A couple of random observations on watching television with the folks today:
- The "CBS News Sunday Morning" program is still going with host Charles Osgood, who took over from Charles Kuralt. It's a news magazine show that focuses on human interest and Americana stories, the furthest thing from hard-hitting, but a nice feel-good program much beloved by the older set. My parents watched it every week for years when I was younger, and I'd totally forgotten about it. But there it was, minus the trumpet fanfare, but still sporting its usual sunburst logo, and with some new faces like Mo Rocca, who turned in an interview with Oscar hopeful Albert Brooks today.
- "Sunday Morning" also had a quick run-down of the new Christmas releases with New York Magazine critic David Edelstein. Aside from "We Had a Zoo" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," it's just about all action movies this year with a couple of thrillers in the mix. Box office watchers have been unhappy with the returns so far, and this is a much better selection of films than we had last Christmas, when "Little Fockers" and "Tron Legacy" were doing battle. Not a great way to end what hasn't been a great year for Hollywood.
- It being Christmas, most of the news stations were covering feel-good stories like soldiers coming home and local charity efforts. And because we're only a week away from the new year, several were showing highlights from 2011. Apparently the biggest news story of the year according to multiple stations was the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I must have seen more wedding pictures and recap than actual news about Prince Philip, who is currently in the hospital recovering from surgery. Then again, there hasn't been much news this year that wouldn't be a downer on Christmas.
- Ah, commercials. How I have not missed you. Spotted a new Cover Girl ad for their True Blend foundation line, which is touting something called "skin twin" technology. Beauty products are notorious for advertising based on junk science and using meaningless buzzwords. Shampoo ads used to be my favorites, touting the addition of supposedly beneficial stuff like "jojoba," "hawafena," and other mystery substances.
- Around noon, CNBC was running infomercials for a 90 day workout program. Never too early to start working on New Year's resolutions, huh? I know that a station devoted to business news really has nothing to report on over the holidays, but surely NBC could have could have rustled up some more festive programming. On the other hand, I guess it makes sense that a business-oriented station would look better if it was doing its best to maximize profits.
- SyFy was running a mini-marathon of "Merlin" episodes. I'm looking forward to the fourth season, which I'm fairly sure just ended in the UK. Oh, and there's that "Doctor Who" Christmas special to go track down.
- My parents have satellite, including a lot of movie channels. There were a couple of Christmas movies running, like "The Grinch" and "Jingle All the Way," along with lots and lots of sentimental family movies – "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda," "Indiana Jones," "Forrest Gump, and so on. I watched "Secretariat," which I skipped when it was in theaters last year because it looked awfully maudlin. I forgot about John Malkovitch being in the film. Between him Diane Lane, it was much better than I was expecting, though still very much a Disney movie. And Margo Martindale really was in everything, wasn't she?
- I thought that Cher looked badly preserved in "Burlesque" last year. I think Dolly Parton in the commercials for the upcoming "Joyful Noise" has her beat. I'm pretty sure the last time I saw her was when she performed at the Oscars back in the 90s, and she looks terrible. It's not that she hasn't aged well. It's that she so obviously hasn't aged naturally. Why do these poor women do this to themselves?
- I'm a little sad I won't be around for the New Year's "Twilight Zone" marathon that SyFy does every year. The marathons date back to long before SyFy acquired the rights to the series, and my local syndicated station was one of those that popularized the tradition. Then again, there's no reason I can't buy a few "Twilight Zone" box sets with the gift cards I got, and run my own little marathon next week. There are a lot of episodes that I haven't seen unedited. Heck, I wouldn't even have to sit through commercials that way.
- And in the end, I ended up watching what I always end up watching when I'm home for Christmas – way too many episodes of "Mythbusters." There's nothing like science experiments and explosions to celebrate the season.
Happy holidays everyone!