Zhivago & Cable's Localism


The latest artic blast which left behind a foot of snow in New York has altered my television viewing habits, and now my dream life.

The other night I was dreaming about Doctor Zhivago on that Siberia-bound train, rubbing the ice off the windows of that frigid train, to get a last glance of his beloved Lara on the platform.

And as dreams go, there I was, too, bundled up just like Omar Sharif, wearing my oversized coat and fur hat — but mine was Fashonista red — waving to my new friends, the weather folks from News 12 Westchester, who were sending me off to my trip on a gasping Metro North train to Manhattan.

Neither Omar nor I had much choice, about taking our wretched train rides, but clearly I was better armed. Thanks to Cablevision Systems Corp. — my local cable provider, servicing the now-frozen tundra of Westchester County — I know something a lot of others did not.

I really don't want to share this with other Westchester commuters, because I'll wind up standing and never get a seat again. But in the spirit of being the better person, I again resolved to be last New Year's Eve, I will spill.

That spunky little News 12 channel and its sister Metro Traffic and Weather definitely have their acts together, even though watching them is kind of like eating ham on rye while lunching at the Four Seasons.

Those channels updated every, painful miserable misstep by Metro-North on what has become a daily grind, full of unpleasant surprises.

Who could possibly know on the day of the big snow dump that Metro-North would run on the Sunday schedule? Or that the 7:59 a.m. express from White Plains was cancelled?

Instead, the broadcasters were telling me who was the latest contestant to get booted off of Donald Trump's The Apprentice. Who cares? To me, job security is getting in against all odds before 10 a.m., so I don't look like a total schlump to my boss, who is based in Los Angeles and can't really relate to the tundra back here.

And here's another little confession. For the first time in my commuting life — two decades — I no longer watch the Today show and that perky Katie Couric, who is chirping away about new wrinkle creams, while all the weather-related news is silently running — and at a furious pace, in squint-producing small type — along the bottom crawl on the screen.

Am I supposed to stop dead in my tracks and read that stuff when I have already overslept and don't even know how many layers to wear for my trek to my own personal Siberia? That perky red hat, which is really suede, only goes so far.

Instead, I just blast up the volume on News 12 and multitask myself from closet to bathroom to dressing table to home office. I can hear what I need to do while doing 10 other things at once, which is what the average person has to do to get to work, while checking e-mail and voice mail.

Yes, News 12 is making the morning commute more bearable — unless you lose your keys — and then not even they can help you out there.

In all seriousness, I commend Cablevision for filling the void that broadcasters have created on the local-news front. As the broadcasters try to become all things to all people, they have become nothing in morning drive time.