Saturday, August 18, 2012

Less Weather (And More Of It!) on The Weather Channel

It's been years since I've had cable TV, but that doesn't mean I haven't had exposure to it.  When I first got cable about 20 years ago, I became something of a Weather Channel (TWC) nerd.  I kept track of who came and went from the channel, including which of the meteorologists were pregnant (Jeanetta Jones seemed to be so much of the time).  I even discovered some of my favorite music (The Rippingtons, Patrick O'Hearn) off what they played during the local forecasts.  More on that in a bit.

Well, there have been storm clouds on the horizon for TWC, which is now owned by Commucast and NBC.  According to the Wall Street Journal, TWC has been losing viewers while it's been busy gobbling up competitors like Weather Underground in true Comcast-esque fashion.

And if TWC eventually fades from the dial or just becomes its initials a la A&E, this may be the reason: "We are moving to longer formats and docudramas."  That's TWC CEO David Kenny from the above article. No, don't give us more WEATHER, Weather Channel: distract us with cheaply-made reality shows like Turbine Cowboys, Twist of Fate, and Lifeguard!, along with more Al Roker (ex officio from NBC) and Stephanie Sorta-Sexpot Abrams.  Bread, meet circuses.  At least Storm Stories, albeit with the boorish Jim Cantore, was usually about real events we saw unfold on TWC.

One of the times when TWC was at its best was during the approach of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.  The channel at least had the foresight to get a really good theme from Stephen Arnold Music for its Storm Alert versions of the Local On The Eights, called "Eye Of The Storm":

Now if TWC had played this all the time, it would have gotten old.  But what I like about it is how it grabs your attention without being excessively over the top; just when you think one instrument is going to dominate, it gives way.  It also has a good chord progression.  Hearing it at one of my prior jobs, I found it quite effective as "Oh, {bleep}" music.  A good theme like this creates an association in the viewer/listener's mind.  A counter-example is the current theme to Wheel of Fortune; it's really an anti-theme, one you'll never find yourself humming, unlike this previous one.

Sadly, TWC looks like it's going for style over substance and/or what costs the least.  I doubt it will win them any new viewers.