TUNING IN AND OUT OF ARMENIAN TELEVISION: A Three Part Series

By Skeptik Sinikian

The following is the first installment of a three part series on Skeptik’s Take on Armenian television programming.

I can’t explain it but I’m addicted to Armenian Television. The reason I can’t explain why is because Armenian television programming in the United States–specifically in Southern California and Glendale to be precise is some of the worst in the world. I’m convinced of this and if someone can show me worse programming–then I welcome the challenge. It’s so bad it’s actually entertaining to watch if for no other reason than to just laugh at. It’s absolutely horrendous how poor the quality of some programs is. And like toadstools on a piece of cow-pie–more channels keep popping up.

Where I live–I don’t get to watch a lot of these channels–but whenever I go to a friend or relative’s house where they have all three thousand or however many Armenian channels–I’ll find some excuse to turn on the TV and then discretely start channel surfing between the various channels. (By the way–there was a period when for some odd reason–I had a cable connection for two weeks and received all the channels. I was an Armenian TV addict for that period. Then–just as quickly as the Cable TV Gods had smiled upon me–they decided my free ride was over and my free cable–like Keyser Soze was gone.)

My critique of Armenian language television is in no way a formal study and is not to be taken as anything other than the observations of just one person amongst thousands. Apparently–the venture is profitable and successful–otherwise–why would there be so many stations or channels? But their success boggles my mind. I can’t even figure it out. There are so many other ethnic and foreign language programs that I enjoy much MUCH more than Armenian TV and here’s an informal list:

Latin TV: By Latin TV–I mean Spanish Language Programming. I don’t like using the word Latin to describe this type of entertainment (music–TV–film) simply because Latin reminds me of the Pope or guys in togas who philosophize and wax poetic about random things. That’s a far cry from the buxom and voluptuous Spanish speaking bombshells who wrestle midgets wearing sombreros on game shows. I’m not the only one who watches Spanish TV. Many Armenian grandmothers have also been turned on to the exciting programming. My grandmother’s friends love the Mexican soap operas. This is their logic–we don’t understand English or Spanish–at least with the Mexican soap operas–we can tell what’s going on. I can’t argue with that. When a woman cheats on a man in a Mexican soap opera–you KNOW what’s going on and what’s about to happen. On a English language soap opera–they could be having a discussion about a terminal brain tumor or an illegitimate baby and you wouldn’t know the difference. If you don’t believe me–press the "mute" button on your TV next time and watch both. Ay Caramba! I give Spanish TV an A++.

Indian TV: When I say Indian TV–I mean the ones that live in India and take my questions and complaints about my America Online customer service. Not the ones that live on reservations in Arizona or Palm Springs and take my shirt and my wallet at the blackjack table. I love Indian culture. I don’t know why. I saw Monsoon Wedding three times and afterwards even thought about trying to eat a marigold flower just to see how it tasted. I love curry and spicy foods. What Armenian doesn’t? (Side note: Remind me to write a future article about spicy foods and how most Americans shy away from it. It’s very frustrating when I hear "Armenian food? That’s sounds good as long as it’s not spicy!" Without red peppers from Haleb or Aleppo–you might as well rub a piece of Styrofoam across your taste buds.) I digress. Why do I like Indian TV? Two words–Music videos. I LOVE the mass choreographed dancing on Indian TV. So what if each video features the same routine of dancing next to a waterfall or behind a tree. The women are incredibly hot! And the men just look really goofy with hairstyles like Erik Estrada from the TV show CHiPs. I’ve found only one channel that shows Indian Music Videos and if I happen to catch it–I won’t change the channel for the next hour. That’s how captivating their videos can be. I give Indian TV an A.

Asian TV: This includes Korean–Japanese–or Chinese programming. I’m ignorant. I admit it. I can’t tell what’s what. On a good day–I can tell the difference between Korean characters or Japanese ones but overall–I watch Asian TV because of the cool period piece costume epic soap operas. But I can watch guys dressed as Samurai warriors with pony tails yell at each other for only so long. Most of the time–they sound angry at one another. Why all the yelling guys? There’s no need to be upset. Toyota is doing well in auto sales in the US. So is Honda and even Mitsubishi. On the other hand–Ford just cut 30,000 jobs. So would it kill you if you cracked a smile once in a while? The yelling sometimes scares me–that’s why I give Asian TV a C+. By the way–my favorite show on Asian TV isn’t on Asian TV but on the cooking channel. It’s called Iron Chef and it pits chefs who are challengers against long-standing champions in various cuisines (Chinese–Japanese–Italian–French–etc) and they have to go head to head in a cooking competition using one key ingredient each time. Once it was yogurt and another time it was squid. It’s awesome to see how seriously these guys take their craft. I can just imagine what the Armenian version of this show would be like. Two guys going head to head in a "khorovadz" competition and each would be standing over his respective rusted rectangle iron grille box–sweating the whole time while wearing nothing but an undershirt and Adidas warm-ups and a cigarette barely dangling from the lower lip as he talked on a cell phone the whole time. By the time–the food is cooked–both men have consumed enough vodka to give a small elephant alcohol poisoning and they’ve passed out. Which brings me to the last and final type of Ethnic TV that I watch and the beginning of my next two Skeptik installmen’s.

Armenian TV: There isn’t enough room to begin critiquing this form of "entertainment." From the hours of non-stop talk shows to the infomercials about car insurance and real estate–the Armenian Cable TV world is a wasteland–devoid of anything that mildly piques a viewer’s curiosity. It’s so bad that if I’m with non-Armenian friends and we come across an Armenian channel showing yet another bootlegged music video with Yanni playing at the Acropolis (which isn’t so bad except on Armenian TV this same video has been re-copied and pirated so many times it looks like the video was shot with pair of pantyhose draped over the camera lens) that I will actually tell my friends we’re watching Persian TV and not Armenian. Of course–I can lie about it only for so long–because right after the video is over–it is followed by no less than thirty minutes of commercials–all advertising for Armenian cheese–grocery stores–tires–or car insurance. If someone did a sociological study of Armenian Americans based just on what is shown on our TV stations–they would think that we live in BMWs and eat nothing but Bulgarian Feta cheese.

We’ll pick up where we left off next week. Stay tuned and don’t turn that dial. I’m planning on ripping the lid off the can of mediocrity that is Armenian Television. So see you back here next week. Same Skepo time and same Skepo channel. Until then–stay classy Glendale!

Skeptik Sinikian is an aspiring Spanish soap opera actor. He is currently taking Beginner’s Spanish and Drama classes at the University of North Verdugo Hills (a.k.a. Glendale College). If you would like to practice lines with him–email him at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com or visit and post a comment on his new blog at www.sinikian.blogspot.com.

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