Monday, October 17, 2005

People long for OTR

At a panel discussion last Friday sponsored by the American Cinema Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and interesting exchange regarding "scheduled" programming versus "on demand" programming took place. Essentially Rob Long and Cathy Seipp discussed different takes on the issue.

Rob Long argued for the advantages of the "on demand" technology offered by cable services and Apple's new video iPod, he also discussed the advantages of DVR technology. In essence, he discussed how great it is to be able to watch what you want when you want to watch it. This line of thinking has lead to DVD collections of old television shows, new television shows, and provides an alternate tracking system to Nielson for ratings. We can know what people want because they buy it, or they ask for it.

Cathy Seipp looked at the issue from a different angle. She argued for the virtues of scheduled programming. These are, according to Cathy, essentially two-fold. First, there is the comfort level of knowing you are going to watch something at 9pm on Tuesday night. This leads to the second virtue, chiefly the communal element. When a show is on at 9pm you can talk about it the next day with all your co-workers or friends as a shared experience. I would add to Cathy's two virtues a third, you can host "communal" events like an OC party or from when I was in college a 90120 party. The show itself can become an event.

What was particularly interesting about the conversation was that while the examples I used were about television shows, and the panel was about public television, the conversation was about both television and radio. Cathy was lamenting the loss of Old Time Radio shows on Los Angeles radio stations and how she liked to listen to them at pre-known times when driving across town. It was also interesting that I agreed with both whole-heartedly. It was great this summer to be able to watch the first two seasons of the OC in rapid succession because we could get the full narrative rather rapidly. But it is also fun to watch the show as planned, I actually feel the tension of episode endings. I have to wait 'til next week, or as it is now until after baseball (this is as it should be).

After discovering that Cathy was an OTR fan, I decided to ask her what kind of OTR she enjoyed and I was surprised and delighted by her answer. I had expected her to be a fellow geek traveller and quickly say she liked Superman, Green Hornet, the Shadow, and The Lone Ranger. She didn't, but the shows she named sounded great and expanded my desire for OTR products. She mentioned Jack Benny and Eddie Cantor. If memory serves, she has in the past mentioned Fred Allen as well. In addition to the links above, where you can purchase OTR files, you can find streaming broadcasts here though the list hasn't been updated recently and contains some out of date schedule info (for example KCSN no longer plays OTR near as I can tell).

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