It’s pretty hard to avoid television, even on your vacation, even though there are accommodations in Hawaii with no in-room TVs. With that in mind, here are some observations about TV in Hawaii.

As is probably true where you live, local television programming isn’t very good. There simply isn’t enough money for stations or entrepreneurs to do good, professional work. The local evening news is virtually the same on all the channels that carry news. The only difference is the anchors – sports, weather and sports – who tend to have their own followings. The same applies to the local morning news shows. Three of them lead into “Today,” “Good Morning America” and “The CBS Early Show” respectively. This gets a little tricky. The local shows, of course, are live. The network shows that follow are five or six hours delayed, so that they air here at about the same time they aired live in New York. Sometimes the local shows report breaking news that seems not to have happened yet on the network shows.

If you’re wondering, prime-time programming is current. The same episodes run here that run nationally. The time difference, as you probably know: We are five hours earlier than New York in the winter; six hours earlier during Daylight Savings Time, where Hawaii does not honor. Our evening programming is consistent with that of the Midwest, with prime time beginning at 7:00 p.m. and the late news starting at 10:00 p.m.

With the time difference, live sportscasts begin in the morning. Pity our TV sports widows. A 1:00 p.m. East-coast baseball-game starting time would start at 7:00 a.m. here. With following games, a golf tournament and a night game with an 8:00 p.m. EDT starting time, the sports nut could be in front of the tube from before breakfast until dinnertime.

Then there the commercials. For the most part, the local spots are awful (also probably true where you live). The stations produce most of them, providing production credits to the advertisers in return for the time purchases. The “talent” tends to be either retailer employees or relatives of the proprietors. The car dealership, retail-store and lawyer commercials are typically shouty and abrasive. Special care is taken to be sure the spots are unmistakably “local.” It’s important that advertisers use “cosmopolitan” actors so as not to favor or offend any particular ethnic group.

Hey, it’s TV, pretty-much as it is everywhere else in the country. With the foregoing few quirks, you’ll be fine.

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When I was writing and producing them, I had a thing for using animals in commercials. I’d used foxes, weasels, cockatiels, cats, dogs, a lion, an elephant…
Back in the 1970s, I had to do a commercial for a savings and loan. The offer involved a free desk calculator — a “ten-key.” This was before computers were consumer products. The high quality of the calculators being given away was to be indicated by the fact that they multiplied and pided as well as adding and subtracting. Such a deal! Okay. How do you portray multiplying or piding for television? Hah! RABBITS are famous for multiplying. Let’s get a whole bunch of rabbits and have them wander around one of those calculators like stagehands. All we needed were … well, a bunch of rabbits. The University of Hawaii had rabbits in quantity. I did not want to know why they had rabbits in quantity, but the producer on the project was able to borrow about 50 of them. They arrived at the studio in the back of a truck in crates, separated by gender.

Meanwhile, we were lighting the set, which was a small arena bound with a fence of foam board anchored with sandbags and apple boxes. One of the cameramen wisely pointed out that the no-seam paper we had carpeted the set with would readily show bunny pee, which was certain to accumulate. Good call. We took an hour break while assistants purchased enough gravel to cover the floor to absorb and camouflage any rabbit discharges. During the delay, all those rabbits remained trapped in their stacked cages, smelling each other.

The gravel was spread. The calculator was placed in the center of the set. The lights were cued. The cameras rolled. The rabbits literally were dumped over the fencing and into the set, all at once. Jailbreak! Orgy! In less than two minutes, every single bunny buck had serviced every single bunny doe. Now all 50 of them lay in several heaps. Panting. Exhausted.

“Did we get anything?” I asked hopefully of the cameramen.

“Got a lot of rabbits humping,” Camera One said. “Got a lot of f rabbits humping,” Camera Two said. “Got two minutes of the calculator and two rabbits humping,” Camera Three added.

The resulting footage still can be found in several locations on the Internet (which didn’t exist when the commercial was shot). I wasn’t about to give up. Stagehands, at my request, tossed several lazy, almost comatose rabbits at the calculator. They scrambled — albeit slowly and unsteadily — to their feet and wobbled away, enough for me to get enough on tape to edit together the spot I had envisioned. But it wasn’t a very good commercial.

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