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Test Pattern: What's Your Indispensable TV Network?

We all have the networks--whether broadcast or cable, legacy or newbie--that we gravitate to, but I was wondering this morning about so-called indispensable networks.

Given that I write about television, nearly all networks could be said to be indispensable in one way or another, but what I was pondering was that one specific television channel that you can't turn away from, that you automatically switch to when you turn on the television, or which you have on as background while you're doing other things in our multi-tasking obsessed society.

Many years ago, that channel was--perhaps not surprisingly for those of you who know me--Food Network, but it was replaced by BBC America around 2000 and for many years that was my go-to network, the one spot on the metaphorical dial that I could always depend on for diverting fare, soothing background noise, or a sense of the familiar and comforting.

For whatever the reason, sadly, that's not the case anymore and--shock, horror--I've actually gone so far as to remove BBC America from my list of TiVo favorite channels as it's become a 24-hour network showcasing little other than Star Trek: The Next Generation, Top Gear, and repeats of three ubiquitous Gordon Ramsay reality series. (Three standouts this year: crime drama Luther, reality series The Choir, and culinary competition series Come Dine with Me all had short runs, unfortunately, and Doctor Who can't run all year long.)

But that's a rant for another post (and, believe me, it's coming).

What I am curious about is whether you have a specific network that fulfills those needs and just what network that might be. Are you addicted to USA? Hooked on HBO? Famished for Food Network? Drawn to Cartoon Network? Ingratiated towards IFC? Perpetually amazed by AMC?

Head to the comments section to discuss and debate.


Anthony Strand said…
Turner Classic Movies. Even now, when a wide variety of films are accessible through Netflix and other outlets, it's constantly introducing me to films that I wouldn't have seen otherwise.
Annie said…
I always have HBO on in the background during the day. You never know what movie is going to come on!
ecuamerican said…
As a dude, I would obviously have ESPN on constantly. But now the ever exploding talking heads on the network (when real games aren't on) irritate the hell out of me.

Now, I either go to the premium channels, NY1 (local NYC news channel) or my DVR when I don't have appointment viewing.

I'm one of those people with no attention span.
I used to live for NBC back in the day. I even watched all 15 years of ER. Now I don't care. I would say USA. I love those quirky, sunny character dramas.
Fabrice said…
One year ago I wouldn't have said that, but now that I have discovered "Rubicon" and "The Walking Dead" in addition to "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men", I definitely choose AMC! Best storytelling on TV right now!!!
Jason said…
Bloomberg is my "ambient" channel. If I'm in the kitchen doing something, that's usually on. My favorite network would have to be AMC. They're doing everything right. When they air 'The Killing' in the spring it'll simply be too much. At some point, the quality becomes surreal.
jen said…
Usually, my go-to channel is my DVR and/or Netflix. All my shows are pretty evenly split among all the networks (two shows on AMC, two or three shows on USA, a show on NBC, etc.). I'm looking forward to the BBC America post. It's gone downhill...
Brad said…
Hulu. It does the job of a DVR, and has almost all the shows I want to watch (thanks, Fox, FX, ABC, and NBC).
Unknown said…
An interesting question, but in turn, I question the premise: "We all have the networks--whether broadcast or cable, legacy or newbie--that we gravitate to ..." I don't agree. The concept of "networks" is being replaced by "shows" or "movies." Certainly people who use Hulu or BitTorrent or NetFlix don't care what network something is on.

Personally, I don't notice networks at all, even with their annoying "bugs" in the corners. My Windows Media Center records all the shows I want, and I watch them whenever I want to. I never turn on live TV. What network airs Big Bang Theory? I have no idea, but I watch every ep.

If I absolutely have to pick one, I think I'd pick USA with their fun, fluffy ("sunny," as Amanda from Michigan said) shows.
Diane Reed said…
CBS actually has a lot of my favorite shows: Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, even Let's Make A Deal... what can I say!
Tempest said…
I can see the point about not being tied to certain channels because the material is available in other places, so I thought of it this way: what channel would I mourn the most if I had NO access to its programming. #1: TCM. (AMC lost cred with me when they cut Remember WENN loose. Put it on DVD already, people. You did have a hit prior to Mad Men.) #2: USA. Love the "sunniness." The shows are just fun. Yes, there are other shows on other networks that I like, but I think losing those two would hurt the worst.
Liz A said…
The network is dead. Long live the network. In the age of DVRs and timeshifting, I never "just leave the TV on in the background" except during sporting events.

That said, I have favorite shows and certain networks seem to program more of them than others. Even that is changing as shows hop around (e.g., Project Runway) or get distributed differently (e.g., Friday Night Lights). I have no loyalty to a network, only to the quality of the shows they broadcast.
wackiland said…
Used to be HGTV. Then BBCA. Then TV Land. Now - Food Network (though I still put on QVC late at night).
Mister K said…
For me, that would be HBO, FX, and USA. I don't know what I would do without being able to watch HBO on Sunday nights, and with Burn Notice and Psyche on USA and Sons of Anarchy on FX, those are the stations I'm usually watching.
shaxs said…
Believe it or not the Food Network. If they were on Hulu or even Hulu plus, I would be ditching Uverse as we speak. I just enjoy Chopped and a few other shows too much. They do have Chopped on iTunes but $2 a show seems a little steep for me.
David said…
With DVR, there is no default channel. Consumers and pick-and-choose their favorites regardless of channel.

Overall, HBO and AMC have the highest number of shows that I watch religiously.
John Ludwig said…
My DVR, at this point. It used to be BBC America, but for reasons already stated, no longer. TV is slowly going the way of music on the radio. Why listen to one station when you can program your Ipod to play what you really want? TV is now the same.
Anonymous said…
I would also have to say my dvr. If I'm pressed, in no particular order
1. HBO
2. Showtime
3. IFC
5. ID Channel (I love/detest the things that I hear and see on the channel)
6. USA
7. Food/Cooking Channels
8. TVLand-sometimes I just want to watch a MASH or Everybody Loves Raymond rerun

I agree, Network Television is a dying breed.

I hope AMC, USA, FX wipes the floor someday with their programming (I know unrealistic). Of course for those who have premium, all the better to mix.

I sound elitist but Jace, there is nothing that good on network with a few exceptions. I will hands down admit that The Vampire Diaries is a guilty pleasure show but I have no vested interest like Terriers, Boardwalk, BB, SOA, etc. I know the TGW is good, Cougar Town, Modern Family, NBC's Thursday line-up, especially Community but I've cut out a great deal of television. It's not a bad thing.

*I'm loving Luther, probably because I love Idris so much. I think it's a well done show.

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