The Shame of Television
by C. M. Albrecht
It really bothers me to see that the people who program television as well as the people who create the ads for television, set such a low bar on our national IQ.
They feed us “reality” that is patently unreal and mostly so boring I have a feeling the director and cameraman go to sleep during taping and only deal with what turns up later. But to really rub it in, after each little segment, a “psychologist” or “legal expert” or former criminal turned honest or even a former disgraced police officer tosses out “expert” opinions.
A couple is looking for a house. Yeah. Like the producers are going to waste time and money looking at houses when in the end, the couple decides to stay in Mom’s basement where they’ve been since they married five years ago. They look at house Number 1 and the wife complains that there are no granite counter tops while the husband says he wants a bigger back yard for his dog.
Immediately after this, a honey-voiced narrator, like a UN translator, tells us the wife wants granite counter tops and the husband wants a larger yard for his dog. Have we finally got it? Do we care?
A criminal casually tells how he butchered a young woman, buried her remains and then went to McDonald’s for dinner. Immediately a psychologist appears and explains that criminals often relive their crimes and feel a need to talk about them. Who knew?
Hillbillies are big. Evidently the television industry thinks we’re fascinated by hillbillies and strange people who live off the grid. I don’t know, maybe they’re right. Maybe that’s why we have so many problems and everybody in the world hates Americans. After all, most of our politicians act and talk as if they were the slow kids who spent three years in the third grade. One told his mom, ‘You got to get out of that third grade before you can get no place.’ Besides, while they’re kicking back in front of the TV they can afford to sip martinis, and plenty of ‘em.
From its very beginnings, television has been for the masses, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve always had advertising and commercials, but in the past they didn’t talk down to us in the same way they do today.
We had little jingles. “Luckies taste good…” “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat” Jell-O, Alka-Seltzer…all they did was tell you their product was good. As one commercial said, “Try it, you’ll like it”.
Now we have to sit through long dry commercials about new prescription drugs with more fancy names than new cars. That’s bad enough, but then the commercial turns into a horror movie while we’re quickly warned of all the deadly side effects, immediately switching to a happy couple with nothing to do but hike in the woods or go boating. We see people practically having sexual relations in front of people on the beach, etc. because the guy took Cialis. Hot women lie impatiently in bed waiting for (we hope) their husbands to down a Viagra. We’re hounded by attorneys begging us to sue somebody for almost anything. Mesothelioma, Mesh, and on and on ad nauseam. And then the real snapper: the amazing new product that will keep your car looking and running like new forever or the kitchen gadget you can’t live without. Just $19.95, but wait! Order today and we’ll double your offer and upgrade you to the model with a built-in flashlight, and then more softly, just pay separate shipping and handling. People who have fallen for those ads often end up having paid $75 or more dollars for junk they’ll later find at Walgreen’s in the “As seen on TV” shelf for something like ten bucks.
What really troubles me is not so much that they try this stuff, but evidently it’s working. They’re getting worse every day.
When TLC started, TLC meant The Learning Channel and I expected a rival of public television. Commercials? Sure as long as I get some educational and interesting programming…but sadly, it looks as if there wasn’t much of an audience for that, and now TLC, while no long teaching anything but bad taste to prurient viewers, has found its niche. Others are just as guilty. With its reputation I would expect National Geographic to offer really interesting programming. Yeah. And the History Channel. Sounds like you really learn a lot of that history you missed out on in school because you were daydreaming. I like truck drivers and their work is important. I’ve had two brothers-in-law who were truckers, but what do modern-day truck drivers have to do with yesterday’s happening? Well, as to history, one of the brothers-in-law, while visiting us on a delivery trip, went to sleep and his cigarette burned our new coffee table, but, well…that’s sort of history I guess.
Come on America. We (the few of us who are outraged at today’s TV programming and advertising) need to stand up and, like in the movie, “Network”, yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more. Good-bye Dish, Direct TV, Comcast and all the other panderers who peddle this stuff. Well, I can’t cut them off completely. I need my Turner Classic Movie Channel. At least Mr. Turner hasn’t let us down. I even watch CNN sometimes.
After thinking about it, I may look into getting two bathtubs on the patio and maybe I too could, you know…
It’s a cold world.