ION Television: Channel 41

The very fact that ION's broadcast home base is in St. Cloud solidifies its appeal as it wafts quietly through the mindless programming of corporately meted detritus spewed out on broadcast television. With a lineup that's uniformly and deliciously un-hip, ION feels beamed down from some particularly spaced-out and distant galaxy, where Steve Harvey is worshipped as a god and Baywatch is still titillating. Featuring an inexplicable mix of long-forgotten sitcoms that never should've made it to syndication, religious claptrap, and B-movie period pieces, the ragtag schedule exposes the station's recent awkward growth into a messy hybrid of sincere religious offerings and lowest-common-denominator garbage. Watching the sometimes-fuzzy channel 41 is like rooting for the little guy. ION stands out because, like the best art, it demands far more questions than it answers. Chief among them: How does this station even exist? Who is watching, and who is buying advertising? Yet digging deeper begins to clear up this existential conundrum. Where else can the wayward stoner surfer get his required daily fix of The Wayans Bros. (to revisit a magical time before Scary Movie), followed by a solid block of the truly terrible Mama's Family? Where else can the dwindling but proud group of non-cable-using vagabonds, bravely hoping against hope that today something interesting might appear on TV, be able to find both the truly mundane and the purely transcendent? Finally, where else do you have a fighting chance of seeing a puppet named Oogleberry Ink Dog and a shirtless David Hasselhoff?


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