The Muppet Movie

WHEN DStv announced the launch of new all-day movie channels, the sceptics among us assumed that, because there simply are not enough films to sustain such an ambitious programme, repeats would soon become the order of the day and night.

Our worst fears have been realised and, even allowing for the holiday season’s special needs, repetition will reach ridiculous proportions this month.

A glance through the December listings reveals that some films will be shown 12 times in successive days. One is The Debt, another Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, and Dinner with Schmucks is a third. These three have a common history in that they were all judged to be uncommercial and were not released here.

Among the films that were shown here you will find The Perfect Host (14 screenings), Warrior (15), Love, Wedding, Marriage (12), Footloose 13), Midnight Run (13), and Larry Crowne (12).

When it comes to children’s pictures, the situation is just as bad, although understandable during school holidays: Beethoven, a dog, gets 12 chances to drool but its sequel only 7; Beverly Hills Chihuahua can be seen 15 times; Aladdin and Little Rascals 12 times each; and The Muppet Movie on 17 occasions.

DStv usually justifies its policy by referring to contractual obligations and by pointing out that different viewers have different personal schedules so everyone should get the chance to see a particular movie at a convenient time. However, there can hardly be so many adult or child insomniacs around at odd hours and, in any event, the recording devices advertised ad nauseam should solve the problem for a substantial number of subscribers.

Just as bad, if not worse, even when there is something promising to watch, there is a hitch: this was the unfortunate case a week or so ago with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold in which Morgan Spurlock, who nearly killed himself living exclusively on hamburgers in Super Size Me, examines the issues involved in product placement, finding brands prepared to pay for the right to be seen either briefly or prominently and, generally, how corporate partners are accommodated on screen. As it happens and despite its listing (channel 104 at 9pm, November 28 ), it was replaced, without apology or explanation, by Who’s That Girl?, a 1987 showcase for Madonna’s limited acting ability.

Last week Daniel Craig advanced the absurd notion that without Heineken, the latest James Bond film, could not get sold, as if, after 50 years and 22 highly profitable 007 movies, no one had enough faith in the franchise to finance Skyfall without asking for a "free" plug.

Getting back to TV, the good old SABC has decided to fight DStv tooth and nail by offering its viewers such dated delights as MacGyver, The Cosby Show, Hawaii Five O and Mission Impossible, all of them 30 years old and about to be joined by C.H.I.P.S. of similar vintage.