by Saxon Burns
I suspect many of our esteemed blog readers disdain TV viewing already—with the possible exception of Red Star, who, judging from his conduct 'round these parts, is a victim of the mind-numbing aftereffects of a Weather Channel overdose.
Here’s more fuel for the fire: I’m indignant about the continuing encroachment of advertising while watching my beloved Arrested Development on G4. It’s not enough that the length of TV programs has been whittled away over the years to make room for more commercials, or that the closing credits from shows have largely gone the way of the dinosaurs so networks can promote other programs (which they do over and over again during commercial breaks anyway). The latter phenomenon has been taken to its most annoying extreme by Bravo, which ran the same spots for Work Out ad nauseam while I was caught in the orbit of Project Runway last year. And guess what? I still didn’t watch Work Out.
It also grates on me when GSN cuts away from the groovy Match Game theme song to let me know that, yes, I’m watching GSN. No fucking duh!
Don’t even get me started on the network-TV channels, which are often the worst offenders.
G4, which was originally conceived of as a channel for video gamers before its management started targeting hormonal young men more generally, has already been criticized by some for taking product placement to new heights. And the channel has Attack of the Show!, which is essentially one long, inanely scripted infomercial aimed at getting technologically savvy males to buy smokin' hot gadgetry.
But that’s apparently not enough. G4 repeatedly runs an obnoxious ticker across the bottom of the screen, carrying so-called “news” about what’s hot to buy, along with an incredibly irritating, animated scroll across the top—taking up a fifth of the screen and commanding attention—while I’m trying to get my Bluth-family fix. The top scroll appeared twice in the span of about two minutes one evening, announcing that Star Trek: TNG was next and some other program was on later that night. The whole thing was especially galling, because they had already gone over the night’s programming during the break, mere minutes before they ran those scrolls. Why do we need to be badgered with this information?
I went to advertising school for a while, and I think I appreciate a clever promotion more than most people, but I don’t need ads prying their way into every nook and cranny of my life. Why do these channels feel entitled to do this? Is it this way in other capitalist economies? Do they have constant promotions running across the TV screen during programs, which are supposed to be the filler between commercials that get people to watch the commercials in the first place? TiVo is no longer safe from their onslaught, and YouTube is about to jump on the bandwagon. I can’t even read the news on Web sites without some ad covering what I want to see. The button marked “close”—written in miniscule type—is always hidden somewhere other than the top-right corner, which is the intuitive place for it to be.
I’d like for there to be some pushback. It's not OK for people to talk on TV like they do in real life, cusswords and all, according to the puritans among us. It’s not OK for a breast to be flashed across the screen for a few seconds, because impressionable youngsters might be ripped from the enchanted Candyland Americans are trying to create for their children. But it’s perfectly all right for people to continually assault our senses to get us to buy, watch or do something, and to do so in the most base, thoughtless ways possible.
To partially quote Ab Fab’s Edina Monsoon, advertisers have already taken “everything that was ever real and genuine and honest and original and attached it to a toilet cleaner.” Must they distract from Arrested Development, too?