Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Risk Assessment"

I have just slipped into bed.  The television is on, though Dr. M is already asleep.  A problematic sleeper, Dr M claims that the only way she can fall asleep is to find something on television she sincerely wants to watch.  “Dull and uninteresting” are unable to pull it off.  The program has to be fascinating. 

What’s on as the woman sleeps contentedly beside me is an apparently scintillating – because it obviously did the trick – science program.  They are talking about the moon and how in four million years – they seem to have calculated this precisely – it will come close to the earth and eventually blow up. 

This program is not for me.  I have a myriad of problems to deal with.  I do not need an exploding moon appended to the list.

I am not yet ready to turn in.  The TV is on.  The solution for wasting my remaining waking moments of the day is to watch it.  The only question is “What?”

There are no family rules about changing the current channel once the channel’s selector has gone to sleep.  I have the run of the Spectrum­ – our new cable provider – spectrum to turn to.

As previously mentioned, my television viewing options have been substantially diminished.  I will not watch cable news, until they find a way to harness their prejudices and make their observations conform to identifiable reality. 

I have abandoned former standby Law & Order:  SVU, having belatedly come to understand that horrible sex crimes are not a license for (SVU’s creator) Dick Wolf to print money.  Or a means for the casual viewer to be entertained.

And late-night Seinfeld reruns have finally worn out their welcome.  It’s surprising how even classic comedic moments lose their power to amuse after thirty or so repetitions.  (Exception:  Lucy and the conveyor belt.  Explanation:  Physical comedy has extended “staying power.”)

So what’s left for me to turn to?

What is left for me to turn to, after no matter how many previous viewings, is Law & Order, The Original.

I am not entirely sure why Law & Order retains an enduring enthusiasm for me.  My best guess is that at their core Law & Order episodes are moral conflicts and I appreciate the debate.  As a professional word user, I also appreciate the language.  Plus, Law & Order’s onscreen violence is minimal.  The victims are found dead.  We do not actually watch them succumb.  Which I like.  Not watching them succumb.  Not watching them succumb.   (That’s interesting.  Four words whose assigned emphasis creates the opposite intent.)

Anyway, that’s not what this is about.  What it is about is this.

First of all, day or night, it is not hard to find a Law & Order episode playing somewhere.  Brandishing my remote, I can easily find one in less than a minute. 

The problem – cutting directly to the chase – are the inevitable Chung-Chungs.

Regular Law & Order viewers will recognize my onomatopoeical representation as the trademark transitional sound inserted at the completion of a scene.  There are no Chung-Chungs in the middle of a scene – that would be terribly distracting, the actors turning their heads wondering, “What’s that?”  More significantly to the problem at hand, the Chung-Chungs are not inserted at the end of every scene, just an indeterminate percentage of them.  There may be an identifiable pattern involved, but it would take a professional Chung-Chungologist to uncover it, and that is, sadly, not me.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First, an explanatory tidbit.

Without fail – this has been proven more often than was enjoyable for either of us –  the Law & Order Chung-Chungs inevitably wake Dr. M up.

Not Law & Order itself. 

Only the Chung-Chungs.  It only takes one.  And she's totally awake.

You can immediately see my dilemma.  I want to watch Law & Order.  But I cannot hazard the Chung-Chungs.


As a Law & Order aficionado, I can generally anticipate the Chung-Chungs.  And being fast on the remote, I can preemptively “mute” them.  That solution, however, is not guaranteed. 

Although my inveterate show-watching conditioning allows me to detect the end of a Law & Order scene when it’s arriving, first, as I mentioned, they do not Chung-Chung at the end of every scene so there is no absolute certainty a Chung-Chung is on the horizon.  “At the end of every scene” – that’s easy.  The “variable interval” schedule?  Ask any lab rat.  That one is murder.

The second issue is, sometimes, I get so caught up in the narrative, a surprise Chung-Chung can ring out before I can “neutralize” it. 

And then she’s awake.

And she’s not happy about it.

So there you have it.  The show I am ready to watch contains a noise that inevitably wakes up my wife.  Not cascading gunfire.  Not unexpectedly raised voices. 

Only the Chung-Chungs.

I am lying in bed… 

Wondering what to do.


Stephen Marks said...

What if it were a documentary about a pack of Dick Wolf's howling at the Moon when it's 3 inches from the Earth and about to explode, narrated by Connie Chung-Chung. Would that keep Dr. M awake? Earl? Earl?

I think Earl is going to avoid this one because writing "Connie Chung-Chung" is politically incorrect. I don't care, she always came across to me as a Maury Pobitch. Damn, I did it again. Sorry Earl. I know, you can't disparage a former CBS anchor like that, and on a respected comedy writer's blog no less.

Hey give me some credit, there are about 15 Dick Wolf jokes out there calling my name, like the "gold nuggets" Earl mentioned in his "Missing Joke" post. But I'm not going to go there out of respect for Dr. M, she might be awake and reading this. Chung-Chung.

JED said...

You could try what I do and mute the sound and turn on the closed captioning. It's not everyone's cup of tea but it's only for this short time while you're in bed. Maybe reading instead of listening will help you go to sleep.

Another reason for using Closed Captioning, for my wife and I at least, is when we're watching British TV shows (our current favorite is Luther). I think it's mostly the crime dramas because, to make the bad guys seem tougher, they really seem to distort the already unfamiliar accent into a, "What in the world did he just say?" series of rewind-then-play maneuvers until we understand why they shot that guy.