Saturday, September 20, 2008

TV in the UAE

I am sitting at my laptop with the TV on as I write this. We really don’t watch a lot of TV – didn’t have time before and now that we have a baby, we watch even less. I think to cancel my cable because there is nothing on really, and what is exported from the US just doesn’t seem that good to me – and there is a lot of other stuff I would rather do. We seem to get a lot of the latest shows, but I’ve just not gotten into the majority of it. Anything I want to watch I can download, get on the Internet free (Jon Stewart) get on DVD or borrow from someone. And while its good to empty your brain sometimes, its not really the way we want to do it.

One thing I do find interesting is what “we”, meaning the US exports to the rest of the world as entertainment…and we wonder why people think we are nutts? Well, TV doesn’t help a lot…or maybe I’ve just been away that long that I don’t get it. The first thing I saw on TV when we moved into our apartment and connected the cable here was Jerry Springer! Eek. Changed the channel and one or two numbers away was Maurie Povich (sp?) trying to help someone figure out who the father of her child was because it could have been one of three or four guys....quality stuff, eh?

Right now I have the E! channel on – which I don’t know if that stands for Extra, Entertainment or Extraterrestrial? Apparently Denise Richards now has her own “reality” show. Sarper’s question is who is she…I think she was a model, but don’t know if she was in any shows or movies? Not that important, but her show is kind of entertaining because its one big oxymoron. She just went on vacation with some of her girl friends and the paparazzi is chasing her..bummer dude. But quotes like “Gosh, I hope we don’t have to spend our entire vacation with cameras in our faces. That would really suck.” - Hmm…this coming from someone who has a cameraman filming her in the seat next to her?!!! What is wrong with this picture?! Is this network making her look like an idiot on purpose? If so, they have achieved that goal.

There are hundreds of television channels available here – from all over the world. Several Arabic channels, obviously. This is followed by several American channels and some from other countries – the UK, Germany, a French channel in there, etc. The local English channels tend to show only US shows with Arabic subtitles – for example, Grey’s Anatomy, which I really like, but can fortunately download.

Someone once asked me why are there so many shows about hospitals. Is it really that crazy? As the quote goes “life is stranger than fiction” and there is a lot of crazy things that go on in a hospital - both with the patients and the personnel who work there. But when you deal with life and death I think that creates a very unique organizational culture. While it was crazy at times, I really did enjoy working in the hospital environment. Even though I was in administration and not interacting with patients, one thing is for sure; it was never ever dull or ordinary.

Anyway, I digress….The local channels show a lot of US sitcoms and other popular things like CSI, American Idol, Jay Leno, Ellen etc. You can even get the US morning news shows – although they are a day old. Even better, you can subscribe to the Fox News channel here. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who does.

The one good thing we seemed to have exported in the 2-dimensional world is Oprah Winfrey. Women in the Middle East love her. There was even an article in this weekend’s International Herald Tribune writing about her appeal to Saudi women. They watch Oprah on a channel that is broadcast from Dubai. They interviewed some Saudi women who like her and her support for women to empower themselves. She is also admired because she is a self-made woman and worked hard to get where she is. Say what you want about Oprah, but that is pretty darn cool.

About a year ago there was a lot in the US press about 24 and its bias against Arabs. We’ve been following 24 religiously since the first year when they released it in Turkey. The entire city of Istanbul was addicted to this and Sex in the City in those days.

They also show both here and a few years ago we started to catch up on 24 via DVD. Often things are at least a season behind here if not more. We’d share them with all of our friends and they were like crack! I’d give it to a colleague on Thursday (the last day of our work week here) and he’d walk in all red-eyed on Sunday begging me to not share any more seasons if I got them. However, a few days later the monkey was back and they’d always come back asking for the next season. While there might be some Arab groups in the US and perhaps some here that find it negative toward Arabs, I haven’t met any Arabs here that have expressed the same feelings. The Arabs I know are equally as addicted to it as we were! Personally, I don’t feel they necessarily singled out Arabs. For example, there are corrupt politicians with bazaar visions of grandeur. – Imagine that!

I think I will leave you with that for tonight, as I need to go change the channel because the real life story of Britney Spears is now on! - All of 20-something and she already has a life story out there.

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