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The View from Sherlock Peoria
No. 497, January 8, 2012

Why I Hate PBS

I hate PBS this week.

Seriously. And if you're an American Sherlockian who is at all web-active, you probably know why.

Our British friends are enjoying the second series of "Sherlock." And when I say "enjoying," I mean really enjoying. Giddy. Orgasmic. "Woo-hoo!" party-time, "Happy days are here again!" drunken Ke$ha song, gushingly enjoying!

In America, though? Nada.

The whole "charity channel" model of PBS worked really well, once upon a time. While the major networks ran populist fare, the Public Broadcasting System brought in educational, cultural, and British programming thanks to those philanthropic (or opera-loving) viewers willing to offer direct financial support. And when there was only three major networks offering programming, that was fine.

Today, however, we have the internet. We have video streaming. Podcasts. YouTube. Netflix. Our options grow every single day. And the net doesn't just give us new entertainment channels, it also provides an interconnected awareness that lets us know what is good on those channels.

So now, when a show like "Sherlock" is on the BBC in January, and PBS tells us we have to wait until May to see its new season, we can only say one thing:


Call me impatient. Call me spoiled. Call me a product of an instant gratification age. I don't care. I just know that I'm living in the modern day, and PBS is still trying to act like their dusty, fossil-ish, "put on Brit programming and call it 'Masterpiece'" model is still valid and viable.

And PBS isn't just depriving me of "Sherlock."

The Baker Street Babes is one of my favorite podcasts, but if I want to eventually watch "Sherlock" in the fresh and spoiler-free form in which it was created, I have to stop listening to the Babes while they discuss said topic . . . possibly for five whole months, because who knows what they'll let slip into their conversations.

As I write this, I'm watching the Doctor Who Christmas episode for 2011, "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe." It was broadcast on Christmas day on all sorts of channels all over the English-speaking world. And now, a couple of weeks later, it's available any time on iTunes or OnDemand or the like.

The BBC obviously isn't the problem. The first series of "Sherlock" had a full six month delay due to a co-production deal signed with WGBH in Boston. WGBH, of course, is a central part of PBS. And, though I don't know the exact details, I'm pretty sure at this point that we Americans are going to have to wait another four months, just to satisfy the whims and pledge-goals of the dinosaur-like PBS.

Yes, it was all lovely back in the 1980s, when PBS was supplying us with those Jeremy Brett shows. Of course, since they were pretty exactly copying familiar stories we all knew by heart, the delays didn't matter as much. And we didn't have the internet to let us know what we were missing. It was a different time back then. The waiting was a delicious anticipation. PBS was lucky.

This time, nearly thirty years later, PBS is an ancient beastie that's making it painful to be an American. (Hear that, Fox News? PBS is un-American! Get the bastards!) At a time when public broadcasting is fighting for survival, maybe it should be fighting to evolve. For the moment the majority of its donors/viewers might be elderly enough not to be at all bothered by this delay in "Sherlock," but they're certainly ticking me off, and I'm sure I'm not alone. This kind of shenanigans isn't winning them any friends at a time when they're going to need them most.

So it's Sherlock Holmes's birthday week, and I hate PBS. Bad timing, chaps.

Your humble correspondent,
Brad Keefauver


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Past 2012 Columns

January 1, 2012
A League (Out)
Of Her Own

January 8, 2012
Why I Hate PBS