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The Clicker: Perhaps 'What's on?' is no longer the right question...

Peter Rojas
Every Thursday Stephen Speicher contributes The Clicker, a weekly column on television and technology:

Syntax Olevia 37-inch HDTV LCD

For those among us whose evenings are oft spent basking by the warm, comforting glow of the television, May marks a sad time of the year. It's that regrettable period when what little episodic television that remains on network television ends and is replaced by, if it's possible, even more shows where the premises are as deep and thought-provoking as "how fast can one chew up and swallow llama testicles?"

Depressed, we search the guide, clinging to the hope that we'll stumble onto something. Alas, it doesn't happen. Our friends and family urge us to enjoy the 18 hours of daylight. "Get out," they say. "Exercise." They just don't understand that our thumbs are getting the cardiovascular equivalent of a marathon. It's not easy to scroll through the 500 channels of nothingness over and over again.

Fear not though; the answer to the woe that is the vacuous summer schedule might just be to start asking a different question. Instead of asking what?s on, it might be time to start asking ?Where?s it on??

This ain?t your daddy?s world; we?re no longer at the mercy of the networks. Content is hiding all over the place these days. While it takes a little more work to find it, content seekers are often rewarded with gems that, in days past, would have gone undiscovered.

First, if you don?t already subscribe to Netflix, do so. These next four months will be a dark and dreary time without it. In addition to just about the best selection of movies on the planet, Netflix also carries an outstanding selection of TV Series. Sure you could just watch movies, but there is some great television out there that, judging by the ratings, you might have missed.

The first and most obvious series that you, as a discerning viewer, should see immediately is ?Arrested Development.? Arrested Development is the type of series that, by some large stroke of luck, snuck its way onto television. Dry, wry, and, at times, just flat-out wrong, Arrested Development is a hilarious show that has developed a cult-like following. Arrested Development is also challenging some of the standard measurements by which experts determine what makes a ?successful show.? Now, in addition to viewership and syndication possibilities, networks and content producers are beginning to look seriously at the potential revenue that DVD sales could and do bring to the table. For a show with marginal ratings, like Arrested Development, potential (and actual) DVD sales could make the difference.

If your TiVo has been working on overdrive for the past six years, and you?ve managed to see all the American series, you?ve still got some options. Rush right out and see the first two seasons of the British-hit ?Coupling.? If you, like I, were scarred by the attempted American remake, do your best to forget that hideous insult to comedy. The original version of Coupling is actually quite funny (well? at least the first two seasons.).

Don?t want to pony up the $17.99 for a Netflix account? Figure that you?re already paying Comcast an arm and a leg? Check out some of their Video On Demand offerings. Clearly, you?ve watched Adult Swim for Family Guy and Futurarma, but have you seen ?Home Movies?? If you were a fan of ?Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,? chances are you?ll like this series. It?s got many of the subtle humor techniques that Dr. Katz had. Early episodes were even shot in squiggle-vision. This gem of a show can sometimes be found in the Adult Swim section of VOD offerings.

Still too much money? It has become slightly harder as of late, but BitTorrent still has the potential to offer content seekers quality viewing that, to many of us, could be considered exclusive. American torrent users happily watched episodes of the hit remake of ?Battlestar Galactica? months before it hit the states via the Sci-Fi channel. Additionally, there is indy content that?s not too shabby.

Verizon is delivering content to your phone. Akimbo is busy offering their own (nearly) video on demand. MobiTV is helping other cell carriers to provide exclusive news and programming to your phone. Content is sprouting up all around us.

So, before you so glibly announce that there?s nothing on TV, perhaps the problem is that you?re only looking on the TV.

If you have feedback or suggestions for future columns, feel free to drop a line at Also, if you?ve got a must-see series that others would enjoy, leave a comment and spread the viewing wealth. Until next week ? save my seat!

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