What’s On TV in Eurasia

TurkeyTVAmerica like to think it creates the entertainment for the rest of the world. But I have to say, from a hotel room in central Turkey, there is scarcely a U.S. station to find amid the hundreds of networks on their cable TV.

We have several channels of Al Jazeera, stations from Poland, Italy, Belarus and even Turkmanistan. I saw a music video countdown from Tehran featuring an overweight guy reading from a clipboard.

We have BBC World News, one of only a couple of English language channels overall, but no CNN.

I did find Bloomberg after a while, though I wasn’t so interested in the doings of the Dow. And those English language stations from Russia and China were there.

Overall, there’s a lot of news shows all over the dial here. If not that, a bunch of one person talk shows that look like various public access shows, with various imams, holy men, leaders or others talking off the top of their head about very serious things. There’s scarcely any dramas or comedies in any language. The entertainment largely comes from music video channels. (There was a pop up music show in Arabic that showed videos from James Bond).

The one show I watched for any length of time in Istanbul before the cable died out was a German reality show in which, as far as I could determine, women bet on which men would be able to uproot the most living trees on the studio stage. It seemed a little wasteful. Even the women who place the bets seemed bored after a while.

The children’s programs out here are interesting, with absolutely eye-popping colors. And there are those weird stations in which women writhe around and act sexy so you can call them (or very probably, other women altogether) up on the numbers provided on the screen. This seemed at odds with the many religious programming.

A Polish station named Kultura promised to be showing “Mad Men,” its episode description began with the only word I could understand: “Pete.” I kept watching its endless commercials, far more even than AMC. And it never came on, sadly.

I did catch some of an episode of “Doctor Who” dubbed in Arabic on Al Jazeera, but couldn’t stay with it too long.

Up on one end of the channel lineup there were a number of U.S. based televangelist shows, fulfilling their worldwide missionary efforts. I wonder what it says about America though.

There were a few Voice of America channels I eventually found, most of them, of course in the languages of others so they can spread their message, just as the Russian and China channels do to us.

But one of them, however, is a full time State Department station that shows nothing but press conferences they have. That’s a whole lot of John Kerrey. He speaks again as I write this. Time to find that music channel again.


In Turkbuku, there were a different array of channels, and because it was Saturday night there may have been a wider variety of entertainment.

Two reality shows familiar to an American were on, in their own versions. A Turkish adaptation of “Survivor” featured all men, heavily bearded, answering quiz questions. The women had either been banned or already eliminated. The host was the only clean shaven one.

“Fear Factor” proves durable in any country. Bug eating is easily understandable worldwide.

An elaborate Turkish adaptation of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” had a flashy set and a knowing host — and an array of questions and answers that were completely inscrutable for the visitor.

I had expected to see lots of dubbed versions of American shows but ended up only seeing one: a version of “Criminal Minds” that may have actually worked better dubbed in Turkish.

One miracle found at midnight was called ESPN America, a feed of an apparently live San Francisco Giants game – still a blazing afternoon there. And where commercials would be were highlights from other games possibly from other seasons. Still, this was a great way to see baseball.

One insidious aspect of cable there, though was the fact that the Turkish news stations seemed to say nothing about the new uprisings and police rioting in Istanbul, while foreign news channels did.

There were some home grown dramas at last. I had glimpsed some Turkish comedies — instantly identifiable from their colorful pallete, flat film quality and exaggerated comic responses from the rubbery faced cast.

An imported MTV showing the Snooki spinoff looked for all the world like a Turkish reality show, with her extreme tastes in tanning and glamour, and her new husband’s own macho excess.

Style network was showing straight up Joan Rivers “Fashion Police” – understandable worldwide I suppose.

I saw an ad for a game show that combined quiz questions with a grab a prize shopping spree and a low budget “Amazing Race” variant that had the teams race to an airport ticketing lobby. Low budget indeed: The race ended there.

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