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McGuire's Musings: The secret struggles of the second shift

June 20, 2014

Today, I just want to acknowledge you second shifters, the people who are at work while everyone else is at home or attending family-oriented events.

Before I worked at The Spirit, I worked as a morning show host and later as news director, which required me to rise and shine at 4 a.m. to be at the radio station by 5 a.m. at the latest.

The upside: I got to go home at 1 p.m. while everyone else had to work until 5 p.m.

Now, since I began working second shift (3 p.m. to midnight) I don't go to bed before 4 a.m. — the time I used to get up.

When I first began working second shift, I quickly realized that I was going to miss my favorite prime-time television shows, since most of them are on while I'm on the job.

Yes, there were VCRs, but it was a big hassle to record one program, not to mention numerous shows.

Then one day, along came something called a DVR, which records television programs digitally. Depending on which provider you have, you can record up to six programs at once.

This innovation, along with on-demand television viewing, changed the landscape of watching prime-time programs.

Now, I come home at 1 a.m. After I take my dog Bailey for his walk, I then head to my remote and my DVR-viewing area — a.k.a. the couch — with a snack and hit the list of programs that are saved for viewing.

The world of television viewing as we've known it has undergone a radical change, as the summer rerun season no longer exists.

When spring arrives, there is a large list of original series that begin in April and June, which I think are better than shows on the big three (ABC, NBC and CBS) during the regular season of September through May.

For some reason, it took the television industry 40 years to realize that no one liked watching the summer rerun season. Yes, some people watched, but not many.

I also watch hours of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball or Pittsburgh Penguins viewing, some of it on the replay that usually begins around 1 a.m., give or take an hour, on Root Sports.

I'm not one of those people who goes into seclusion so I don't find out the outcome of a game in order to watch it later recorded or on replay.

If I know my team lost, typically, I don't watch the replay because I'm unhappy that it lost, unless I want to see for myself how the Buccos or Pens lost the game.

Actually, if I know they've won, I definitely watch then. Talk about a frontrunner.

Being home during the mid-day hours has also introduced me to shows that I never was able to view in prime time, such as "Supernatural," "Bones," "King of the Hill," "American Dad" and a host of others.

There's one program in particular that I saw during middays that got my attention — "24," starring Kiefer Sutherland as Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent Jack Bauer.

Each 24-episode season covers 24 hours in the life of Bauer, using the real-time method of narration.

The show premiered on Nov. 6, 2001, and spanned 192 episodes over eight seasons, with the series finale broadcast on May 24, 2010.

"24" has returned as a 12-episode series titled "24: Live Another Day," which debuted back in May.

As I said, I never watched the show in prime time, but as a rerun during daytime television, I became hooked on it.

Someone who was a fan of the show from the very beginning suggested that I watch it one time, and I've been a fan ever since.

That person, whoever he or she is, was right.

I've watched a lot of programs with giant cliffhangers, such as "Dallas" with the who shot J.R. Ewing mystery back in the day.

However, "24" has a cliffhanger for almost every commercial break.

I remember the that first time I watched the show, I didn't understand the concept of real time.

Each episode takes place over the course of one hour, with time continuing to elapse during the commercial breaks.

The exact time is noted by the digital clock display at the beginning and end of each segment and the sounds of a ticking time bomb.

You think you have a busy day; you should check out Jack's typical day.

In just one hour, he's shot at 30 times, arrested and accused of being a traitor — and all of that before lunch.

The producers say that they skip meals and bathroom breaks — you have to assume that they happen during the commercial breaks.

When I heard the show was coming back, my son Mike watched a few episodes with me of the old shows, and he agreed it's addicting, with all the timelines going on and the attention to detail.

It's back, and hopefully they'll have another short series again next year.

Fortunately, I no longer have to watch it in reruns, but on DVR.

Ahh, the life of a second shifter, (sounds like something out of "X-Men" or "Ghostbusters").

My two dogs, Bailey and Chloe, are fans of me working second shift, mainly because it means more handouts for them.

They are always on guard, using their puppy dog eyes to get a free handout.

Stay up late and sleep in late sounds pretty good. Now, if we could just have daylight all night like they do in Alaska, the Land of the Midnight Sun, then second shift would be almost normal.

Then there's third shift, but we don't have time to get into that.

I don't think I would like working Jack Bauer's job, because he never gets a lunch or dinner break.

Sounds like CTU could use the union in there.

Spirit reporter and second shifter Larry McGuire is thinking of changing the name of this column to "McGuire's Midnight Musings."

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