In 1992 Bruce Springsteen sang about signing up for cable television only to discover “57 channels and nothing on”.
Fast forward a couple of decades and the lyrics need a slight update. Now it's more like 1000 channels and nothing on. If you're watching my TV here in New York it's actually 1001, to be precise.
Yes, even here in the city that never sleeps, one of the most exciting metropolises in the world filled with every sort of entertainment you could dream up, you can ignore the outside world to spend 24 hours a day cycling through 1001 channels, trying to find something to watch.
It's clearly a much more advanced system than Foxtel, which only has 142 channels with nothing on. That's almost nine times the nothing!
But for every remote control-clicker wearily cycling through the old movies, repeats of Seinfeld, 24 hour news and Spanish soap operas with variations on the name “Amor Prohibido”, there is one type of viewer that is consistently and lovingly catered for by American cable TV – the home shopper.
Presumably they're a large audience, as there are dozens of channels populated with people called “Carole” and “Bob” whose sole purpose is to spruik things like the “Super Food Chopper” (makes a stir fry in nine seconds) 24 hours a day.
Clearly the type of person who would find 1001 virtually empty channels enticing is the same who would go for an all-in-one polar fleece jumpsuit with a zippered “hatch” on the buttock area. (Yes, they actually sell these, they're called “Forever Lazy” - see below).
I don't care how much the people "at the football match" and the couple drinking tea on the bridge were paid, it wasn't enough.
While writing this column I cycled through a few. On the Home Shopping Network you could buy the “Serious Skin Care Instagleam Trio with tote bag” for $69.95. Over on QVC they had a whole three hour show dedicated to the “Jacqueline Kennedy Collection” in which you could buy a “simulated sapphire bracelet” (how romantic), or the “Royal Colour” bracelet (I think “royal colour” means it looks like gold, but isn't) for $169.95.
On SHNBC you could snaffle a ring made of something called “lolite” with “a real European look”. WRNN was selling the “10 minute trainer” for two payments of $39.95, while SNY had some sort of device called the “total gym” that looked like it was modelled on something from the inquisition (but it was only $49.95 so, you know, bargain.)
I stopped flicking after channel 582 because I ended up stuck in the Spanish language stations and got distracted by whether Carlos was going to tell Jose about being in love with his girlfriend Marta.
Lucky Springsteen didn't write his hit in 2011. “1001 channels and nothing on except Zumba infomercials” just doesn't have the same ring to it.
This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on October 23, 2011.