Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cable TV Weekend

We recently rented a house for the weekend, and like most rentals, it came with basic cable. People actually pay money for this?

The only really interesting thing on there were the movies, but they were repeated several times during the weekend, interrupted by many, many commercials, edited for content and time, and they even put advertisements (mostly for other TV shows) right on top of the movie in the form of "overlays" at the bottom of the screen. How annoying.

The ads themselves were interesting. You can see who they are marketing to, based on the ad content. While watching a re-run of the "Golden Girls" on "WE" network (was TV really that bad? Yes, it was) the ads were for skin cream (many, many times), for diet crackers (with real caramel!) and for weight-loss gimmicks. The profile viewer is clearly an overweight woman who wants to eat a lot of candy and lose weight, but is concerned about her skin.

For men, there were a dozen sports channels. Their advertisements were mostly for beer, pizza, and cars, as well as erectile dysfunction medication. So the target audience is sedentary overweight beer-guzzlers with car payments and soft dicks.

There were also several home channels - from the local real estate listings channel, to home improvement channels and home buying channels. The over-emphasis on home ownership (touted on TeeVee as something everyone desperately needs to do) is probably one reason we are in the trouble we are in today.

The documentary channels, like Science and Discovery have devolved into carnival-like entertainment. The Science channel now has a show about throwing pumpkins. Not an episode, but a whole show. Discovery touts "Ghost Hunting" and the "Paranormal" as some sort of science. The level of discourse is something a Junior Highschooler would find beneath them.

So the intended demographic, in addition to being overweight, self-loathing, sedentary people, is also really, really stupid people as well.

The TV shows and ads all feature very fast graphics, jumping around the screen. Shots last maybe a second or two before they jump to a different angle. Or jiggly hand-held cameras are used. News shows have scrolling text, captions, and spinning logos, along with whooshing sound effects, to make everything seem more important and compelling that it is. It is short attention span theater - for idiots.

And the ads reflect this level of stupidity. Every advertisement on television was for some sort of raw deal - whether it was leasing a new car, or buying "art" at the hotel/motel art fair. Or a diet plan or exercise device, some sort of bad food at a chain restaurant ("where you are always family to us"). And of course, the simpering ads for Title Pawn loans, payday loans, and rent-to-own furniture abounded as well.

And cell phone ads - tons and tons of them. Apparently there is some sort of new gadget I simply cannot live without - for $79 a month.

It reconfirmed to me why I stopped watching television. There was nothing on that was of any interest to me at all. And the target audience was for someone else - not me. I am not taking out payday loans, buying a diet plan, leasing a new car, or going to dinner at Chi-Chi's. I rarely carry a cell phone, and no, I don't text or twittter.

Everything, and I mean everything, on the television was aimed at some group of people who are as alien from me as the man-from-mars. Who are these people? I really don't want to know, frankly.

You see, I have no rabid burning desire to spend half my income on some horrible house in the suburbs and a lease on a new silver SUV. I don't want to get fat as a house watching television all night long while dialing out (on my new 3G wireless) for a delivery salt-lick pizza.

And I really don't even want to know these people. The great masses of ignorati hold no appeal to me. Dingbats on loud motorcycles or insecure males who need a new Camaro. Child-like adults who think the latest explosion movie is great entertainment. What would I even say to such people? We would have nothing in common.

Elitist? Perhaps. Or perhaps I think that there is more to life than to live as a consumer. And perhaps there should be more to our culture as well.

Literally millions upon millions of people live this way, knowing no better, and most of them are terribly unhappy. They wake to television, commute to work, spend their day at the office in intrigues with fellow workers (because "reality" TeeVee says that is how you behave), they commute back, flop in front of the TeeVee and eat badly until they go to bed.

Is this living? Is it even a life? I think not.

Living the TeeVee life is expensive in so many ways. Cable TV costs money. You spend money to be advertised to. The "deals" marketed on TeeVee are all bad - whether it is for a cell phone or a new car, or the latest 1200-calorie entree at the "casual dining" corporate chain restaurant.

You get fat, you get broke, and yet the TeeVee tantalizes you with more and more - so you feel even worse about your personal situation. Everyone on TeeVee has a brand new car, while you are stuck with a crummy old one. Your life sucks.

Did you ever notice on TeeVee (and even in the movies) how they portray working stiffs like yourself as living wildly expensive lifestyles? A clerk in a low paying job is shown driving a brand new car and living in an expensive high-rise. Yea, that could happen. Sure.

I call the TeeVee the "depression box" as it can aggravate depression or even cause it. You watch for a few hours and come away feeling slightly dizzy and nauseous, and also worn down. And you feel like your life is a miserable wreck, compared to those people on the "tube".

I one time hoped that TeeVee could be redeemed or reformed. But I don't think that will happen now. I thought that the Internet might save TeeVee, allowing us to watch programs when and where we wanted, instead of wading through hours of junk to see "what's on".

But the Internet is being shilling and scammed, and advertising dollars are moving there at a rapid clip. The era of the free and commercial-free video is fast dwindling. And as a time-waster, the Internet is trouncing TeeVee as well. You can spend hours and hours on the Internet - far more than TeeVee.

The only advantage of the Internet, is that it is interactive - you can "talk back" as I am doing here. Television is passive and receptive only. You sit, and watch. Your control is limited to changing channels, and that's it.

It was good to rent the house for the weekend. And seeing Cable TV after many years was a revelation and a confirmation that dumping TV was a good idea. But I regret spending as much time watching TV as we did there. In the future, I think if we rent such a place, we'll unplug the "tube" once we get there, and maybe stash the remotes in a closet.