mathNEWS Issue 78.5: Friday, November 6, 1998

Cynic's Corner

Sick of commercials

I recall reading somewhere the expression, "expect everything and the unexpected never happens." Maybe so, but it seems practically impossible to prepare for everything. Like the gathering that goes on longer than you planned, the surprise question you get asked in a midterm, or the fever you get in the middle of the night after stores have closed. I'm personally wondering what gods I ticked off to get sick twice in one month after over a year of health. Take it from me, it's handy to have Tylenol on hand even if you're feeling fine, because the unexpected occurs more frequently than you might expect. Of course, it's also handy to have over 24 hours in a day, but that only happens during daylight savings time.

One thing that can happen when you're sick though is a bit of television introspection. When you're lying on your bed staring at the ceiling, some commercials take on different significance. For instance, the Guinness commercials include an ironic twist — if that's the reason we were given five senses, how come you don't know what they're advertising if you can't see the screen? I guess they didn't want to pay for an announcer. But then there are those companies that can't even afford new commercials. Does anyone else feel the urge to laugh when those Maple Leaf commercials come on for the "less fat"? It used to be "more than a 60% fat reduction and your kids won't eat it"! Then the guys down in research came up with less than 3% fat. Okay, so they cut and trim the old footage so that the dogs are now starving. I'm not buying it; remember folks, always wise to consider the future when you're plugging something. Of course, it's good to actually try and sell your product too... I think I have yet to see a jeans commercial that actually plugs jeans before the last 5 seconds of the ad. By the way, is it just me, or is the Lucky Charms gimmick to come out with a new marshmallow whenever sales get slow?

Commercials aren't the only source of selling occurring on television these days though. With all these new channels, stations seem to be getting desperate to plug themselves and all the shows they have on. It was brought to my attention recently that few show credits are left untouched now. Alarmingly true. It used to be just voiceovers, interrupting the music; now they're pulling the credits back into a half or quarter screen so that they can show you "scenes from the 'Fish from Mars' series coming up next that we know you're going to want to watch so please please don't change the channel!!" If I were someone who worked rather hard on the previous show, I would be a mite ticked off. Okay, so most people don't read the credits, but some do, and they now need a magnifying glass to pick out the names of their relatives. Stations are really eager to jump the gun too; I recall the last season of Reboot rolled a few fake credits at one point. Voiceover got cut off mid-sentence when the show actually returned. Oops. Well, I say it's time to give credit where credit is due!

Okay, so maybe I'm taking things a little far here, but we really seem to be losing part of the human element these days. And sometimes it doesn't hurt to stop, sit back and think for a bit (whether voluntarily or by illness). It's getting to the point where you really DO have to expect everything. One wonders whatever happened to the more down to earth television shows of old... like, oh, Square 1 for instance?

Greg "hologrami" Taylor

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