Most mornings I stumble out of bed at 6:25, head into the TV room, and turn on an exercise show called Total Body Sculpt. The program features a muscle-bound Israeli ex-soldier named Gilad Janklowicz and his cohort of spandex wearing “exercistes” on Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach. With looming Diamond Head and the sparkling Pacific Ocean in the background, I yawn, stretch and lunge, then yawn, squat and crunch, while Gilad’s admonitions (“Don’t throw out your leg!”) and advice (“Sit on your heels!”) ring in my ears.
And then comes a commercial. Do I bolt for a quick bathroom break? Hustle down to feed the dog? No. I stay glued to the set, because the ads on this particular channel are not of the boring bathroom-break variety. Even in my sleepy state, I find them fascinating.
It wasn’t always this way. The change occurred last February when “Fit TV” (Channel 130 in Maine) became “Discovery Fit & Heath.” Overnight,the roster of exercise shows was hacked to pieces, with Gilad the one and only survivor. Gone went the serene yoga lady, the intense plyometrics guy, and the dark-eyed belly dancing instructor. In their slots, “healthy” fare, such as “My Strange Addiction,” “Freaky Eaters,” and “Untold Stories of the ER.”
Trust me on this… these new programs describe some of the strangest things you can imagine. For example, a recent “Addiction” show highlighted a man obsessed with pulling hair out of sink drains. Another recounted the tale of a woman who can’t stop bathing in bleach. Meanwhile, “Freaky Eaters” featured a poor soul who binges repeatedly on corn starch.
And then there are the equally dramatic baby shows.
“Discovery Fit & Health” now offers up programs on families trying to adopt (“Adoption Stories”), couples having high-risk births (“Babies: Special Delivery”), and one that is extremely difficult for me to fathom: “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” Someday I have to make time to catch a little of this one, because I truly can’t imagine this scenario. I mean, who doesn’t realize — fairly early on — that they are going to have a baby? Those twice daily trips for ice cream and that ever-expanding waistline aren’t obvious enough clues? As I said, I need to watch and see if these women are just idiots, woefully out of touch with their bodies, or what.
By evening, the baby stories have been put to bed and it’s time for steamier fare. Viewers of Channel 130 might tune in to “Strange Sex,” and “Big Sexy,” or watch special shows about people with “sexsomnia” or equally odd disorders. How these nestlle under the “fit and health” umbrella is a mystery to me. Nor can I understand this irony: why, when we are a nation becoming more and more rotund, is there not a place for a real “Fit TV” on the pantheon of channels? Why was the yoga lady replaced by someone who gorges on corn starch?
Back to the commercials, because there is one program in the mostly bizarre line-up that piques my crime-writing imagination. It’s a reality show called “Dr. G: Medical Examiner.” It stars Jan C. Garavaglia, M.D., (aka “Dr. G,“) a chief ME in the Orange-Osceola area in Florida. As you might imagine, many of her corpses have met with mysterious ends, and Dr. G must figure out the cause of death. If the ads are any indication, this show actually looks interesting, and I’m going to make time in the New Year for a gander.
Weird programming is now the norm on television, and I know Channel 130 isn’t the only place to find it. What’s the strangest thing you’ll admit to watching?