Welcome back to another harrowing week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!
OLD BUSINESS: The readers of TV.com have spoken and the winner of last week's bout between E! and Comedy Central is...
Because duh. OBVIOUSLY it's better than E! Still though, this is a democracy so a bad decision was definitely possible. What a delightful surprise, then that Comedy Central won out with an insane margin of 67 to 5. Ouch! Sorry, E!, that's rough. Let's not rub it in too hard though, you guys. It's tough out there for a cable channel. Okay, E!, go sleep this one off. IN A GRAVE.
NEW BUSINESS: Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at this week's battle:
Background: TBS is one of the oldest networks in existence and basically INVENTED the idea of basic cable. Originally an independent UHF station in the South that aired Braves games and black-and-white reruns, eccentric owner Ted Turner recognized an opportunity when cable/satellite providers needed more channels to transmit. Although this "Superstation" continued to broadcast as a local station in Georgia, Turner spun it off into a national version, complete with its own advertising and lineup, which included mostly movie reruns and classic sitcoms and later professional wrestling. TBS has lately refashioned itself into a more comedic enterprise, producing a slate of family sitcoms (including a pair from Tyler Perry) and famously becoming the new home of Conan O'Brien.
Original Programming: Today's slate of TBS original programming is a bit of a mixed bag, depending on your point of view. Tyler Perry's House of Pain and [Tyler Perry's] Meet the Browns have become mainstays; they air alongside the Ice Cube movie spin-off Are We There Yet? and period college comedy Glory Daze. Personally, TBS has a lot more going for it when it comes to late-night TV, as both Conan and Lopez Tonight bring great stuff on weeknights.
Reruns: TBS has really improved its rerun slate in recent years, boasting not only pop-culture favorites American Dad! and My Name is Earl, but also Family Guy and The Office. Even its older selections are great: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Married with Children and Saved by the Bell.
Why It's The Best: TBS is VERY watchable, especially when it comes to reruns. Plus it's hard not to view TBS as a bit of a white knight for giving beleaguered hero Conan O'Brien a safe haven. Sure, he may not be besting Leno in the ratings (TBS's smaller audience may be a contributing factor), but his content is as watercooler-worthy as ever.
Why It's The Worst: Remember when TBS shows used to start five minutes later than everything else? What was THAT about? Anyway, TBS's original sitcoms are tolerable at best, and while its syndicated reruns are great, I can easily watch those elsewhere (and with fewer commercials). Basically it seems like I only watch TBS when I'm flipping channels.
Background: The success of TBS led Ted Turner to start up a number of sister stations, including TNT in 1988. Its original purpose seemed to function as place to air spillover from TBS, mostly focusing on old movies, professional wrestling, and NFL games. Eventually, TNT began exploring original content with things like MonsterVision starring the awesome Joe Bob Briggs, the final season of Babylon 5, and Witchblade. Then, in the early 2000s, TNT started emphasizing its "We Know Drama" angle by picking up tons of serialized dramas and procedurals and eventually producing several of its own.
Original Programming: The current TNT lineup includes several well-regarded hits like The Closer, HawthoRNe, and Leverage as well as relative newcomers Men of a Certain Age and Rizzoli & Isles. Its acquisition of the critical hit Southland only upped its critical bona fides and the upcoming alien invasion serial Falling Skies promises to keep TNT on the radar for the near future.
Why It's The Best: Much like TBS, there's almost always something very watchable on TNT at any given moment.
Why It's The Worst: SO MANY PROCEDURALS. We get it, people like to have identical storybeats before pre-designated commercial breaks. But this means that very little on TNT ever seems to be MUST-SEE, leaving the average viewer with a take-it-or-leave-it feeling (even though that viewer probably only channel surfed there to begin with).
Official TV.com Verdict:
This is a tough one! Both TBS and TNT have great selling points, and neither one is terrible. However, as a comedy nerd, I'll give the edge to TBS. But if Falling Skies ends up being as good as it looks, this opinion could change.
And now it's your turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: TBS or TNT? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?
Click below to see the full tournament bracket: