Too much TV?

Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's winter, such as it is, and I've been watching way too much TV. I expect that happens to most of us, especially when it's dark and slippery with not much snow. Twenty-four-seven news is about to drive me over the brink and some nights I feel like my brain has been fried because I've watched just one more cooking show or crime show or maybe even some dumb thing like "Manswers" or "1,000 Ways to Die." Why do we subject ourselves to such idiocy? Maybe because we don't know people like that, or at least we're glad it's not family.

Lots of things show up on TV that wouldn't have a few years ago. Think Smilin' Bob here. Satellite and cable have made the difference, I know. I guess because it comes into one's home by choice, it's assumed if you don't want it, you can not-subscribe. It's not quite that easy but I DO get the point.

However, even network programs are a little raw at times. Having come from the age when "Damn" in a movie was considered risqu, I am still a little flummoxed to hear the language permitted on TV these days. And we've gone from an era when the Flintstones, a cartoon couple, were the only man and woman permitted in bed together on TV to couples coupling every chance they get in living color. I guess that's progress, or is the word license?

Rather like Playboy magazine which you only buy for the articles, I could say I watch TV for the commercials. Most of the time they are better than the program, which brings us to the Super Bowl. Don't ask me the score, or even who won, but I remember the commercials. I've always suspected that sporting event is televised as much as a showcase for new commercials as for the football. For days ahead companies put out little hints about just how over the top they'll be for the Super Bowl. This year, I think the pro-lifers get the prize for controversy, manufactured or not. At least it wasn't PETA trying to sell vegetarianism with sex, humor and animals (the three must-haves for successful commercials). The beer companies usually get the prize for the most entertaining, and for the most money spent. A 30-second Super Bowl commercial this year was about $2.5 million.

I love kids in commercials. My favorite right now is the Volkswagen commercial highlighting the underfloor storage area where the young boy strips and stashes his clothes after getting soaked. The look on his face is adorable and the looks the girls in the back seat give him are priceless. I can see it happening! The Geico gecko is also good, as are the cave men for the same company. And I like the credit report music group. I keep hoping he'll get his act together soon and wait impatiently for the next episode (commercial) to see if it happens.

But finally Susie Homemaker, doing housework in her frilly apron, high heels and perfect hair, has retired. She sold a lot of household products, from margarine to toilet bowl cleaner. At least now the representatives are a little more realistic. Hawking a PMS product wearing a frilly apron and upswept hair probably wouldn't sell these days, unless she was using the high heeled shoe as a deadly weapon.

When I was a kid, a few years ago, I listened to the radio every Saturday morning. One program was "Let's Pretend" and it dramatized fairy tales in a half hour show. That particular program, under various titles, lasted 30-plus years on the radio in basically the same format: Entertainment for children. The sponsor all that time was Cream Of Wheat: "Cream of wheat is so good to eat that we eat it every day ... It's good for growing babies and grown-ups too to eat ... For all the family's breakfast, you can't beat Cream of Wheat."

I won't tell you how many year ago that was, but if you believe commercials don't make an impression think of the things YOU recall from X years ago. Remember "Plop, Plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is" and the cute little character that went with it? Besides the fizzing tablet, that product is now in gelcap form and the commercials are fairly benign. I can't even remember a recent one.

Commercials are powerful, whether you use the product or not, if they are catchy and cute. Even the public service ones are good or at least poignant. The ASPCA's sad dogs are memorable, and the Impaired Driving is a Dead End message hits home where it should with the younger set, I hope. I for sure remember it. TV as an educator, good or bad, is often overlooked.

We're gaining more than five minutes a day of daylight now. Pretty soon I can turn off the TV and focus on something more productive, like break-up. But for now, the Olympics are here and I can boggle my mind with curling, snowboarding and ice-skating for the next two weeks. And wish it WAS family.

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.

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