Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Commercial Break


I'm not proud of the amount of time I've spent watching TV lately. Well, not just lately. I can pinpoint exactly when it started: it was late June, when we went on our first summer vacation to Flagstaff. Our hotel room didn't have HGTV, my favorite TV narcotic at the time, and so I started watching Daughter's favorite, Food Network. And that was it. Cupcake Wars. Iron Chef. Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Chopped.

I'm not going to discuss why I suddenly became fascinated with wasting my time and wasting my life away at that exact moment in time. Let's just say that it was right then that I had gotten very depressed about my writing. Coincidence? Probably not. I'll leave that issue to professionals, or to psychogenic drugs, or to the straitjacket that I'm destined for once the masking tape I've stuck myself together with comes undone.

But here's the idea that's dawned on me in this 3-4 month time period that I've been watching television with my kids: they watch commercials and I don't. And I don't mean just that. I mean, they really watch commercials, like they are rapt with attention for the commercials, paying more attention to them than to the actual show we're watching. And I, the polar opposite, do the exact opposite. I really don't watch commercials. I'm hostile to commercials. Commercials are my break time from television. I read, I run out of the room, I change loads of laundry. 

Is it because I was raised in the 60s and 70s, when commercials consisted of Mr. Clean staring at himself in a see-through floor? Or station identification breaks? Or is it a combination of that and the fact that my kids have been raised in a world of Superbowl Sunday commercials, commercials as art forms, commercials with ongoing plots?

I thought I'd beat them at their own game so one day during the commercials I muted the sound, sure that the kids would join me in talking, mulling things over, or even in getting three minutes of chores done. Instead here's what I had: two zombies staring at the soundless TV and trying to read the lips of the actors. Turns out it wasn't really a problem anyway. They'd memorized the scripts long ago.

Been avoiding anything by vegging out lately? Do you watch commercials? Do your kids? Any Food Network aficionados?

37 comments:

  1. I turned off the tv about 5 or 6 months ago and it was the best thing I ever did. I don't miss it.
    At all.
    The first week or two it was strange.
    But after that, the kids learned to do other things...like play outside. Talk to their parents, hang out with friends...listen to music, write stories, draw.
    You name it.
    I found more time than you can shake a stick at.
    It's awesome.
    Now when I am bored I don't think "what's on tv."
    I think...hmmmm, what can I DO.

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  2. I can't stand commercials. Why do they have to be ten times louder than the actual show?? My husband is always getting sucked in by one, especially the Apple commercials, and I have to beg him to skip ahead on our recorded shows.

    Luckily, we don't have cable so everything the kids watch is on PBS. The "commercials" there are tolerable, more like sing-a-longs and ads for other shows. Believe me, though, they still know who Dora and Strawberry Shortcake and Spongebob and all the rest are!

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  3. HI MY NAME IS MIZFIT AND IM ADDICTED TO BRAVO REALITY TV.

    **whispers**

    and Im really kinda ok with that :)

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  4. I never watch them; everything in our house is recorded. My sons even like to watch that network - some of our family time is watching Chopped and Top Chef. Go figure! But those shows also make me want to eat:(

    We have been watching too much lately because we are trying out the new shows. We have such a backlog on the recorders. Sigh.

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  5. I too have a new "waste-of-my-life" tv addiction. I am hooked on the Discovery Channel and all those really odd shows about the fattest people in the world, surgery and gals that deliver a full term baby, but didn't know they were pregnant. About a month ago I broke my own rule about never having a tv in the bedroom. Guess What? I coudn't live without it now (that is my story, anyway).

    Keep writing. Jo

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  6. I'm so sick that I can't admit it enough to actually DVR the home network shows I like. I sit there until the end to see which house they picked, which designer they picked, how the new landscaped yard looks, how that paint color turned out in the end, all w/o being able to fast forward through the cholesterol commercials.

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  7. I DVR just about everything I watch and fast forward through commercials. They hold no fascination for me. However, I, too, have noticed with the kids that they LOVE the commercials. It is a mystery. And they do want to buy things according to what they saw on TV. Of course, I have also seen them become pissed when said item didn't live up to the hype that the commercial presented. So, we shall see how long this lasts...

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  8. You know me--I love the Food Network! My latest addiction is their show The Best Thing I Ever Ate. For some reason, I'm riveted.

    I curse commercials. It's why I worship my TiVo. I can just pass them by!

