Photo from athens.indymedia.org
Anyone participating in the scourge that is Greek TV should be aware of these guidelines.
The TV schedule is an estimate
Just because “Sex in the City” is on at midnight today, it doesn’t mean it’ll be on the same time tomorrow. It may start at 23:00, 23:40 or 1:00. If you’re setting your VCR or DVD player, allow at least one hour before and one hour after the program’s scheduled time slot. Also don’t be surprised if the program never comes on and you tape something completely different. It’s not you.
Here today, gone tomorrow
If you’ve been watching “America’s Next Top Model” or “Gossip Girl” every day at 16:00 for the past month, it can suddenly change to 17:00 mid-week, switch from weekdays to only Saturdays or disappear altogether, even if it’s the middle of the series. Don’t get attached. The good thing is reruns will probably start again next month, so be patient.
Channels tend to play ancient TV series from America & Australia
Shows like “ALF,” “The Nanny” and “Bewitched” run now and again, and some people actually like it. There are some series, such as “Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place” that I’d never even heard of until I lived here. If you missed seeing them as a kid, here’s your chance.
It’s funnier dubbed in Greek
“The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross and his happy little clouds is even funnier dubbed in Greek — the voice, the choice of expressions, the laughing. For those keeping track, yes he’s dead (rest his soul) — like many other stars of ancient series playing here — but he’s got a second life in Greece.
CAPS mean nothing
Just because the show is CAPPED in Greek TV guides to indicate an English-language program, be prepared to hear Oprah speak Greek. There is no way to know when a program will be dubbed or subtitled, or half dubbed and half subtitled. Sometimes the earlier showing is dubbed, and the 2 a.m. showing is subtitled; sometimes not. Sometimes a BBC program will be half in English and half in Greek with people interviewed in French or German, so you’re in luck if you like inconsistency and linguistic buffets.
Nothing is better than the original, but you can’t see it
“Ugly Betty” is an award-winning show in America originally from Colombia, but in Greece they had “Maria H Askima” for your viewing (dis)pleasure. There’s also a badly filmed, cheap knock-off of CSI complete with plastic guns and ridiculous fight scenes.
When STAR played the commercial (above) for a new spy/assassin series called “Mr. and Mrs. Kourkoulis,” I thought it was a joke. Nope, unfortunately, it was real. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but maybe it’s just unoriginal laziness.
If you can’t afford a taverna, one will be provided for you at no cost
There is a plethora of programs where you can see other people having faux fun at a fake taverna, with red-and-white checked tablecloths on the same rickety tables and chairs, good/skilou singers, trays of flowers, plate-breaking, dancing, posturing and corny banter. Στην υγεια σας, Κοιτα τι εγινε and Το παρτυ της ζωης σου are sometimes on at the same time, which means you can taverna-hop, just like in real life but without face control and the expense. But it also means you’re missing out on smoke inhalation, table dancing, overpriced whiskey, temporary deafness and bad service.
You can experience déjà vu every few months
Channels play the same movies or series on a three-month rotation, as if an infinite number of movies and TV shows didn’t exist. That’s great news if you like Steven Seagal from his lean to sumo years, Sylvester Stallone from mumbly to audible, Roger Moore as 007, Batman and Robin, Jean-Claude Van Damme from brawny to baldy, Wesley Snipes (not Arsenio Hall) and any movie that has a reference to Greece.
If Greek media are on strike, it gets worse with Airplane, Police Academy and Naked Gun playing in succession.
Shamefully, I once watched “Revenge of the Giant Squid” because the movie rental store was closed, and it was the only thing I hadn’t already seen.
Commercial breaks are spontaneous and lengthy
Instead of breaking programs and movies where the director or producer has provided an intentional pause, scenes are unnaturally broken while an actor is midway through his lines or during a key fight scene. And when the program returns — sometimes after an hour of news and you no longer care about how it ends — it won’t be backtracked to the beginning of the scene or the actor’s line.
Many stations run commercials for up to 10 minutes, so mute it and don’t feel bad about walking away to boil some pasta and vegetables. You have plenty of time.
Many good shows are on after midnight
Law and Order, CSI, Nip/Tuck and other shows I tolerate aren’t usually on until midnight or later. Hello, I have a job. I think it’s a bit sad to take a nap in the middle of the day just to stay up late and watch TV.
Don’t watch SKAI if spiders & snakes creep you out
Kudos to SKAI for having Eco News and shows from Animal Planet, but please give the slimy, venomous and scaly things a rest. Nearly every time I happen by, there’s a close-up of something being killed, cocooned or swallowed whole. Bleck!
More windows on Greek news than in your house
Although 7 of 10 viewers polled said they are unhappy with the quality of TV and Greek news in particular, nothing has dampened the trend of παράθυρα (windows) in which people/politicians are placed in 5, 6 or 9 slots to debate a subject but instead shout over each other without taking a breath or letting anyone finish a sentence. It’s like a dysfunctional Hollywood Squares without the prizes.
For the first seven years I lived in Greece, I didn’t own a TV. A few people had tried giving me TVs when they moved away, but I’d end up donating them to others. Between work, learning Greek, clubbing and dealing with bureaucracy, there wasn’t time and I wasn’t home. I also suspected there was nothing to watch.
I finally broke down and bought a TV on the day of the Athens 2004 Opening Ceremonies, during which I cried more than my Greek friends. I cried again during the Closing Ceremonies but in OAKA amongst thousands from the Greek diaspora.
Now, unless I’m watching BBC, CNN, “Apodexeis” with Nikos Evangelatos, “Fakeloi” or a DVD, it pretty much sits in the corner and collects dust, though I also blast the TV volume to drown out the incessant whining and screaming of children of all ages.
And for the record, I have only two actual windows in the house; the rest are doors with windows.
In the News
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”
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