Too Much TV

Last night, it occurred to me that I had yet to post anything here since we collectively cracked open 2009. It also occurred to me about half an hour later that I couldn't think of anything to post about.

Thanks to the miracle of social networking, I decided to reach out and discover what my readers would like to read.

100% of the replies concerned watching television. For our generation, I weep.

But we're a generation raised on television. Cable was widespread when we were in preschool, and along with it, terrible commercials bent on us buying spirographs and pogo balls. I have a clear memory of what channel Nickelodeon was on in my cable market when I was five years old. Chilling.

And the shows that we tuned in to watch were really only there to make sure we were watching the commercials. There was nobody at Nickelodeon studios, or any of the other syndicated shows making sure that kids enjoyed the crap they were programming. They just wanted eyes glued to the TV set. That way, they could run the same ad thousands of times until eventually the kids knew the songs by heart. That opened the door to the kids screaming that they had to have [x product] right now!

Meanwhile, we're watching this who-cares-just-get-it-on-the-air programming religiously. Faithfully buying cheap plastic replicas of our beloved televised characters and their vehicles and residences, funneling money into the fat pockets of 80s TV suits.

We didn't know any better. We were just kids.

But as we grew up, we became a little smarter. We realised all those as-seen-on-TV products are garbage, and even though they've offered to make that last $39.95 payment for you, it's still ridiculously overpriced. We began to tune out commercials. My best friend became the mute button. Shut up, loud guy. I don't need any household cleaner today.


Then something even more wonderful happened. As we grew up, technology advanced.

Sure, we had the VCR back in the day, but that was mainly used for recording movies off of HBO during the free trial weekend, or taping some show we were going to be out of town and couldn't watch live. There were huge stacks of VHS tapes all over the house. They were all poorly labeled, and invariably had something recorded over what was penciled in. When the VCR went on-demand and digital, life got a lot less messy.

Now commercials aren't just muted, they're skipped altogether. Without stacks of enormous tapes. (Seriously, did VHS tapes need to be that huge? They weren't even capable of storing the full 480i that was being broadcast. Worthless, says I!)

And now I can watch programming on my time, and avoid shows like what's currently airing on the Fox network. I'm also immune to networks competing against each other by simultaneously scheduling shows I watch.

For example, Monday nights this winter are crammed with the only watchable programming available throughout the week: Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and House, M.D. If this were a year ago, you'd see 24 on that list too. That's too much to watch in one night!

And the Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday lineups on any of the networks aren't even worth mentioning. Idol and Lost fans can unfriend me on Facebook immediately.

The other great thing about timeshifting is, you can completely forget what day a program airs on. House used to be on Tuesdays, but got moved to Monday. Well, I think House works better for me on Tuesday, so I'm gonna keep watching it on Tuesday. What do you think about that, Fox?

The other shows just sort of arrive on my DVR like a little present, or an unexpected e-mail. How delightful!

Unfortunately, the folks running the networks, are fighting a battle with the DVR. We skip their commercials and promos, so they start superimposing promos in the bottom corner of the screen. During a football game, up pops an advert for a primetime karaoke contest. Um, it's 3rd and short. Could you make that go away?

There are two solutions to this problem, since superimposed graphics are upsetting viewers. Either program commercials worth watching (and do so less repetitively), or work actual product placement into your programming. Make your karaoke contestants sing a jingle for Mercury or Alka-Seltzer or something. Don't worry, people will still send their text-message votes.

Oh yeah, and if you didn't figure it out during last year's writers' strike, people like to watch well-written shows.

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