Rivaling, if not surpassing the mostly-insipid and putrid shows seen on American TV, apart from a handful of real gems of genius and serious productions like Game of Thrones (disguised Ancient Greek tragedy), Ray Donovan, Homeland, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Better Call Saul, Fargo, The Walking Dead, The Wire (check out the Greeks in the diner), True Detective, and Deadwood, Greek TV is mostly unwatchable.
It’s a collection of infomercials, scamsters selling and buying junk, come-ons showing young women in various stages of undress you can talk to for only a couple of euros a minute while not realizing it’s likely some old woman doing her ironing with curlers in her hair while talking dirty to you, pitches to sell abdominizers, plastic vegetable cutters, non-stick pans that stick, spray painters that work the first time and never again, 1980s sitcoms, third-rate soccer, and badly dubbed American huckster shows pitching products so bad it makes the screen smell.
Televisions are mostly decorations now given streaming services, torrents you can download to your computer or phone and on-demand abilities which are even killing off cable, where, in the United States, you can have 1000 channels to see if you can find 10 that are worth watching, except of course, for Hoarders, which everyone watches.
Watching Greek TV though is an even more painful experience because in the morning the few alleged news stories mirror each other with what they call windows, half a dozen people in different frames screaming at each other about who’s to blame for all the country’s ills, although everyone knows it’s everyone else except the person they support.
Springsteen got it best, of course, when he sang that, “There’s 57 channels and nothing’s on,” and it’s gotten so bad – in the U.S. and in Greece – that it almost makes you yearn for Car 54, Where Are You?
Most of Greek TV is so inane and fatuous it could drive a man to drink, which is why I keep a bottle of ouzo and another of Metaxa as a back-up and just to make sure, some Bulleit Bourbon and Paddy Irish Whiskey or Tullamore Dew, part of being Greek and Irish and trust me, after a few shots even Lakis Lazopoulos, a self-indulgent self-promoting TV variety show personality, looks like Dick Cavett interviewing Gore Vidal.
In Athens, you wake up to, let’s see, (clicking the remote control before coffee, a little woozy here) Channel 4 Extra has a commercial selling arthritis cures for 29.90 euros; Channel 5 Action 24 (which at night shows The Persuaders with Tony Curtis and Roger Moore) has Americans selling car scratch remover for 49.90 euros; Channel 6 Alpha has coffee with a politician so boring you need the caffeine to keep your eyes open listening to him; Channel 9 Attica TV is selling bio-magnetic bracelets that cure insomnia, headaches, leg pulls, bad knees, and blurred vision but have a warning if you wear two make sure they're not turned backwards or they'll repel both wrists.
But wait, there's more, and keep in mind the level of the minds that put this stuff together put out shows that make Jerry Springer talking to mothers teaching their teen daughters how to be tarts seem like the late physicist Richard Feynman explaining where the universe ends.
So keep pushing the remote, past the BBC and Deutsche Welle, which are worth watching but break up and can't come in, and flip to Channel 15 Epsilon selling caviar luxe cream for 29.90 euros for all you women who can't wait to put fish eggs on your face; Channel Kontra 17, otherwise known as the conspiracy channel, selling some kind of pan contraption for, yes, 29.90 euros (hmm, maybe they're right and it's the same people selling everything!) that cooks not in the pan but on the lid on top! How great is that, I'm ordering a couple so I can flip my lid although I'm worried the commercial shows a mom doing this with two young children standing so close they can almost feel the heat.
Please Zeus, let there be something worth watching (pushing the remote). Channel 20 MTV, which usually shows dog music and pop videos so saccharine you can pour some in your coffee as a sweetener but watch out for cavities, is selling an electro muscle stimulator (EMS) belt you put on your abdomen and has 10 settings that can set off tremors allegedly tightening your belly faster than it got bigger from belting down beer. So people are calling in to buy a machine that gives them spasms?
It must work because it’s on TV and they can’t lie, right? That’s reserved for another station with a guy with lamb chop sideburns so long he looks like 1970s porn star Ron Jeremy (I never saw him!) selling gold but you might want to make sure it’s not really painted metal.
But now I’m hooked and would throw away my gym membership to buy an EMS belt but put it around my head to see if I can stimulate my brain to survive this drivel otherwise I’m going full-bore Springsteen and buy a .44 magnum with a solid steel cast “and in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast, 'Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet.”