I know it sounds like linkbait using the already-overused "Top five [whatever]" line, but in all honesty, we were sitting around the plasma the other night (sort of the equivalent of sitting around the campfire) and came up with five reasons why commercial television is so infuriating .
Of course, there are several more, but here are the main ones:
1. Commercial Interruptions.
Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling once said, "it is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper." This is very true, especially when trying to watch a movie that's being shown on commercial TV. This is the way it usually works: There will be a big, dramatic moment, or a somber, heartfelt scene where you learn something important to the character in the story and then POOF! Here is a commercial about erectile dysfunction. Or the best cleaner to use on your no-wax floors, or a great way to save a bunch of money on car insurance. Or more-than-likely, all three and more for the next two and a half minutes.
One of the reasons why Tivo and the DVR system became so popular was because with just a few button pushes, you can quickly and easily circumvent the garish, obnoxious advertisements with very little difficulty. Of course, its those commercials that pay the money to put the programming on the air, but there has got to be a better way for the network to make money. The reason why HBO and Cinemax don't have to worry about commercials is because they sell their channel to cable operators that pay good money for the content. If NBC or CBS had to sell their networks to the public in order to stay on the air, there would either be no more commercials, or they would be out of business in a month.
2. Pop-up, animated "lower-thirds".
A lower third is a term used in television to describe the graphic that's displayed in the lower section of the screen. Sometimes its just a simple "Coming up next" graphic, but with some commercial networks, they do whatever they can to drag your attention away from the program to look at their blatant promo. One of the worst I have seen is Turner Network Television. Say for example you are watching an important scene in a movie, maybe it's an extended close-up on someone's face when they discover some important part of the story with very little action going on in the shot. Suddenly out pops a tiny Kyra Sedgwick from the corner of the screen, who climbs over a big yellow police caution tape barrier, shines a bright flashlight into your face and walks around the lower-third of the television screen while promoting her pathetic television show. Then up pops the advertisement for "The Closer" on at their regular time of (whenever its on). Its distracting, annoying and oftentimes infuriating.
3. Credit rolls
For every name in the credits, there are probably 12 people that are not. I have never been lucky enough to have my name displayed on the screen of a major film or television production, but I've always appreciate the number of people that pour their souls into the creation of this form of entertainment for the public. But when a movie is on commercial TV, the credit roll is usually sped up to 10 times its normal speed, then shoved and squeezed into the corner of the screen, to make way for the promo that is occupying the other half of the screen while an announcer blathers on about whats coming up next. Sometimes the music that ends a film is as important as any of the dialog. But that doesn't matter to programming departments, who are more concerned with making sure you know that the Lakers are playing the Timberwolves next week on their channel.
I can understand why networks consider the credits to be dead space in the time slot, but it just seems rude to not give credit to the people that put the production together. I mean, movie theaters don't start playing trailers for upcoming movies over the credits of a film at the end, why should television be any different?
America is an ass-backwards, puritan-based hypocracy. It's OK to live in a world where we hear about people suffering at the hands of ruthless tyrants and show daily footage of the aftermath of the latest suicide bomber, but just make sure no-one drops the F-bomb, or the government agency, who is being puppeted by conservative watchdog groups will make sure the network is fined thousands of dollars. Look, if you don't want your kid to hear naughty words, don't let them go to school, because I guarantee you that this is where little Jimmy heard all the best curse words and where he uses them on a daily basis.
And let's not even get in to the nudity issue. That is the most ridiculous aspect of all. A dead body is OK, but a boob attached to a living female is not? Its just crazy. Janet Jackson's little wardrobe malfunction at the superbowl a few years back has sent the entertainment industry on its ear, knee-jerking to correct what the loudest mouths in the public claim to be highly offensive. But what the public should consider far more offensive is someone deciding for me what I should and shouldn't be able to see in the privacy of my own home.
5. Lowest common denominator audience pandering
This is especially prevalent in network television. The film "Idocracy" makes fun of this by showing that in the future, the most popular program on TV is the one where a guy gets hit in the groin repeatedly.
The American television-watching public does not want to see unrealistic, unthinking, laugh-track laden crap. They want quality. And networks should be working to expand people's thinking and brain capacity, rather than dumbing them down with shows like "Two men and a product placement" or some other formula situation comedy whose premise we've seen over and over.
While network TV works feverishly to put out products that meet with mediocre reviews, cable TV (or more accurately cable movie networks) continue to leave mainstream TV in its dust. As long as networks keep following the above five points the've been following, they will remain a distant second to networks that do not.