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"Episodes of Weather" mind matters
November 8, 2002

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The Weather Channel is home to the best soap operas in the world.

First of all, I recognize all the characters immediately. You’ve got those blowing clouds with big lips. They’re the troublemakers, leading the way for villainy. You’ve got the heroes, who are those large yellow circles with the jagged edges. They’re always smiling, have you noticed? And finally you have all the minor characters, who show up occasionally just to make things difficult. My favorite of all of them is fog, because he shows up only about once a week and is completely unpredictable.

The world of the soap opera is recognizable. I can see Boston! I love it when the action happens in Boston, because I especially enjoy the on-location shoots. I like the ones with the huge waves, on the coast, when the reporter-narrator guy stands in a black coat with a blowing hood in the heavy gray rains.

The story is quite continuous, too. The long story lines -- you know, the curving red ones with the triangles? -- are literally so cool. You can see them coming days in advance, episode after episode, swinging down out of Canada and bringing with them all sorts of stormy stuff. By the time they pass through Boston, there’s not a dry eye anywhere.

For sweeps weeks, they bring in the tropical storms and the hurricanes. One season they were all women, and boy, did that mess things up. I understand more people watch the Weather Channel during the hurricane watches than at any other time.

You don’t have to worry about missing an episode, because the story’s that easy. Always something new. There are common themes, sure, but there’s no real need for syndication. If something interesting happened once before, like a high temperature in 1922 or a flood in the late 1970s, they’ll let you know.

A lot of people complain about the whole weather thing. It’s as if they don’t get it. One time a meteorologist got an angry phone message from an otherwise loyal viewer: “How about you come over and shovel your &%#!@ partly cloudy out of my driveway?!” True story. But you see, I think weather is entirely about unpredictability.

Laugh all you want. You know how many times I’ve heard the joke, “Don’t like the weather, so wait ten minutes”? But can you imagine if the weather were always the same? Where’s the excitement, the thrill? The best part of the Weather Channel show is watching the characters predict what’s going to happen next, and then being wrong! With all that newfangled equipment too!

Insecurity about temperature and precipitation is a huge source of some amazing drama. Think about it. People think washing their cars will make it rain. Students hope for heavy snow when the homework is due. The real diehards, who talk about barometric pressure and cold fronts, sometimes make me roll my eyes. But it’s true that living with the unpredictability of weather is what makes life so fascinating.

Shovel your own partly cloudy, fella. My soaps are on.

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Copyright 2002 Seth Maislin

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