For the last few years, I haven’t watched TV very much. When I was unemployed I binged on Netflix during the day to fill up my overly abundant free time, but we didn’t have cable in our apartment and I only got my Food Network/HGTV fix when we were housesitting. For the most part I didn’t miss it, and enjoyed not having the temptation of zoning out in front of a screen when I could be reading or doing other things.
In Macedonia, I spend A LOT of time watching TV, usually from about 4 until I go into my room for the night. I try to hang out in the living room as much as I can to spend time with our family (and as it gets colder, it’s where the wood stove is and is by far the warmest place in the house) and it also happens to be where the TV is. It’s almost always on. Sometimes it alternates to cartoons for Dime, or we watch Discovery Channel in English for a dose of home, but it’s generally on the same station all day. The run down looks something like this:
4:00 – News. It’s almost always centered on what’s going on in Skopje, since that’s where about half of the population lives. Luckily for me, they write a sentence about what the story’s about at the bottom of the screen, so I generally can piece together what’s going on. From what I pick up, it also skews heavily in favor of the government/ruling party. Party politics are a big deal in Macedonia, and I really am looking forward to having more language to talk about it with people and get a fuller understanding of the situation. For now, I know my family likes the current premier because he’s brought a lot of manufacturing jobs to the country.
5:00 – брза кујна, or Fast Kitchen! This is basically the Macedonian version of Chopped. There are two teams, the red pepper and the green pepper, each one with one chef (always a man) paired with a housewife. They have 20 minutes to make a meal out of random ingredients, although each team has different ingredients (I haven’t figured out why yet). The chef basically takes charge of the preparation, and the woman becomes his assistant, and is also in charge of getting the table set and ready (complete with wine and rakija) at the end. The audience votes on which meal they like more. Then the woman on the winning team is told what a great housewife she is and is presented with some kind of household appliance. You can really tell a lot about gender roles here by watching this show.
6:00 – Game show hour! For the most part this has been a show called се или нешто (all or something), which is just like Deal or No Deal in the US except with regular people holding the briefcases instead of models. The prize values range from 1 to a million denars, and you really have to get in the upper half of the prizes for it to be much money at all. Sometimes there’s a trivia show that I only kind of understand instead. I think it might rotate.
7:00 – more news, and the weather report.
8:00 – Turkish soap opera time!!! I have really come to love some of these shows, even though they are incredibly dramatic and cheesy. I understand a lot of what’s going on usually, but I still feel like sometimes I miss crucial plot points. My favorite one is called Малиот Ага, and it’s about this kid and his parents who are divorced (maybe?) but live across the street from one another, and the mom is a surgeon (it’s kind of like Macedonian Grey’s Anatomy) and the dad I think works for the police? or something? Anyway, drama ensues, and the kid does fun stuff at school, and it’s a good blend of language practice and relaxation. It is still interesting to me that because Macedonia is so small, a lot of their entertainment is from other countries (Turkey, Serbia, etc) and dubbed or subtitled. There’s a few other soaps that rotate, the one on now is called Deela and is even more dramatic than the hospital show (love triangles! criminals! family arguments!)
9:00 – Reality shows. Usually a singing competition, like Macedonian The Voice (complete with turning giant chairs). Most of these have Balkan-wide audiences and are filmed in Serbia. Even though Macedonian and Serbian are very closely related, the younger generation has a hard time understanding it so there are subtitles (an interesting result of the breakup of Yugoslavia from what I can gather, since I think it used to be more common for people to learn and speak other Balkan languages).
Usually this is about where I shower and go to bed for the night, so I’m not sure what comes on later. Since the programming is so repetitive, it’s been a good way for me to gauge how fast my language skills are improving. I still unwind with English at night, either reading or watching stuff on my laptop, but I’m quickly getting hooked on my soaps and game shows with Baba.