How Jordanian TV is a window to the world’s soul

Nathan Schneider in The Smart Set:

ScreenHunter_15 Jan. 14 13.08 Satellite TV in Jordan, I discovered on my recent trip there, is a chaotic pleasure. When my American friends talk about watching it, taxiing home after a long day, there’s a little dread mixed with the hope of going into the kind of coma that only television can put one. The standard satellite setup, dauntingly, has more than 500 channels shooting out their signals in languages from all over the world. Finding something conventionally decent to watch is next to impossible for all but the practiced viewer. When you find your way around, you can preset your favorite stations and forget all the rest. But for those of us doomed to the full variety, the Jordanian boob tube becomes an obligatory tour of the human universe.

When all you want is Friends (or even its Arabic equivalent), prepare to weed through Italian soaps, Iranian talk shows, the Pentagon channel, Egyptian poetry, Russian porn, Mecca 24/7, Italian porn, state-run news, Kurdish divas, soccer, fútbol, American rap on Arab MTV, Bollywood revels, false prophets from Holland, German business commentary. When you finally come to Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, they’re dubbed in Japanese.

I suppose the price you pay for living in a country that doesn’t produce too much TV for its own good is that you’re forced to learn about the rest of the world. This learning shouldn’t be confused with CIA World Factbook-learning. It’s more like what you’d get from a good intercontinental love affair. At the very least, watching the satellite means being subjected to the fact that this planet is crowded and teeming with desires for every kind of stardom. Amidst them all, our little languages and preferences are the tiniest of snowflakes falling in six continents’ worth of static.