We have found that having a television aboard offers two significant benefits. PBS and local weather forecasts and alerts.* The “core” national stuff on PBS doesn’t vary much from place to place. The local choices of what non-core programming to use and the state level programming vary greatly.
When we moved to the Washington DC area in 1980, PBS was only 10 years old, its production values were quite variable, and it seemed to us its politics were quite one-sided. Still the DC area programming was much more expansive than what we’d had access to in Northern Florida. There were even three channels.
Over the years the production values soared, the politics developed 1.6 sides, and the content became less interesting as PBS appeared to us to try and compete with entertainment networks rather than remain above that fray.
Traveling along the ICW and the Bahamas we have had the opportunity to see a different face of PBS (and its Bahamian equivalent). Yes, the punditry programming is still there and still trying to steer our thinking. But, the programming about the localities and the local people has been excellent. Plus we have seen quite a few programs along the way from the national level that never got air time (or at least never got much advertising) in the DC area.
One such program we watched last night. “Under a Jarvis Moon” tells the story of U.S. efforts from 1935-1942 to colonize a trio of uninhabited atolls in the middle of the Pacific, about halfway between the Hawaiian islands and Australia.
Pretty narrow, huh? Well one of these islands was Howland, the one Amelia Earhart missed. The colonists were a cadre of 130 Hawaiian high school graduates (just graduated) and furloughed Army personnel. These are the men who carved out the runway for her. Hung curtains in a shack for her. Built a shower for her using a 55 gallon drum, a hose, and a vegetable can with holes pierced in it — when they could only shower in fresh water when a squall blew through.
Two of these men died when the Japanese attacked Howland the day after Pearl Harbor.
The program might have gotten hung up (as so many do) on the manipulative cynicism behind the decision to colonize. Instead, it stayed a celebration of the spirit of the men who took on a roughly framed challenge, lived a roughly framed life for the duration in good humor, and went on to become community leaders with a bit more grit. The story is told largely by the three still alive.
While the pundits continue to squawk like green parrots in the evening — the sound is the same, the flight path the same, the guano the same — as long as PBS is a conduit for programing like “Under a Jarvis Moon,” it gets our vote.
*While the local weather stuff available on TV is important, we find what arrives via the cellular network to be more useful (as long as cellular is available) When it’s not, the satellite terminal fills the gaps.
The local news, on the other hand, is turning into tabloid reality (?!?!) programming everywhere we go. The bizarre, lurid and inflammatory information delivered by breathless blitherers is becoming indistinguishable market to market. Recently, information on a major road closure was completely ignored in favor of “This just in — man bitten by alligator fleeing police,” First, it’s Florida; Alligators bite people — the news is when people bite alligators, remember? Second, why was the alligator fleeing police? And third, why did the announcer think “Him and I” was good grammar?