By Joe Rector

Maybe it’s that I am more often grumpy these day, or perhaps it’s that I am more observant of the things that occur. Just maybe it’s because the filter that set a five-second delay between my thinking and saying things is gone. Whatever it is, I’ve discovered that some things just raise my ire. Of late, it’s been the “squawk box,” that electronic device that first made its way into homes across America when members of my generation were still small children, that’s aggravated me.

When we were kids, three television stations were available, but our house only got two of them since a special antenna was required to pick up Channel 26. Our favorite shows included “Perry Mason,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Captain Kangaroo.” We’d even sit in front of a tiny screen and watch Cas Walker’s program. By midnight the only things left for viewing were television “snow” or test patterns.

Fast forward to today, and at the touch of a remote control, hundreds of channels and thousands of programs are available. Stations never go off the air, even if they have to sell air time to some guy peddling knives, pots, pans, or all-natural vitamins.

How come it is that I can channel surf on most evenings without ever finding an interesting show? I whine that “there’s nothing on television.” It’s my truth because few of the most popular shows on networks interest me at all. I refuse to watch “reality” television; I must live in a parallel universe because none of those ridiculous programs resemble any of my reality. The only salvation I find isn’t from the religious channels but from sports stations.

If a lack of programming weren’t bad enough, stations seem to be spying to discover my favorite programs so that they can cancel them. Years ago, George Kennedy starred in “The Blue Knight.” Yep, they canceled it. Ed Asner held the lead role in “Lou Grant,” and sure enough, it was canned. I know that the Korean War had to come to an end, but many Americans were devastated when “MASH” concluded.

Perhaps the most upsetting cancellation came when “The West Wing” ended. Martin Sheen was the kind of president that the entire country wanted and deserved. Sure, he could only serve two terms, but the creators and station should have slowed the pace of the program so it could have stayed around longer.

It’s cruel and unusual punishment to “can” a show that is so popular. Many Americans plan their weekly activities around shows, or they record them to view later. For years, networks have sucked us in with good shows. Then, they subject us to endless commercials about insurance and beer and erectile dysfunction between show segments. Just when we come to expect the program to air, it’s moved to a new night, which usually means the program is on its way out or it is being paired with a loser in an attempt to save an inferior product.

These days, I’ve tried not to get attached to a new program but failed miserably. I appreciate watching “Judge Judy” excoriate individuals who choose to air their problems to millions. “Person of Interest” intrigues me because it’s a show that might well mirror some of the technology that is available today. “The Crazy Ones” is good because Robin Williams has always been my favorite funny guy.

I know it’s only a matter of time before the shows I enjoy are axed. It’s inevitable. Maybe I’d be better off sticking with PBS or MSNBC shows. Their programs seem to have  longer shelf lives than other favorites of mine. What would be nice is to have one channel that would air only the shows I’ve liked. Of course, before long, the powers-that-be would begin cancelling canceled shows. It sure is cruel treatment.