Cable TV gives mainstream TV a run with great programs

When the 5th Season of my favorite Cable TV show, Shameless, ended, I wasn’t sure if I could survive. But cable TV continues to expand its production and this season offers the widest selection of some compelling TV dramas and comedies that will keep you glued to the TV. Today’s television continues to broaden past the limited horizons of mainstream channels to creative and compelling shows on Cable Television

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania, City Hall Reporter, (1976-1992)

Ray Hanania, City Hall Reporter, (1976-1992)

When I was young, television was just an option. We only had a few program choices each night and we’d be lucky if we had more than one show to look forward too.

But today, as more and more emphasis is placed on Cable TV, the focus is shifting from mainstream choices to new horizons filled with some exciting options.

My favorite Cable TV program is the Showtime series Shameless. But when the 5th Season of Shameless came to an end, I wasn’t sure if I could survive. Every Sunday night was a smorgasbord of entertainment, usually three programs. It was the compass for my week.

But this season, almost every night is jam packed with good shows, and most are on Cable TV and only a few are on mainstream TV channels.

Sunday nights is filled with five great programs, the science fiction alien TNT TV drama Falling Skies, leads the way, but competes with another SciFi AMC TV drama, Humans. HBO, which is the leader of great programs, offers the compelling comedy drama, The Brink, which stars Jack Black and Tim Robbins, a series about the war on terror, in Pakistan.

TNT also offers another SciFi drama called The Last Ship, the story of a Navy Crew on a cruiser int he aftermath of a virus apocalypse which is spreading across the world. The Last Ship is searching for a cure, but is up against evil doers who are immune to the virus and want all those who are not immune to die.

And HBO also offers the sports drama Ballers, starring Dwayne Johnson, which explores the real life dramas behind professional sports.

That’s just on Sunday night

English: Actress Halle Berry at the 83rd Acade...

English: Actress Halle Berry at the 83rd Academy Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday night has three shows I watch now, one I hate and watch only because it tugs at my inner anger over the media’s stereotyping and hatred of Arabs. The FX TV show Tyrants is a disgusting example of how racism is used to profit from mainstream American audiences consumed by fears of Arab and Muslim terrorism. Of course, Tyrants is produced by Israelis. Instead of tearing themselves apart with racism and hatred, the Israelis tear apart Arabs and Muslims with some of the most disgusting and racist stereotypes that can be cast on an ethnic and religious group. I spend my time monitoring the show rather than watching it for enjoyment, a witness to a digital Holocaust of libel and hatred.

But I do get to relax with two other shows, TNT TV offers Proof that there is life after death. The show, Proof, stars Jennifer Beals as a surgeon funded by a dying multi-billionaire played by Matthew Modine, who wants to know if there is really any hope of life after death. Beals character is disbelieving, which is what the Billionaire wants. If she can be convinced, then maybe there is life after death. The stories are complex and fascinating.

And on mainstream Channel CBS, is Zoo, the story of how a common chemical is used in our world that impacts animals of every species to rebel against human oppression and dominance. It’s pretty much a new cast including Nonso Anozie, James Wolk and Nora Arnezeder who struggle to discover why animals everywhere are turning on the human race, and if it can be stopped.

Wednesday offers two programs I love, Mr. Robot, about a group of underworld hackers who want to disrupt the world’s cybersecurity for fun and protest, roping in a young programmer played by Rami Malek (Emmy Rossum’s real life boyfriend) who is conflicted over his unique hacking talents and the goals of the underground group, led by Christian Slater, who is Mr. Robot, which is broadcast on the USA TV Network.

English: Actress Emmy Rossum at the 2010 Indep...

English: Actress Emmy Rossum at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again, mainstream CBS TV comes out swinging with a real hit, Extant, starring Halle Berry as an astronaut in the future who returns from a year long stint in outer space with an alien force that is planning a takeover of the human race. The first season of Extant was slow and boring but the producers were smart enough to jazz it up this season and it has really taken off. They added Jeffery Dean Morgan as special investigator JD Richter who is a cynical investigator who ends up palling with Berry who has been pushed into a psycho ward to silence her by the military. This is a complicated show. Berry and her husband had a young son who they created in a laboratory, a humanoid. Lots of people get killed in this high tension drama.

Dark Matter is a SciFi drama that takes place in outer space aboard a ship with six members of a crew who wake up one day not sure who they really are. In the farthest reaches of space, they try to deal with new circumstances as they discover who they are and what they have done in the past. It’s not bad. Not the best, but pretty good.

There was a time when I was young and the only thing I cared about was Bozo’s Circus at lunch time on WGN TV Channel 9. Eventually, evening TV began to offer some new shows that pushed the envelope like Gilligan’s Island, Batman, and so much more. It was a simpler life back int he 1960s when we only had four channels to choose from. They they added UHF, which required a special antenna and later became mainstream.

The first Cable TV was a system called On TV, which required a small antenna on your home roof to get some special programming including the first-ever late night soft-porn and hard core porn.

Hey, sex sells folks.

But the promises of cable TV turned out to be the lies of some slick robber baron who only wanted to appeal to our entertainment likes and dislikes to profit. Cable TV was supposed to be “commercial free,” and inexpensive. Today, Cable TV is filled with paid advertising. You can’t really watch mainstream stations like CBS, NBC and ABC without subscribing to basic cable TV, and the monthly Cable TV bill is the largest bill that families pay, more than $230 to connect a few TVs and allow us to not only access the basic channels but premium movie channels like HBO, Showtime and others.

Live and Learn (Falling Skies)

Live and Learn (Falling Skies) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HBO was the first to break out of the mundane programming on Cable TV offering a wide range of great shows. Last season, Game of Thrones ruled with sex and violence. It just finished its 5th Season.

But Cable TV shows are different from mainstream shows in a significant way. Mainstream shows usually have 24 to 30 episodes in one season. Cable TV programs only offer a short season of 10 to 15 episodes. Game of Thrones was only 10 episodes. Falling Skies will only offer 12 episodes.

CBS may be falling into the new trend set by its younger Cable TV production companies, and is only offering 13 episodes in a season.

I guess less makes more.

The biggest challenge in keeping up with this new wider variety of TV entertainment mixing mainstream TV options with Cable TV options is that it was easy to remember the schedule of program son CBS, NBC and ABC. That’s 2, 5 and 7 in Chicago.

But there are hundreds of channels on Cable TV and with more stations offering programing, it’s not easy remembering what channel TNT, or FX are on.

Well, that’s where technology comes in. One of my favorite iPhone 6 Apps is called TeeVee. The App allows you to load up your favorite shows and its reminds you each week which episode is on, what time, what day and what channel. It even gives you a brief description of each episodes, past and upcoming to help you navigate the now crowded waters of our new television entertainment schedule. The TeeVee App only costs about $2.99 to download and it is well worth the investment.

It’s worth it. Get it. You’ll discover a whole new world of programming.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania Chicago political beats and Chicago City Hall at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published the The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post,, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is Email him at: [email protected]
Ray Hanania