has never been an eye water inducing public service announcement for television junkies to weep over. With a sappy soundtrack the narration could surely describe the plight of the homeless sets waiting for new life in an art project or crying out for a digital conversion to broadcast the late show of a bygone era one last time.

TV Curb St. Johns (1)

Perry Mason Addendum

perry mason addendum

At my substitute teaching job this week, I spotted the September issue of the Oregonian with the Perry Mason blurb in it that I had blogged about. I looked at it and realized I missed a crucial detail concerning the cancellation of the show. Andy Delaporte, vice president and general manager of KPTV/KPDX had pointed out that the ratings were low but he also mentioned that the station’s contract with the syndication company was up. I don’t know what it means when a syndication contract is up but it seems obvious the renewal would involve money that wasn’t going to be spent keeping Perry Mason around. I can still plead my case that promotion could have built an audience that might have kept the show on but the judge and jury have joined Perry Mason and left the building.

I imagine Portlanders heading into middle age as the types who grew up on college/indie rock. This somehow seems to equate them being a vast audience open to the undiscovered, old fashioned campiness of Perry Mason. Then again Portland folks don’t have a reputation for being television watchers. Since I missed 47 years of the show’s 48 year run it would have only been a matter of time before I, too, uttered the words, “I’ve seen this one.”

Rest in Peace Perry Mason!

Power to the Perry!


After 48 years The Perry Mason Show is off the air in Portland, OR.  A mild controversy erupted two years ago, the first time Perry Mason was replaced from its noon slot on KPTV (Fox-12).  It returned to an 8am broadcast time on KPDX-TV channel 49, I’m assuming after enough of an uproar.  With little fanfare, Queen Latifah replaced Perry Mason in September. Any diehard Perry fan settling in to watch the show had to be disappointed. My wife, Ronna, and I started watching and enjoyed it. The characters all seemed to smoke like chimmneys and it was fun to see Perry Mason in black and white, along with investigator Paul Drake and the faithful secretary Della, chasing down some goofball in the 50’s and 60’s Los Angeles who thought he or she could get away with murder. We watched together when I had Monday mornings off. My wife’s work schedule allowed her to watch it every weekday morning.

The official story from Andy Delaporte, the vice president and general manager of KPTV/KPDX, is that the ratings were too low to keep airing the show. This is understandable but it occurred to me that the show was never promoted. A quick and funny promo could have easily been made to alert people to this gem of a show and could possibly have built an audience. And why does it always have to be about money? What about the public service of entertaining, what’s safe to assume, an elderly audience. I understand an hour of TV, five times a week, is too much to give away, but I cannot recall seeing any advertising during the show targeted to the audience. No Henry Winkler or Fred Thompson schilling for reverse mortgage programs, no medicare insurance, no Colonial Penn funeral insurance with or without Alex Trebek, no Teva (adult depends), no Consumer Cellular and no mysterious medication ads of any kind that I remember. I mostly recollect seeing commercials for career colleges and promos for Fox 12 news broadcasts. Anyone in the area who had been watching the show for 48 years was probably not considering career college.

My first thoughts were that I was going to have to fight the power to get Perry back on the air. I thought of boycotts, listing all the advertisers on the station and its affiliates, and then marching into a retirement community, up in arms, saying we can get Perry back. Working six days a week these days, I don’t want to spend my one day off protesting and I boycott most things anyway by being broke. I will get around to contacting Me-TV which is a subchannel of KATU-TV that may someday air Perry Mason in the Portland area. I found out through the Perry Mason page on Facebook that the show airs on Me-TV in Florida. Perry Mason also airs on the Hallmark Movie Channel but I’m not going back to cable.  Some of these other options involve investing in one of those DVR contraptions, something that me and all my geriatric compatriots may not be willing to do.

The biggest disappointment is losing another unique Portland experience.  If only I’d watched the show sooner, I could have seen all 275 episodes. Now I can only wish I was watching Perry Mason brainstorming in a haze of cigarette smoke, at 8am on a Monday morning, like the good old days.

Because they can say it better:

Portland Film Beat

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.38.43 PMTwo of my heroes, film makers Bryan Hiltner and Michelle Vincig, participants of the former monthly screening series Attack of the Flix (I’ll write about it someday) were interviewed on the public access show Portland Film Beat. A cross section of the Portland film community has already made appearances on the show which are also available on YouTube.

Here’s a link: