Commercials Worth Hating

Friday, July 22, 2005 | 3:07 pm

Anyone who has fed more than 3 alcoholic beverages into me is all too aware of my love-hate relationship with television. I firmly believe TV plays a major part in the inexorable mind and body rot affecting our youth, ably assisted by the fact that the average family contains 0.3 stay-at-home parents, even when they are lucky enough to have both a mum and a dad. And still, I watch it, even if I try to be frugal, and swear to myself that my (yet to be born) kids will not feel that the TV is their preferred babysitter. Yet to be proven.

Indeed I hold a secret desire that the next Supreme Court Justice will get stoned off his arse one day before court (medicinal, of course), and pass a law against insanely stupid people who regurgitate TV quotes like it is their own opinion, and then when you try to argue the illogicity of their point, they resort to a collection of insults and put-downs that they also learned from TV (neither of which actually constitutes arguing) in order to protect themselves from the horrible reality of their own ignorance.

But I digress. My true dismay lies in that Americans in the 80s were either too rich, or too asleep at the wheel to notice that free-to-air television got quietly overtaken by service providers who convinced them that you should have to pay four times to watch television. Pay for cable, pay to rent the equipment box, pay to get any halfway decent channels added to the cable, and still many channels have commercials! Oh.... and if you want to watch any movie released this decade, or see a Manchester United game, that'll be on pay-per-view(1). It is only a matter of time before they work out how to sell us pay per pay per view.

This bitterness stems mostly from lack of experience—I never had to pay for television in Australia. Not that cable channels don't exist there. But only 20 million people means their market share is usually too small to throw their weight around too much, attracting mostly sports junkies, and you don't end up with hundreds of niche channels struggling to find 24 hours of programming with a miserable budget. Mind you, this could have all changed since I left the country in 1999.

So with this mouthful of bile already poisoning my opinion of commercial television, I present to you 5 commercials that annoy the crap out of me.

  • Any commercial from Cox Cable. Now, you may think this is because of all the reasons I presented in my obviously-needs-therapy intro? But no. I hate every Cox cable commercial for one identical reason. The decibels. These cretins have managed to ratchet up the volume on each of their own commercials by about 15-25%. Really obnoxious. There has to be some broadcasting standard that says this is illegal.

  • Any commercial by a company that has actors telling you how much money they have made by working from home. These 'businesses' universally have web site address with a two digit number followed by a word like "fortune", "cash", or "freedom". In particular is this one guy who appears in about 3 of these low budget commercials, including one for hearing aids. It is so good though to see that a man with a hearing impediment can make $25,000 this month alone.

  • The Fox Soccer Channel station promo featuring Paris Hilton. My god, as if us world-sport lovers didn't have to jump through enough hoops in order to watch a sport that is not NFL, NBA, Nascar, and does not have the letter X in it's name. Now we have to watch some vapid bimbette who's only claim to fame is she was born rich, tell us the name of the channel we are watching? She doesn't even have the good grace to just be quietly rich, nor the brains to realize that we know she earned none of it. Instead, that bastion of IQ lowering TV, E!-Television made her into some kind of minor-celebrity (well, that and her penchant for recording uninspiring sex acts) and now teenage girls want to be like her. Being a karmically inclined individual, I wish harm on very few people, but there would be no tears shed over this keypad if she met her demise on the end of an exploding cell-phone. Perhaps obscenely rich people should not be permitted to breed. God, I'm gonna get hits from search engines just for putitng her name in here, aren't I...

  • Commercials from pharmecuetical companies telling me that this list of non-specific symptoms probably means I should get wonder-drug X. That's what doctors are trained tell me, not marketing knobs! Take the money out of ad-sales and devote it to fixing health insurance instead, so average people could actually afford whatever life-saving drug you're peddling, instead of tax dollars being used to re-imburse recreational erection drugs.
  • Technical colleges telling you how you should take their course to become a game designer, cause how cool would that be! These ads usually show some very cool 3D animation that is very obviously not on the computer in front of the people pretending to be watching it. Programming ain't a stupid man's game, so it bugs the hell outta me to see these ads targeted at dumb kids. This is a side-effect of the channels I like to watch, and I still like to watch a lot of G4. Once the far superior TechTV, this station is now well on its way to being the E! channel for computer gamers (regurgitated shows featuring nothing but top 10 lists, and fawning interviews with game manufacturers that always end with the phrase "Be sure to check out...."). But there is still just enough good shows (the superbly personality-driven X-Play, and occasional good episodes of Icon and AOTS) to justify regular visits. But of course this means I must regularly endure this interminable piece of monkey poop:

