Illustration by Eran Wolkowski
Illustration by Eran Wolkowski.
Text size

“No, Thursday’s out. How about never − is never good for you?”
caption of a New Yorker cartoon by Robert Mankoff, showing a man in an office talking on the phone and glancing at an appointments diary.

R.E. Runn was horrified. This week, after getting back from the long weekend of the last of the spring festivals, Runn, vice president for programming of the television franchisee, opened the “Yearly Forecast” log. Stretching before him, from horizon to horizon, was the Nubian Desert itself. June, July, August, half of September. Month after month without holiday breaks, without long weekends, without excuses, without alibis. An unceasing succession of mundane, demanding programs, productions, series. And all of them meant to be new, fresh.

Someone else, someone made of less resilient material, might have buckled. Without holidays there are no pretexts for reruns, in the hope no one will notice, or under the aegis of promoting education ‏(i.e., to encourage viewers to leave the house for outings, or for family bonding at a traditional holiday meal‏). There are no excuses for endlessly recycling specials in the hope of deceiving the viewers with a new trick: replacing the letters “RR” ‏(rerun‏) with “AB” ‏(additional broadcast‏), which somehow sounds more vague.

No more taking advantage of the holiday and the long weekend to take everyone working for the station to Eilat or Barcelona ‏(apart from the presenters of the abridged newscasts‏). No more rebroadcasts of some old investigative program about Bezeq’s telephone monopoly, with a brief flash of the words “highlights from this season” at the bottom of the screen, or the announcer’s muffled mumbling, “So let’s see what we had this year,” or “Here are the best stories of the past half a year ...”

“In any case, a half hour − not counting commercials, promos and sponsor announcements − goes by before you realize you have already seen this special,” Runn often says. “And even then, try and remember whether the episode from this series, in which Kushnir or a simulated Kushnir says ‘rabak’ to the woman next door, is new or old. So you stick with the same station, both due to inertia and because of the 20 centimeters that are always between you and the remote control.”

“And anyway,” Runn maintained, “there is something hypnotic about repetitiveness. The proof lies in the rebroadcasts and highlights from ‘A Wonderful Country,’ which get the same ratings as the first show, if not more. Guys, get it into your head: people like to see on television things they have already seen on television.”

In this way, using a thousand wiles, the franchisees managed to get through the chain of spring festivals, much in the same way that Hannibal crossed the Alps: with the aid of elephants called highlights, forgetfulness and charity: “The Bar Refaeli Special,” “Back to the Coliforms,” “Kidney Transplants Revisited,” “The Gilad Shalit Story: The Prequel.”

“I reiterate,” Runn said at a recent meeting, “what we need is not so much programs as to provide material for promos.”

Yekev Goren, vice president for reruns and recycling, said with a glazed look, “There are moments when I am so envious of state television. They don’t do much agonizing: Holiday, no holiday, it’s all the same to them. I heard once that they just go over to a green metal garbage container that stands in the yard there on old cinder blocks, dangle a bent cable into the bin and whatever’s fished out goes straight to broadcast: ‘Hedva and Shmulik,’ the Eichmann trial, ‘In the Granary on a Moonlit Night,’ a Dudaim special, an evening with artillerymen at a base somewhere in Sinai, ‘Enchanted Kinneret: Autumn Songfest’ − and of course the immortal classic, ‘Happy Harvest Hootenanny.’ Who cares?

Everything there, including the news, looks like it’s been photographed through an old sock.”

“Yes,” Runn said, and not for the first time, “but we have a precious treasure that others don’t have. In the summer, when there are no holidays, we have a ‘season finale’ for almost every program.”

As they emerged from the meeting, during which they finally decided to surprise the viewers with reruns of Kushnir and “Friends,” starting with the first episode, Yekev asked Runn, “So, what are you guys doing all summer? Are you going somewhere?”

− Compiled from the unwritten history of reruns in Israel

“My life is as simple as I can make it. Work all day, cook, eat, wash up, telephone, hack writing, drink, television in the evenings. I almost never go out. I suppose everyone tries to ignore the passing of time: some people by doing a lot, being in California one year and Japan the next; or there’s my way − making every day and every year exactly the same. Probably neither works.”
− Poet Philip Larkin, who lived most of his life as a solitary librarian in Hull, in an interview

Supermarket chain owner: So what do you suggest?
Adman: In connection with what?
Owner: The campaign.
Adman: Let’s see, where are we? After Pesach we dropped the campaign of “Afikoman in the Doodads R Us Chain: Cushions for plastic chairs at Exodus-from-Egypt prices!” A month ago we had “Declaring Independence at Doodads R Us: Free skewer device and flag.” On Jerusalem Day we featured the “Snuggle blanket, at wall-breaching prices.” On the eve of Shavuot we concluded our latest campaign: “Who moved the soap dish: Shavuot of shower curtains at Doodads R Us.”
Owner: Yes, but what now?

Adman: Let’s look in the diary. Pshhh ... Absolutely nothing. But wait a minute: In June we have Tisha B’Av.
− From the minutes of a meeting

“A clear horizon − nothing to worry about on your plate, only things that are creative and not destructive ... I can’t bear quarreling, I can’t bear feelings between people ... I think hatred is wasted energy, and it’s all non-productive. I’m very sensitive − a sharp word, said by a person, say, who has a temper, if they’re close for me, hurts me for days. I know we’re only human, we do go in for these various emotions, call them negative emotions, but when all these are removed and you can look forward and the road is clear ahead, and now you’re going to create something − I think that’s as happy as I’ll ever want to be.”
− Alfred Hitchcock, asked in a television interview for his definition of happiness