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  9. Chris, I guess the oppposite of turning off the TV would be the gigantic new 55 inch flatscreen my football addicted husband just bought, right? :) But that doesn't mean we have to watch anything other than football! And you're right. There are books and bikes and art projects and if the kids really get bored they can clean the house!

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  10. Stacia, not having cable would solve my problem! And the kids would only be able to watch Wild Kingdom, like I did as a kid! Unfortunately my husband (who claims to be anti-TV) just switched the whole house to some nightmarish system where now we have 800 channels (half of which don't work because he won't pay for any premium channels!)

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  11. Miz, How come when I'm listlessly flipping through my 800 channels, I never come upon the housewife shows on Bravo??? Obviously, I'm not trying hard enough! Also, I got a little scared off by my one foray into Jersey Shore. Oy.

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  12. Karen, we are so out of date. "Record" to me still means that my husband pulls a dusty video tape out of some storage box and programs the antique VCR he hung onto! I've only watched one new show so far - the comedy about the couple meeting at an Overeater's Anonymous meeting (obviously!)

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  13. Hey Jo, I thought all those shows were on TLC! Because last week I watched one about a woman giving birth at 43 without knowing she was pregnant. The surgery ones can be a little gory but I am always interested in fat stories!

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  14. Lisa, is that funny? I do that too. Like Curb Appeal is suspenseful or something. "Oh, I have to see how the house ends up," or, "I have to see if Lisa LaPorta gets it sold." Really a time waster. I love how none of those shows ever mentions the real estate crisis and that none of the houses are worth a dime... :)

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  15. Robin, I forgot about how my kids always want to buy everything they see on TV! They believe everything! My daughter is constantly writing down 800 numbers for me to call these places and get those crazy "As Seen on TV" products. It just breaks her heart when I tell her that most of it is junk.

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  16. TKW, Of course I've seen that new show too! And leave it up to the chefs to know the really great food (most of which I can't eat because a former fattie basically can't eat anything...) :(

    TIVO? That's never going to happen around here. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out how to use the three remotes my husband handed me...

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  17. My narcotic is Bravo, though my favorite shows aren't on at the moment. Other than that, it's Mad Men, and God help me when the season ends. I'll be a basket case and left to the torments of America's Next Top Model Reruns, pretending that in my next life I'll be tall enough to participate in the Petite Competition. OK. Maybe not...

    I never put TV on until a certain time of day. I seem to need the voices, whether I pay attention or not.

    Commercials? Some I watch (always pondering who they're trying to target, to what extent they've tweaked their recessionary message) - in other words - less for content (to be sold), and more observational (to extrapolate) - go figure.

    My kids? They watch much less than I. And listen to far more music.

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  18. Hey Linda! Can you tell/ask those two funny "Umbrage" babes to open up their Name/URL?

    Hell. Such a great blog title, I popped over to read, then comment, and couldn't. LADIES!!! Name/URL so the riff raff can say hello, too!

    (Thanks, Linda. I'll skulk off now and get back to other endeavors calling my big little name, before the TEEN arrives with all his usual whatever...

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  19. I will watch the same things over and over like a soothing narcotic. Murder mysteries mostly.

    And that thing about the kids and commercial. It's true here, too! We let the satellite lapse for a few weeks and supplemented by taking DVDs out of the library and watching the ones we already have cluttering up our house. One day, I heard one kid say to another "Man, I miss commercials."

    I nearly plotzed.

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  20. I miss watching grown up tv. Around here, the three year old basically dictates during the early evening, Nick Jr. and Daddy watches sports in the later evening. Mama just tries to get some rest...

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  21. BLW, how come I can't find Bravo on my 800 channels? (do you hear the piteous cries of the TV addict in this comment?) If I've sunk low enough to actually pop by Jersey Shore (ugh) then certainly I can check out the cat fights over at the Real Housewives shows! Also, might lead to a funny post...

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  22. Hey, I love my "Two Fat Girls Take Umbrage" too! When I clicked on their name from their comment it took me to a page that had their blog listed and that clicked me through. Also, their on my left side bar under my "Body Bloggers" listing.

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  23. Lisa, Tonight, mere hours after writing this post, my daughter was proving me right once again - hypnotized by the commercials, running around during the shows. I think it must be some subliminal advertising I once learned about years ago, where tiny images are imbedded in the commercials - in this case of something only an 11-year-old could love. Hmmm. Maybe Justin Bieber?