    Two dorks sitting in front of a TV playing games. "Look out" says one, "here comes the boss". A woman walks in and asks them if they are done playing yet, because she has more games that need XXX (what XXX is varies, usually a poorly dubbed word like "tested" or "designed" depending on which minor variant of their course they are pushing this week.) One of the dorks responds with "We are almost finished level 3, and you need to tighten up the graphics on that level a bit." She responds with a heartfelt thank you and wanders out, obviously appeased.
    Huh? What bloody company would accept that as sufficient feedback from a paid employee?
    It gets worse when dork 1 turns to dork 2 and makes some comment about how he can't believe they are getting paid for this (don't worry, neither can I), and dork 2 spits out (while trying to maintain his concentration on the gaming) "yeah, and my mum said I would never get anywhere with these games!" Geez, your mum probably just wanted you outta her home before you turned 35.

    There is a place in hell reserved for everyone associated with that piece of malarkey. And in that hell, you are forced to play the same bug-ridden, badly designed unfinished computer game for eternity.

  • (Yeah yeah, I know it's number 6, it just came to me) Any ad for Comedy Central's "Secret Stash", especially when they use the word "uncut." As twenty minutes with Van Wilder demonstrated on a particularly slow Saturday night last weekend, adding a few swear words and still pixelating out all the boobies does not satisfy my definition of "uncut". It's 1:30AM on a Saturday night for christ's sake! Who are you afraid is going to be corrupted at this time of day by a pair of nippples?

Don't get me wrong, there is some excellent television around. It's just that it's so hard to find it between the need-fast-returns, ratings-are-god, bandwagon reality shows and by-the-book sitcoms. Before I have a frothing at the mouth conniption fit, I better take an old-man pill, a small lie down, and be thankful that we get Battlestar Galactica tonight.

(1) To me this is like buying a washing machine - a spanky new one with all the mod-cons. You get it hooked up, and you have to pay for the water. Fair enough. But you also have to rent the taps that connect it to the water. Bugger. By the way, if you want to use any wash cycle other than whites, you need to pay an extra monthly fee. Will it wash your precious new wool garments? Of course, at $6 per item.


At 23/7/05 1:00 am, Blogger Mkae said...

Gotta agree with almost all of that. Here's a few answers to a few questions:

1) Pay for radio is quietly happening too. And guess what? Radio pros are saying "no one will pay for what they can now get for free!" Wake up, tools.

2) Yes, they can adjust the volume of commercials and there's no law against it. WTKR, Channel 3 in Norfolk does this CONSTANTLY. I even wrote a letter to the GM explain that I have experience in sound engineering and offered to come down and show him where the frickin volume knob was.

3) An interesting side note, the supremely brain-dead embarrassment Barbara Streisand, once called CBS during a broadcast of Yentl to demand that they turn the commercial volume down. I think she actually believed someone else was watching.

4) I was on the same page as you about kids watching TV. Since I had kids, I have changed my tune. We do allow the kids to watch the commercial free TV like PBS Kids although corrupters like McDonalds are working hard to weasel their message in there.

5) No discussion of bad TV would be complete with Oprah. She decries the crap on TV but she's the ratings whore that (along with Phil Donahue) started daytime trash TV.

Good rant Juz! I enjoyed it!

At 23/7/05 7:14 am, Blogger Shocho said...

Agreed, that "wanna be a game programmer" commercial is really annoying. I am also now thinking about how much my cable really costs and not happy about that, thanks. However, I do love TV. I treasure this exchange between Homer Simpson and his son: "C'mon Son, let's go watch TV." "What's on, Dad?" "It doesn't matter."

At 23/7/05 2:21 pm, Blogger Tom said...

You're a fool if you don't have TiVo to skip the commercials, and actually have good things on when you decide you can blow up some brain cells on the tv.

I can watch Battlestar, the O.C., Good Eats, the Brewers, and nothing else. Costs a few bucks, but I get back an hour or so a week not watching commercials. What is the value of your time?

At 23/7/05 6:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There has been many complaints about commercials being louder than the program being shown, however, some bright spark from an audio company did tests and it turned out tht there was no difference in the volume EXCEPT for the channels' own promotions for their programs!! they certainly went up a few decibels...however nothing will be done about this!! (of course).. don't have pay TV (nor do I want it) so cannot comment.

A.A's Mum.

At 28/7/05 12:44 pm, Blogger GiromiDe said...

TiVo is the shiznit.

And I gave up on G4 not long after they destroyed any semblance of TechTV's decency. It's a shame really. I only witnesses perhaps one full year of TechTV at its height. I'd rather watch "old garage computer" geeks than "extreme ubertrendy" geeks.

I'm going to try to instill some cynicism towards commercials in my children. The first step is showing the kids the home budget. Once they realize money isn't an infinite well, the rest follows more easily.


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