You can't just watch "a little bit" or "just my favorite shows" without being bombarded with ad after ad for credit card offers, payday loans, or new car sales. And these ads will program your brain over time. The only choice is to unplug from the programming entirely.
Was television always like this? Perhaps, perhaps not. The amount of advertising today, versus the 1960's is much higher. On many cable channels, ads are nearly (or more than) 50% of airtime. Much of the ads today are for more television - selling you the idea of watching more and more, so you watch the ads. Back in the day, television shows would be "sponsored by" a company, and the ads were much less intrusive. Today, you get snippets of programming followed by minutes of commercials.
Some programs, when viewed without the ads, are almost comical. If you watch any History Channel program on Netflix (sans commercials), it seems repetitive and dull. Why? Because that cable channel cuts to five minutes of commercials after every five minutes of programming. They have to "recap" what they said five minutes before, in order to keep their audience. And then they constantly "tease" the audience with snippets of "great stuff coming up next!" which ends up being a 10-second video at the end of the show. The entire program is devoid of content, other than the teasing and baiting used to keep you watching.
In other words, it is drivel. The content is worse, in many ways, than the ads - it provides no coherent storyline or information. It trains you to have a short attention span and to think in microsecond intervals.
But then again, this seems to be the wave of the future - with twittering and texting leading the way. No longer do we think in book-length form, but instead in 140 characters (or emoticons) or less. Television is just the largest of the Distractors.