Posted by: bullyforme | July 8, 2009

Spoon Fed

I don’t have cable TV. I haven’t had it for over 8 years. I did hook it up for post season baseball in 2007. I had it disconnected when I found myself in November (after the championship) lolling about at 11 PM watching my third straight episode of “Animal Cops” and also having to physically position myself between my 10 year old and “iCarly” in order to get his attention.

It’s not cable television in general that I don’t like. In fact I wish I could cherry pick my channels; if I could, I’d be a customer. However there are no plans available in my town that allow me to do anything even close. In order to get ESPN, A&E, Discovery and Nickelodeon, we must also have to pay for 7 church channels, 5 country music channels, 3 foreign language channels that play nothing but game shows & soap operas, … well you get the point.

In fact I’m not too embarrassed to admit I haven’t even gotten my “digital converter box.” So at this point I’m not getting network TV or even PBS.

I’ll admit I miss watching the Red Sox. I do love listening to the games on the radio with Joe Castiglione. But I hate having the program cut out or go static right before a 2 out, 3-2 count pitch to Big Papi. I may hook up the cable for post season again this year, who knows.

What I don’t miss is the barrage of advertising that accompanies the television programs. I don’t miss the pressure to watch even more television by flashy ads for other television shows. I don’t miss my kid bugging me for every new brand of craptastic processed snack food or cereal. I don’t miss half hour long infomercials trying to convince me someone has invented something that makes my life lacking without said thing. I don’t miss having my eyes glaze over to protect themselves from the latest fast food ads.

I saw one of the latter at my folks’ house the other day. I think it was for McDonald’s and it was advertising breakfast. It showed several somnambulant, harried people completely screwing up their breakfast. One lady flipped a pancake onto the floor, another guy late for work, burned his toast and so on. Then it showed the same people wide awake, smiling as they whizzed through the drivethrough with their perfectly circular-formed egg mcmuffins. I was incensed at the message of this commercial – home cooked meals are stupid, disgusting and not worth the effort. Buy a fast food breakfast and you will be happier and healthier, and on time to work! You don’t even have to get out of your car!

This is the crap our kids are watching. This is the crap America is watching. And if you think we aren’t buying into it, witness the mass mourning of Billy Hayes, a pitchman. Witness how many meals America eats at various fast-food and chain restaurants.

No one is immune to the powers of advertising, myself included. There is no way to avoid it altogether and live in society. Billboards, internet banners, magazines, junk mail, boxes of food in the grocery store, labels on clothing… you get the picture.

I think television advertising is the most insidious however. Writers have a full 30 seconds or more to work their magic on you. Attention spans today are programmed at a very early age to be short and absorb as much info as possible in as little time as possible. It doesn’t seem to matter how we process that information, just get it & retain it. The ad execs know this and also know if they employ some clever writing, bright colors, and a little humor – without a conscious plan to do otherwise, the mind will process it in their favor.

This is not to say that we think to ourselves – “Oh, I’m such a dork at making pancakes. I think I’ll go and get one of those perfectly circular egg mcmuffins instead, just like the ad says!” What I’m saying is we process it unconsciously. It becomes more and more “Okay” to hit the drivethrough for breakfast and feed our kids Happy Meals vs. cook our own meals. What should be out of the norm is becoming the norm and the new norm is not very good for us.

I wish the country could, and would want to, get back to a more normal norm. I wish it felt normal to cook every day of the week. I wish it felt normal for people to go all day & night without even turning on the television.

Plying our kids with cheap merchandise and cable tv vs. spending time playing with them, eating gargantuan meals at chainstore resteaurants instead of making the time in our schedules to eat at home, watching more and more television instead of reading books… it all adds up to a somewhat flabby culture devoid of renaissance and independent thinking. Which is so not cool.

I’m just sayin.’




  1. I agree with your take on television, and the plentitude of advertising running rampant on the airwaves.

    “I want that!” has become something of an unthinking mantra around our house (and one I have been actively trying to discourage).

    Not that I’m much into baseball, but have you considered online viewing?

    You should be able to avoid radio issues, shelling out for television, and you can get video.

    $50/year is supposed to get you access to everything ($70 gets you more). For me, that’s just a bit more than 1 month of cable TV.

    It’s the MLB.TV item on

    In any event, great post!

  2. Thanks for the input!

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