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A bounty of TV choices; now more guidance

By BARBARA FREDRICKSEN
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 28, 2002

Back in the olden days, kids, times were tough. We had to walk through 3 feet of snow to school (okay, I'm Texan, so it was sticker burrs and red clay dust), hang our laundry outside to dry, and we didn't have but three television stations.

It was rugged, but it was simpler, too. We'd get the youngest kid in the house to sit by the set to click the dial through the three stations (no remote control), and we would immediately know what was on each one, even if it was mostly Houston Wrestling, jagged lines of black, gray and white ("Turn the vertical, no the horizontal"), rolling pictures and my little nephew's favorite, the test pattern with the Indian.

Nowadays, we have choices, scores of choices. My cable company recently switched me to the new, expanded lineup, which means I have 70 channels to choose from, and I don't even have premium channels.Like most people, I don't have time to watch much TV, much less all TV, so when I watch, I want it to be something worthwhile. Something valuable. Something educational. Something thought-provoking.

Of course, I'm always ready to see a rerun of Law and Order, but that doesn't count.

Whatever, the new, improved TV Times coming out Sunday in My Favorite Newspaper will be a tremendous help. Instead of listing only about half the channels, as we have in the old TV Times, we're going The Full Monty -- just about everything on the dial. Or the clicker, as you kids call it.

In Pasco, we're adding 27 channels to the grid listings, including my new favorites, Turner Classic Movies, the History Channel, Flix ("cool classics for the movie generation") and WE ("Cinematherapy"). We'll have Black Entertainment, Comedy Central, Food, Movie Plex and Travel.

We'll also have E!, Golf, MSNBC (though who can stand to watch that crawling stock market report these days?), HBO2, Showtime2, Starz and Encore, which our main newspaper competitor doesn't have.

In Hernando and Citrus, we're adding 23 channels, including Bravo, Oxygen, SCIFI, WE, Showtime2, Hallmark, Food, Cartoon, and Starz, plus many our main newspaper competitors don't have. To help make room for all this, we're dropping some Gainesville and Orlando stations because their programs are the same as other network affiliates we're already listing.

We're keeping our present across-the-page grid; 90 percent of TV Times readers said they like it better that way. We'll still have names, addresses and phone numbers of local TV and radio stations and major networks in case anybody wants to write or call to complain about a program.

But we're dropping our VCR PLUS+

code numbers, again, to help make room for all those new channels (and I've never met anyone who uses them anyway). And we're moving the radio talk show listings to the Saturday TV page in Floridian.

The new channel lineup has some terrific offerings, many with commercials only before and after the shows.

Just noodling around the dial, I've already caught a wonderful English language version of Swedish playwright August Strindberg's Miss Julie, as well as the incomparable Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful and the touching Children of a Lesser God on WE, all without commercials.

My windows went unwashed, my refrigerator grew green fuzz and my weeds went unpulled as I was taken back to my childhood watching June Allyson play Jo in Little Women, Sidney Poitier as the rescuer in A Patch of Blue, Rex Harrison doing Pope Julius II with a nasal, Henry Higgins sound in The Agony and the Ecstasy and Kirk Douglas portraying Van Gogh in Lust for Life, all in a row on Turner Classic Movies, all without commercials. Over on FLIX were the creepy Goldie Hawn movie, CrissCross, Genevieve Bujold in the spooky romance Choose Me, and Crispin Glover in the disturbing, edgy River's Edge, again with no ads. Besides all that are sports, news, arts, Spanish language shows, Court TV, C-SPAN, rock music videos, the Learning Channel, and, yes, those three networks I started out with lo, those many years ago.

Until now, I've been in blissful ignorance about all the nifty things I'm missing, but with the new TV Times, it will all be out there, like ripe strawberries, just waiting for me to pick.

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