Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guilty Travel Pleasure: Television

I will freely admit that I don't always get out and explore new areas like I should. Travel takes a lot out of a person, and I'm not always up to trekking through a new town in search of something interesting to see or do. Sometimes I'm just too tired, while other times I'm uncertain if the neighborhood is safe to explore at night. At any rate, I usually turn to television. I use TV as a distraction, for background noise and sometimes just as something to keep me awake until it's time to go to sleep.

There's quite a bit of variety in TV programming throughout the world. For instance, in Europe MTV actually plays music videos for the better part of the day.

I'd like to share with you a few of my favorite TV moments that I've experienced while traveling.

1. The Simpsons in Switzerland
After a trip to the grocery store to pick up and sample a variety of chocolate bars, I was feeling the effects of all far too much sugar: I was quite warm, I was unable to cool off and my heart was racing. After a walk through a nearby square, I decided to head to my hotel room for a bit of a rest in order to give my heart a chance slow down.

I flopped down on my twin bed and searched the TV channels for something interesting to watch, and I found The Simpsons. Normally, I'd find something different, but the show was in German so I thought I would give it a try. The voice casting was pretty good for Bart and Lisa, but they got Homer completely wrong. The voice was a little to quick and, well, German for Homer. It was the efficient delivery that was so incongruent with the character which was distracting. I watched the whole episode, amused by this slight difference.

2. Infomercials in Norway
Informercials have always captivated me. I grew up in a household that occasionally purchased items after seeing them on TV (snackmaster and a food dehydrator). I think that my interest in infomercial has something to do with the cheesy showmanship of the format.

The last time I was in Norway I found a channel which was a dedicated to informercials. Regardless of the language used, what they were selling was clear enough, and the classic informercial plot was easy to follow:
Phase 1: Establish a problem
Phase 2: Show shortcomings of other products that address this problem
Phase 3: Present a better product
Phase 4: Wow, that's amazing
Phase 5: You'd be stupid not to buy it

The formula stays the same, while just the language changes. Somehow this captivated me, and I couldn't switch away.

3. Sheep to Shawl Competition in State College, PA
This is, perhaps, my favorite travel TV moment. While visiting Penn State, I stumbled upon a cable access presentation of a sheep to shawl competition. Several teams gather annually to participate in the sheering sheep, carding of wool, spinning of yarn and weaving shawls.

The whole process takes about 3 hours and it's pretty amazing to watch as the raw material rapidly makes the transformation from the source to a finished product. The shawls are then auctioned off for charity, and the teams start planning for next year's competition. I had never seen anything quite like this, and I couldn't go to sleep until I saw the finished shawls.

Even though it isn't the greatest thing to do while traveling, I still enjoy the comfort of watching TV while enjoying the subtle differences in programming. Do you have any interesting TV travel stories? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

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