Czech TV – In English!

Filip Bezděk explains the dangerous magic of “Dual Sound”

There are people in Prague who don’t own televisions out of principle. And then there are monolingual expats who wouldn’t get much of český dabing, so forgo the box simply because they can’t understand it.

The ranks of the latter may be about to thin, thanks to the concept of bilingual Dual Sound broadcasting. The number of shows available isn’t enough to turn you into a full-fledged TV addict, but just might justify that second-hand purchase.

The concept of Dual Sound is based on stereo broadcasting: two separate sound channels broadcast with one picture. But Left and Right aren’t the only options for stereo sound – it can also mean Language I and Language II.This means that you can switch from Czech to English at will if it is offered by the broadcaster, and in the Czech Republic it is on the rise.

What kind of TV do you need? Easy: you just need a set capable of receiving stereo sound according to the Czech standard, which is to say a TV set purchased in the Czech Republic during the last five years. But beware of some older models, especially Samsung, equipped with a stereo amplifier but a mono tuner: these can reproduce stereo only from a VCR and don’t offer Dual Sound. A sure sign is a “I-II ” marked button on the remote control. (A nice side-effect of stereo TV is that they are also equipped with more powerful amplifiers which emulate stereo sound even on mono broadcasts.)

Stereo broadcasting in the ČR started with Czech TV some four years ago. Suddenly it was possible to watch shows like The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation in English, but then the show’s distributors claimed that the right to broadcast in Dual was reserved for cable channels. This was bad news, as the shows weren’t on the cable channels, and Czech TV was too lazy to negotiate.

The best known shows available in Dual on Czech TV now include Happy Days (ČT1 Tuesdays at 4), the original Star Trek series (ČT1 Fridays at 4:30 and mid-night). Euronews broadcasts in English and French on ČT2 at midday. If you’re looking in the papers’ TV listings, Dual Sound shows are marked with a “D” symbol. While it won’t list the second language, it is usually English.

TV Nova jumped on the Dual Sound bandwagon a year after Czech TV with a much larger selection for English speakers. Nova offers late morning movies (starting around 11) which can be anything from classic Hollywood to newer thrillers. Many of its prime time movies also come in Dual now, which recently included Raiders of the Lost Ark. Also watch for the Friday horror movie at midnight.

As for Nova’s regular shows, the list does not inspire: JAG (weekdays at 4:30 p.m.), Colombo (Sundays at 6 p.m.), Jake and the Fatman (Sundays at 11 a.m.) and the old British series Dempsey and Makepeace (Tuesdays at 9:45 p.m.). Just be aware that some of these shows produced non-Dual episodes, as was the case with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Murder She Wrote.

English isn’t the only language broadcast through Dual Sound. Most shows from Latin America and Spain are in Dual, including Rosalinda, Wild Moon, and The Wild Angel. The original German can be heard on shows such as the Schimanski movies and late-night porno.

Unfortunately Nova is the only private Czech station to use Dual. When Prima follows suit then maybe we ’ll have Married With Children, The Bold and the Beautiful, and LA Heat. Until then, we’ll take what we can get.

JAG, anyone?

—Filip Bezděk can be eached at [email protected]

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