Network Television Too Much Reflects Who We Are
29 January 2017 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
I was there at the birth of television. We had the first one in our rather upscale neighborhood. It was a huge console with an 8" circular screen, a phonograph player and a big radio that included the short wave bands. The only program on was Howdy Doody for a half hour at 5:30 pm and it was snow for the remaining twenty-three and a half hours. Kids in our neighborhood would come over to watch THE show and then sit around and watch the snow as my Mom served cookies. Times have changed a lot. Life was simpler then.
The big three networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, are now awash in endless advertisements, much self promotion, bold colors, huge, moving graphics, too little of substance, endless sound bites, and considerable over-lapping monkey chatter on talk shows. It evidences our poor attention spans, our fixation on motion (as baseball is dying), our love of color and movement, our desire for bold visual graphics or glitz, and our endless love of self promotion and money. A flashy hustler’s mind set, if you will. Slow, still, considered, developed, insightful and thoughtful need not apply. They are now affirmatively un-American, as network television clearly shows.
Content is always slighted over color and splash. It is like our limited attention spans will wander if we are not incessantly bedazzled. It is not a reader’s medium or mind set at all. The NBA is considering how to shorten games because Millennials’ attention spans are just not up to present game lengths. Bunny brains is the phrase that comes to mind. And fat ones at that.
There were no fat people on early and even later television. And far fewer in the population. Now it seems every other person is fat or downright obese. More than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults are not just fat or overweight, but obese according to the CDC. Americans have hugely porked up and television reflects that and may be causative. It is a mirror held up to ourselves.
And the pork has myriad health consequences. It seems almost a third of the ads are by the pharmacy industry, many targeting fat people. “Ask your doctor is _____ is right for you.” It is American’s “take a pill” mindset and all will be fine. The drug companies spend more on advertising than for research and much of their research is done for them free by the US government. Yet their prices are outrageous.
In the beginning, ads did not exist on television, but that was short lived. Now ads eat up a third of programming time and that does not include network self promotional time or transitional, graphic splash. Programs are abridged and entail many disconnects. Everyone talks unrealistically, and too fast and clipped. Kid actors mouth lines well beyond their years and story lines are thin and repetitive. And everywhere, the hustle for the almighty dollar is glaring and blatant. Buy, buy, buy.
None of this is good for us. The time we could and should be active and doing something physically engaging or useful is now too largely spent in front of the TV scarfing down chips, suds and pizza. And forget reading books; that is not much fun and even slower than baseball. In truth, we do too little, both mentally and physically, and we eat too much which is why we are fat. But we also eat to assuage our anxiety, for we are a hyper and anxious nation.
We feel the world is racing ahead in ways we don't understand, that our lives are controlled by others and we worry and fear that we are falling behind. Trying to keep up can become a thoughtless compulsion. Getting ahead is the incessant goal. Thoughtlessness is its handmaiden. It is one hell of a country.