by BEN KROMER & r & & r & Rocky IV & r & & r & (Tuesday, Dec. 25, 5pm and 9pm, Versus) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ike many Spokane residents, I was initially furious that I had to pay more money to watch Gonzaga basketball games on ESPNU. I settled down a bit when I saw the other channels that came with the dish network package, specifically the Military Channel. Lately I've been watching Weaponology, which is about exactly what the name makes it sound like. Shows like Combat Zone, 20th-Century Battlefields, and Aircraft Stories are also self-explanatory. I'm learning a great deal. If I learn everything there is to know about war before the college basketball season ends, I'll move on to the Science Channel. If I learn science too, I'll probably try the History Channel: International. All of this is making it very difficult for me to care about the ongoing television writers' strike.
In more pressing and recent local matters, readers of the Spokesman-Review's Letters to the Editor page were rocked by the story of the atheist police chaplain who got Spokane to take the crosses off everyone's chaplain badges. I myself was moved by this tale of courage, of one man standing up to many against something that he knew in his heart was wrong -- a man who took matters into his own hands and beat the system. I asked myself what I could do, as a humble television writer, to aid this visionary along with other freethinkers like him? The answer was clear: Plot out a course of high-quality Dec. 25 viewing that would steer clear of crosses, trees, and any other Christ-related imagery. Because, really, no one should be compelled to see that. Great plan, except the only things on TV on December 25th Day are parades and reruns. I was about to give up when I saw Rocky IV was playing twice on Versus (a channel, I must admit, I'd never heard of). It was like a winter solstice miracle.
Rocky IV is definitely one of the best holiday movies of all time, even though it might not even take place during winter. (There's a lot of snow, though, which is almost the same.) When Rocky makes his "Anybody Can Change" speech at the end, even non-believer Gorby Gorbachev is moved by some sort of holiday spirit to give a standing ovation. And then the Berlin Wall exploded.
Also, Rocky is Catholic. Merry Christmas, suckers.
I hope that this show -- the first descendant of Meerkat Manor -- is the beginning of a trend where the endpoint is critters completely replacing humans on reality TV. There's a joke in here someplace about the Hollywood writers' strike and monkeys at typewriters but I can't find it. (Friday, 12/21, 8 pm, Animal Planet)
Stephen King's The Stand
This is a holiday tradition in the making, so gather the whole family for eight hours of Old Testament-style religion at the end of the world. King's precursor to the Left Behind series features Gary Sinese, Rob Lowe, and about a thousand celebrities making cameo appearances, including God. (Sunday, 12/23, 3-11 pm, Sci-Fi)
In Search of Christmas
Historical speculation about the origins of Christmas, including the theory that Mary was impregnated by a Roman and an attempt at a scientific explanation for the Virgin Birth. If you bought The Da Vinci Code, this just might change the way you think about Nativity scenes. (Sunday, 12/23, 5 pm, History Channel)