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Ready for Pentagon TV?
With the Pentagon launching its own cable network,
thrilling new viewing opportunities are endless

by James Charles
March 19, 2005

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Remember the great line-up of shows on the old SCTV? Well, like water seeking its level, life imitates art and here's proof: According to The Washington Post, Pentagon TV is heading to cable systems. Time-Warner already offers it in the US, and cable companies in Canada are applying to the CRTC to add DoDTV to the mind-numbing array of existing specialty channels that draw as many as a dozen viewers at a time for shows like Fat Boy Hackeysack and Dating For The Bewildered.

DoDTV’s schedule is a mix of CNN and C-SPAN with a touch of HBO, The Movie Network and Discovery. It combines military news and lifestyle shows with live coverage of military briefings, speeches by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and congressional appearances by Pentagon officials.

But not even DoDTV can fill 24 hours with exciting speeches by that old spellbinder, the Commandant of the Marine Corps. So, new programme deals are in the offing and shows already green-lighted are certain to be a huge hit with viewers.

All M*A*S*H*ed Up. Parents of wounded soldiers watch the superb medical care their crippled, maimed or disfigured children receive at Lansteuhle Military Hospital in Germany after the kid’s poorly protected Humvees are blown to smithereens by roadside bombs and RPGs.

Col. Dame Edna. Downunder’s favourite cross-dressing celebrity brings her wildly popular show to Baghdad, broadcasting live from The Ali Baba Cafe deep in the heart of the Green Zone. She trades sequined gowns for a stylish military uniform with plumed epilates and a khaki skirt with a fake fur-trimmed hem. As always, Dame Edna interviews one-time, almost-were and has-been semi-celebrities such as Paul Bremer, Ahmed Chalabi and others who helped make Iraq the peaceful place it is today. Chris Rock was considered for Edna’s sidekick but George Bush didn’t get the jokes.

I've Got A Military Secret. An updated version of the 1950s hit quiz show in which faceless and nameless "senior government officials" try to guess the military secrets of "reliable Pentagon sources." Each week, the winner gets to leak a story to columnist Robert Novak who will use the information to “out” a CIA operative. Hosted by Valerie Plame.

Terrorist Treasure Hunt. Accompanied by film crews, each week groups of contestants are sent to different parts of the world to hunt down terrorist cells. Well, maybe one of them can find Osama Bin Laden. Sponsored by Tourism Pakistan.

CFB Trenton. Included in the schedule so DoDTV meets Canadian Content rules, which channels here must follow to maintain their license, the programme shows off Canada’s finest military hardware. In the first episode, host Maj. General Lewis MacKenzie (ret.) highlights the army’s newest mobile infantry vehicle, a 1949 Studebaker truck now serving with Canadian peacekeepers.

Other shows in development include an original movie, Maiming Private Ryan, and a promising sitcom, Fire In The Hole, about the comical hijinks of a madcap Marine platoon patrolling the Sunni Triangle. The Pentagon also plans a series of thoughtful after-school specials to help military kids deal the with the real-world issues they face. Who Exploded Mommy To Pieces? is slated for an early air date.

It is too soon to know whether the network will be a boffo hit with viewers, but Pentagon sources say they're hopeful it will be as popular as Karen Ryan "news" reports and State Dept. video news releases explaining how wonderful life in Afghanistan has become, especially for poppy growers. Still, uncertainty lingers as Rumsfeld explained during a recent press conference, “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.” If it sounds familiar, maybe you’re remembering former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s immortal, “If you have a proof, then there’s a proof and a proof is a proof!” Tune in to DoDTV to learn if Donald Rumsfeld and Jean Chretien were separated at birth.

James Charles, an ex-pat American,  is a writer who has lived in Toronto since 1991. His next book is Life In The Dominion: An American’s Mostly-Affectionate Look At Living In Canada. E-mail him at:

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