Wednesday, July 09, 2003

TNN: The White Trash Channel Evolves

The Nashville Network (TNN) started out life as a cable channel devoted to country music. As such, it had country music variety shows and music videos. In time, it began adding "lifestyle" programming, which amounted to cooking shows with Florence Henderson, and tractor pulls and bass fishing on Sunday. Meanwhile, those of us who are simply into the damn music discovered Country Music Television (CMT). Eventually CMT began doing a few "lifestyle" shows of its own, including shopping sprees in Manhattan with the little tarts that pass themselves off as female country singers. Enter Great American Country (GAC), yet another cable channel which tries to be what CMT once was -- mostly about the music, dammit.

Eventually, TNN threw off its "country music" mantle, becoming "The National Network," and going full tilt into syndicated reruns during the week, big-time wrestling on weeknights (an early television staple), and keeping the tractor pulls and bass fishing on Sundays.

The latest wrinkle is to rename TNN as "Spike TV: The First Network for Men." When the big day came for the old switcheroo, they were still known as "The New TNN." It seems movie producer Spike Lee was threatening TNN owner Viacom in court, claiming people were confusing his name with a channel devoted to "demeaning, vapid and quasi-pornographic content." Finally, today's New York Times reports that the way is clear for Viacom to proceed with its plans to rename TNN as "Spike TV."

This entire saga begs the larger issue. I am having serious doubts now, regarding my well-laid plans to change my legal name to "Spike." Even Mr Lee's original name was "Sheldon." (You can bet he got the crap beat out of him at school over that one.) Nor will I ever be able to name my dog, my cat, or my fish "Spike."

Who owns the name? Isn't it in the public domain, like Tom, Dick, or Harry? Who the hell does Sheldon think he is? After all, women have a channel devoted solely to them. Men need one too, I suppose. But why is the need for a "men's channel" translated as another forum for "demeaning, vapid and quasi-pornographic content"? Isn't there enough of that elsewhere, and is this essential to our manhood? Personally, I'd settle for a program that told me how to tie a windsor knot, or how to dress for a formal or semi-formal dinner, or which fork to use.

But help is on the way. I hear there's a show coming this fall, where a team of five gay men will give us all those answers. At the risk of a really bad pun, stay tuned...

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