I believe the aliens have to take a physical form on our planet, so why not one with 13 channels…? Joe Jackson, “TV Age”

I’m going to rant on recent stupidities, and on our culture’s major source of such idiocy… television. According to historian Jim Dunnigan “Tabloids are the print version of television.” Getting solid information from TV is asking a bit much, but how about reasonably annoyance-free entertainment? All too often, it comes only indirectly, in the manner of absurdism, when something truly stupid happens. Of course, such things are far from new in the abstract: TV has always been stupid. You would be well within your rights to say “Duh,” but TV’s guiding lights never cease to invent new ways to be fools. There are so many, but here are a few that got my goat really pissed off recently, in no particular order:

Breaking News in the Anna Nicole Smith Story!: Where greed, sanctimoniousness, fake emotion, and a child all meet up with lots and lots of drugs. I’m not sure this got me angry—it’s kind of like a return to a more innocent time back when the sexual peccadilloes of politicians made the big story—but it sure got the channel changed.

Diamond Commercials: Your wife is a whore, sir, and YOU are an ungracious lout because YOU DIDN’T GO TO JARED! ‘Nuff said.

“Event”: Seems like everything these days is an “event.” It’s one of the most over-used words around. Don’t miss our Fall sales event! Event is redundant. A sale IS an event. So is getting up in the morning. For the record, the American Heritage Dictionary says:

Event, n.

1.1. Something that takes place; an occurrence.
1.2. A significant occurrence or happening.
1.3. A social gathering or activity.
2. The final result; the outcome.
3. Sports A contest or an item in a sports program.
4. Physics A phenomenon or occurrence located at a single point in space-time, regarded as the fundamental observational entity in relativity theory.

Pretty clearly the ad men are hoping we believe that their sale falls under definition 1.2 since I’m pretty sure the only physics they know involves Ex Lax and they’re not talking about sports. In this scenario, you and your hard-earned money will show up at Umptefrotz Ford over in East Roostershit to buy a new Ford Prefect because, well, it’s an event, dontcha know. To my mind “sales events” should be in the dictionary next to definition 1.1. It’s not as if there won’t be another one at a totally predictable time in the business cycle no more than a few months later….

The Bottom of the Screen Crawl: For those of us old enough to remember, dig way back to the halcyon days when you had to wait for a station ID to know what station you were on, provided you were so lazy you couldn’t be bothered to read the number on the dial. Then in the early ’90s when cable started hitting the big time came the advent of the booger. The booger is the cute little mostly transparent icon on the lower right hand corner of the screen giving continuous station ID. It’s annoying but largely innocuous unless there’s something important going on in the lower right hand corner of the screen, like, oh, subtitles, since the booger is CLEARLY more important than content. But progress marches forward. TV critters feel a desperate need to squeeze a little more ad time or information into every broadcast to keep our multitasking little hearts happy and, in truth, their wallets fat. Now channels advertise other things during the actual broadcast of the show, not just in the commercial break. It’s as if the commercial break decided to attack the regular program. You can’t watch a show on USA without the smiling face of Monk or the guys from Psych reminding you to watch later. AMC did the same thing in a broadcast of movie with extended passages in German, neatly cutting off about a minute of subtitled dialog form the bottom of the screen. Since frequently the first few minutes of a broadcast after the commercial break are ones of high tension you’d think that they’d actually care about not pissing off their viewers. (Nope. Guess we’re too stupid.)

Interruptions, Interruptions: Back in the halcyon days, broadcasts were interrupted for important stuff like severe weather or, arguably, presidential addresses. Now they’re quasi-interrupted for important stuff like incomplete primary election returns for county office. Example: Last Tuesday (2/27/07) during the broadcast of The Unit, local CBS affiliate WCIA found the urgent need to put continuous coverage of incomplete primary election returns for county offices constantly crawling across the screen. I can understand, indeed, appreciate, tornado warnings, but can’t the partial vote total wait until the 10 PM News?

I could go on, but honestly, enough is enough….

Mildly Piqued Academician