Wednesday, December 5, 2012

'Free' TV and OPB too!

11/14/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Thanks to South Lane Television’s translator on Hansen Butte, our family is one of the recipients of Cottage Grove’s 'free' television. When we moved here in 1989 we did not have television reception. A visit to our local Radio Shack and an antenna was installed so we could receive three stations—ABC, CBS and NBC. We were stoked!

Thanks to a recent Sentinel article, I know a little more than I did about the history of the translator that transmits broadcasts to us here in the country. Kudos to the five local businessmen who decided in 1957 that if they were going to sell more televisions they were going to have to get us better reception. Now, according to Lloyd Williams of SLTV, that system is one of the finest in the United States.

At our house, we receive far more channels than we watch but nothing compared to those of you with access to dozens of channels on cable or satellite dishes. We toy with signing up for one of those just to watch certain HGTV and History channel shows. Still, nothing can beat OPB (public television) as our favorite network channel.

My husband is the principal viewer of all television at our house and most of the programs he watches are on OPB. He enjoys everything from “This Old House” to “Oregon Art Beat.” Anything from car shows, woodworking shows to travel, history or old guys solving cold cases is fair game for his clicker.

I, on the other hand, have just a handful of favorites. First and foremost, I am an avid fan of the Antiques Roadshow. Life comes to a standstill at our house on Monday night. The Roadshow is arguably the best reality show on TV. It mixes nostalgia with hope and a little greed. Probably one of my favorite segments was an Oklahoma man who was utterly shocked when his (ugly) Chinese rhinoceros-horn cups were appraised at $1.5 million. In everyone’s dream, he went from Social Security to millionaire in the blink of an eye.

Last year, we discovered a new treasure on OPB. “Doc Martin” is the name of the hit show that began its run in England. It took only one episode for it to become our must-see Thursday night TV event.

We love the unlovable and cantankerous Doctor Martin Ellingham. He is a surgeon whose rising star in the London medical world crashed and burned when he developed a blood phobia that prevents him from operating. He’s a bitter man.

Doc was forced to retrain as a general practioner and hired to set up his surgery (office) in Portwenn, a tiny little Cornish town where he spent childhood summers with his Aunt Joan. His patients were used to tea and sympathy. He is a brilliant physician and diagnostician and a total curmudgeon. On this premise is built one of the most complicated and enjoyable story lines on television.

Doc is socially challenged to the maximum. Over and over it is clear that this he could care less about how his patients and peers emotions. He lives to make them well physically. Any other kind of relationship is an intrusion. He is blunt and to the point—“do this and check back with me in two weeks. Goodbye!” No bedside manner.

Slowly, the story line introduces a pretty primary school teacher Louisa Glasson into his life. She’s attracted to him. He’s attracted to her. And you cannot imagine how complicated and stressful their relationship becomes. Most of the time I wonder how she keeps from slapping him but then…well, you just have to watch it evolve.

As I understand it, the show only films every two years. Right now, it’s in re-runs and if you haven’t seen it, tune in Thursday nights. Doc Martin has something for everyone—humor, relationships, mystery, suspense and romance. And you don’t have to worry about it being inappropriate for mixed company. It’s all done in good taste.

“Call the Midwife” is my latest addiction. This OPB series is based on a memoir written by Jennifer Worth describing her life in the East End of London during the 1950s. It was written in response to a call for “someone to do for midwifery what James Herriot did for vets.” Worth died in 2011 and Vanessa Redgrave narrates her story.

I must admit that as a child of the 1950s, I was shocked at the poverty and harsh living conditions that are portrayed in London tenements. Young twenty-two year old Jenny Lee Worth was also shocked as she arrived not at a clinic but at Nonnatus House (a pseudonym for the Sisters of St. John the Divine in Whitechapel) to live and work alongside her fellow nurses and the Sisters.

The Sisters of St. Raymond Nonnatus have been active in the East End as Anglican nursing nuns since the beginning of the 20th century. I love the way their humanity is portrayed and the way they teach the young nurses their mission. They are there to serve their patients. They are not there to judge the often harsh and immoral lifestyles. Their primary work is to bring literally thousands of babies safely into the world and help the moms care for their newborns.

The stories revolve around the drama and trauma in the lives of individual mothers. There is lighthearted fun back at the nunnery as the young nurses struggle to have a personal life.  And then there’s Sister Monica Joan, an elderly and eccentric nun who is also a kleptomaniac! It’s a dedicated, diverse community ministering in a challenging and diverse environment. The story line is intense but also a breath of fresh air.

So check out OPB. It has something for everyone and you’ll be glad that you did. And thank you SLTV for making it possible for everyone to enjoy quality television!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail —

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