FORT MEADE, MD - All three employees of the Pentagon Channel (TPC) attended a lunch yesterday to celebrate a major milestone in the network's history.
This week's Nielsen ratings reported that two separate viewers tuned in to TPC last week, pushing the total number of people who have ever watched the channel to 100.
The celebration lunch was held at a reserved table at CiCi's Pizza, located in the 6400 block of Baltimore National Pike in Baltimore.
"I try not to get caught up in things like 'ratings' or 'popularity,'" said Chester Perkins, TPC's General Manager. "This was a big deal, though, and I wanted to commemorate it. It's just nice to get together for a hot lunch."
Perkins has been an employee of the Defense Media Activity and its predecessor, the American Forces Information Services, since 1958. He has been in charge of TPC since it went on the air in 2004.
"Old Chet [Perkins] has been, to put it politely, resistant to change," said Mike Carey, TPC Director of Programming. "The History Channel pulls great numbers with its war documentaries, and there are plenty of popular military-themed movies and shows out there. I keep pitching ideas for programs that people might actually want to watch, but Chet says that's not what we're about here."
One of Carey's ideas that did make it was Close Combat, which broke down combatives techniques from all four services and showed fights from a 2010 military-wide combatives tournament. The martial arts-themed subject matter generated some initial interest, but failed to attract even a single viewer.
"Close Combat was a quality program and I wanted it on in primetime, but Chet insisted that we bury it in a Saturday morning time slot," Carey said. "He made us fill the primetime hours with some kind of Army talent show that literally no one watched."
Perkins said he doesn't use ratings to determine programming, but instead trusts his instincts.
"Good folks nowadays don't want to watch shows that are entertaining or fun," Perkins said. "They want to watch NCOs grilling outside on a warm summer afternoon, or young troops playing video games and riding go-karts, or news about change of command ceremonies and the Combined Federal Campaign."
"They want tours of military installations," Perkins added, "and to watch soldiers doing PT, and low-budget military documentaries produced by military public affairs offices in the 1960s."
Perkins crossed his arms proudly and leaned back in his chair. "I've been saying all that for years, and judging from the latest ratings, turns out I was right. We had two viewers last week. I try not to let it get to my head, but sometimes you gotta just pat yourself on the back."
The lunch ended when the third member of the group, studio technician Leroy Bradley, had to leave so that he could be back at his desk in time for a job interview over the phone with the Golf Channel.