Attention, readers of TV.com:
Ever since the inception of cable television, the old joke has gone that no matter how many channels we have, there's never anything on. Well, that joke needs to go jump in a grave, because it is NOT TRUE. Sure, we might TELL ourselves that cable doesn't have much to offer in order to ease the pain of missing out on most of it. But let's be honest: There is more good stuff on right this minute than you'll ever have the time to actually watch.
The time has come, then, to finally sort through and rank the channels for which we overpay every month. So TV.com is pleased to present our new weekly series, America's Got Cable: The Hunt for America's Finest Cable Channel. We want to know what cable channel is MOST worthy of our valuable time, and WE NEED YOUR HELP to find it.
Every week, we'll present to you two cable channels facing off in our tournament-style bracket, and you'll tell us which one you prefer. We'll use the most perfect form of democracy in existence, as invented by American Idol: WE will offer our own judgments, but YOU will be the ultimate arbiters of who moves on to the next round.
When you cast your vote in the comments, here are some useful criteria to keep in mind:
... How good is the network's ORIGINAL programming?
... Is the channel easy on the eyes and ears? Do you like its graphics and jingles, or does the announcer shout too much? (Hi, Bravo!)
... Most channels air reruns of old shows. Did the channel choose GOOD shows to rerun?
... Does the channel add to the popular culture? (Example: TLC gave birth to Ty Pennington)
Also, to keep things fair, we're looking at BASIC cable channels only, no premiums. (Sorry, HBO!)
Please DON'T use the following criteria to judge a channel:
... The channel's original purpose. Who cares if MTV isn't about music anymore? A channel's only purpose is to be entertaining.
Now that all that's out of the way... Are you ready? I'm scared, hold me. Okay, here we go!
This week's battle:
Background: Originally conceived as a movie-centric channel specializing in movie trailers, making-of specials, and filmmaker interviews, E! Entertainment Television has transformed itself into the foremost purveyor of all things celebrity. One of the few cable channels with a daily news broadcast, the channel not only facilitates and contributes to celebrity image-making, it also regularly celebrates celebrity annihilation. Heck, E! even CREATES celebrities out of thin air now. It's like a circle of life over there!
Why It's The Best: As mentioned before, few channels rival E!'s facility with celebrity news, live awards coverage and riveting documentary storytelling (see: True Hollywood Story). But also, I've got two words for you: THE SOUP. It's one of the funniest shows on television and it couldn't exist without E!'s contributions to the celebrity sphere.
Why It's The Worst: Unfortunately the bad outweighs the good by a long shot. There are a hundred thousand reality shows about the Kardashians or Playmates or BOTH. Ryan Seacrest. Not to mention E!'s two lowest points to date: Pretty Wild and Bridalplasty. The former starred a truly reprehensible girl who was later arrested for her involvement in L.A.'s notorious "Bling Ring" and the latter involves BRIDALPLASTIES.
Background: Comedy Central's birth name was The Comedy Channel, but the channel was rechristened after it merged with its nemesis, rival comedy channel HA!, in 1991. The initial programming was extremely low-budget, mostly consisting of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and other late-night movies. Later, the network splurged on reruns of SNL while forging hits out of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and a Craig Kilborn-led The Daily Show. After finding moderate success with original series like Dr. Katz Professional Therapist and Exit 57, Comedy Central finally struck gold with South Park, Chappelle's Show, and its current must-watch daily broadcast The Colbert Report.
Why It's The Best: Except for a grim period involving Carlos Mencia, most of Comedy Central's best-rated programs are genuinely great. South Park is still strong after all these years, plus Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert continue to kill it on weeknights. New kid on the block Tosh.0 has really come into its own, and Comedy Central continues to take chances on some of the weirdest sketch comedy this side of Adult Swim.
Why It's The Worst: When Comedy Central misses, it misses HARD. Remember Krod Mandoon? Or The Jeff Dunham Show? Plus, the channel's schizophrenic nature means left-leaning shows like The Daily Show air alongside things like Blue Collar Comedy, which means that 50 percent of its target audience is annoyed at any given time. Even worse, occasionally Comedy Central stumbles onto something wonderful, like Strangers With Candy or TV Funhouse, and then unceremoniously dumps it when unsure of how to promote it. Very frustrating!
Official TV.com Verdict
It's not even close, you guys. COMEDY CENTRAL all the way.
BUT now it's your turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: E! or Comedy Central? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?
Click the image below to see the full tournament bracket; we'll be back next Thursday with this week's results and a new match-up!