Thursday, August 08, 2002

Television-Impaired II
For lack of anything better to do last night, I hosted another solo TV Party. Here's what I watched:

9 p.m., WGBH: A Hot Dog Program An hour-long celebration of America's love affair with the humble hot dog. Rick Sebak, who's also produced a documentary about flea markets, and the filmmakers visit hot dog stands in Connecticut, Georgia, Colorado, Ohio, Alaska, and other states to document the real red hot. The program considers the architecture of hot dog stands, the history of the hot dog (which includes early popularization sparked by a comic strip!), the subculture of counter staff, hot dogs' association with baseball, the World Hot Dog Eating Championship, condiments, how hot dogs are made, and other aspects of the "cuisine." In the end, the show's not at all about hot dogs; it's about people. The closing of the program positions hot dog stands as valuable third places. Bill Griffith would love this program.

10 p.m., WGBX: Covered Bridges of New England Hosted by New Hampshire TV personality Fritz Wetherbee, this program looks at the past, present, and future of the covered bridge. The opening places covered bridges "on the edge of destruction" before offering a glimpse of the longest covered bridge in America. "Keep the bridge dry, and it will last a long time," Wetherbee says. The documentary expands on bridge construction, the importance of where roads meet rivers, graffiti as a permanent record of romance, restoration efforts, vandalism, and covered bridges' gradual decline. The narration, while poetic, gets a little sappy at times, and Wetherbee's transitional punchlines are often stale. But the program's attention paid to the importance of authentic reconstruction and historically appropriate use of technology is appreciated. Also effective are the soundtrack snippets played on a violin made with 100-year-old wood taken from a covered bridge. How cool is that?

A Hot Dog Program is available on video cassette. While "Covered Bridges of New England" is not, the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges offers covered bridge-related books and other products.

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