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  24. Maria, I love that - the youngest child determines the shows. It makes sense. They can't watch everything the older ones can watch but EVERYONE can watch what they can. Whether you'd want to is another question! It reminds me of when my son was three and he spent the entire year watching Lion King every day. Let me tell you, I knew my Lion King. Every word, every song...

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  25. I do not like commercials or I should say I don't want to like them. I rarely watch TV, except during footbal season, and I find myself,like your kids being hooked into the commercials like a drug. I know I am an intelligent person who wants to avoid being pandered to, but honesty, the marketers are so good I get taken away with them. Imagine the power the commercials have over our kids, who do not really understand the manipulation.

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  27. My computer is messed up and so I'm late seeing or responding to this. Love it. I have to say I'm addicted to certain tv (HGTV), a few genuinely funny sitcoms, and really see it as a way to have background noise even when I'm not watching it. God forbid I'm able to hear my inner voice(s) trying to be heard. It's definitely another way I avoid my true self. UGH.

    Commecials - hate em, except an occasional truly creative and funny one. Few and far between - yes? And I'm ready to fire a gun into the screen now with all the horrendous political ads!

    I hope you continue writing and find a publisher - just your blog writing is excellent and unique. Love your writer's voice.

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  28. Linda, hang there. Although there is nothing wrong with "checking out." I read PEOPLE magazine and watch soap operas when my brain and heart and spirit are on overload. Writing can be grueling. You'll get back to it when it starts calling your name. I've started watching TV with my 18-year-old. It's sometimes the only time that Kelly and I have to be together and talk about the day over the commercials. Although, I've noticed that all my kids talk about funny commercials. Gone are the days of Mr. Bubble and detergent commercials...

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  29. As a result of commercials we are the proud owners of Blendy Pens, Bendaroos and Pillow Pets. Why are kids so enamoured?

    My 9 year old often writes down the 800-number for me to call later "at a time that's convenient for you, Mom" he says. I have to tell him it just doesn't work like they show.

    Why do they get that Spongebob is not a real talking sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea and yet they do not get that the super ray smelly gun 2000 will not work?

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  30. We don't have a t.v., so whatever I watch is through Hulu or Netflix, which means either little or no commercials. It's great. Whenever I'm at my parents' home, I'm always surprised at how loud the commercials are. I also ignore them, unless I feel like analyzing what's going on in popular culture. :)

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  31. Joely, I think maybe it's the repetition that gets to me - it's like they play the same one over and over again! (Or maybe it's because I watch the same station!) But you're right, the kids have no idea that a lot of this is exaggeration and marketing ploys.

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  32. Leslie, thanks for your support and nice to see you again. I've been reading you too, just sometimes too exhausted to comment!

    The political ads are the worst. Or, how about the recordings that call my home phone! Do they really think I'm just going to stand there and listen to a machine? I've got a life I'm not living to get to... (ho hum.)

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  33. Michelle, I should have emailed you when I was writing this! I forgot about Mr. Bubble! My fascination with him, and my insistence on buying the product, must have been the bane of my own mother's existence!

    And there's been plenty of vegging out over here, trust me. It's just that I either have to do something about the book or stop having its limbo status ruin my happiness. Either I can control that or I can't. I have a funny feeling I can.

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  34. Elizabeth, you are so funny! That comparison to Sponge Bob is a hoot! And my daughter used to rush to me the minute I walked in with piles of 800 numbers for me to call too! They took the death of Billie Mays very hard. I was like, "Billie who?" Sometimes I'm living on a different planet than them.

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  35. Rivki, I've been thinking about this no TV thing, and I do think it's a great way to raise kids. I think how I ended up muting the commercials was because they were so loud!

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  36. I'll have to watch. I bet my kids love the commercials, too. I stopped watching them after we got a DVR. I record everything or watch it live and clean in the breaks. (Then remember to record it for next week so I can skip the cleaning!)

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  37. THANK YOU! Yes commercials! I guess all that money they poured into all the research etc. finally paid off. My kids would loudly protest if I change channels etc during the commercials! Oh how I hate the commercials geared towards kids: have you noticed that all the kids are rebellious and all the adults are portrayed unfavorably?! This is interesting from my perspective since in Asian countries you always see children being polite and respectful to their elders (yes a bit wishful thinking but at least WE aka ADULTS are trying to tell our kids that hey, this is the kind behavior we are expecting from you!) Sorry for going off.

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