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Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Subtitle: John Himmelman’s further descent into curmudgeonry.

I’ve seen my last movie in a movie theater. Unfortunately, it was Ironman 2, a big letdown after the first Ironman. Oh well. The movie itself had nothing to do with this decision. I still love watching movies, but for now on it will be in the comfort of my home.

So, you know what did it? Having to pay $9 to sit through a long string of TV commercials prior to the movie. These are commercials you cannot mute. You can’t get up and go to the fridge or switch to another channel. You’re held hostage as commercial after commercial blares out of the theater’s Dolby speakers. This practice began years ago with “The Jimmy Fund”. This caused a bit of controversy, but it was difficult to complain about helping sick kids without coming off as a misanthrope. Then they started sneaking in other commercials – usually one or two – irritating, but survivable. Having gotten away with that, they began adding more and more. Betsy and I walked out of Destinta Theater in Middletown, CT as the 5th commercial came on. We got our $18 refunded. At the Marquee Cinemas in Westbrook, we were assaulted by 8 commercials! And this was well after the movie was scheduled to begin. I’m not talking about coming attractions, mind you. I actually enjoy those. We’re talking about TV ads on the big screen.

A couple of people have suggested showing up later in order to bypass said assault. But then you run the risk of getting lousy seats.

And it’s just WRONG!

We pay a hefty price to see this entertainment! Add to this what we overpay at the snack bar. We should not be subjected to ads once the movie is slated to begin!

I know that some of you are rolling your eyes. You really don’t mind commercials. Well I hate them. In fact, my first blog entry was on how TV ads manage to annoy the bejeezus out of me.

When our son Jeff moved out, we turned his room into the entertainment room. It has a big screen TV, DVD player and surround sound. There’s a wide range of affordable refreshments downstairs and adult beverages. And a comfy lazyboy chair. When we want to watch a movie, we dim the lights and settle in. Amazingly, no one screams at us from the screen, trying to sell us stuff we don’t want.

I know I’m not alone in abandoning the theater experience. It’s probably part of the reason the theater owners are sullying what they offer by subjecting their paying customers to ad barrages. If I’m not there to see them, they can’t bother me.

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God, I love the Internet. Ever get one of those nostalgia brainworms? You know, when you remember something, like a cartoon from your far past, but can’t recall much about it? It’s really more of a memory of the feeling you had while watching it. For years I tried to hunt down the details on a memory I had of an old black and white cartoon. It took place in outer space and had three main characters. My search queries would include these words:

    Spaceman on unicycle
    White on black cartoon (it sort of looked like it was done on scratchboard)
    Caveman

I couldn’t remember the third character.

So, that’s all I had. It was sort of a creepy show, probably had something to do with how young I was. What stuck out most in my mind was that little spaceman who flew with the aid of a single wheel he propelled with his legs. He was so alien-looking, and, I remembered, quick to lose his temper. He took me to a strange, uncomfortable, but compelling, place.

Well, I finally found the show! First of all, it wasn’t in black and white. I had neglected to factor in that our TV was black and white! Duh!

Colonel Bleep, with Scratch and Squeak

Colonel Bleep, with Scratch and Squeak

The show was Colonel Bleep! There’s even an Wikipedia page on it! When I saw that third, forgotten, character, it was a slap to the forehead. It was Squeak! I now remember him very well because I couldn’t quite understand what a cowboy marionette was doing as part of the trio. That the other character was a caveman didn’t bother me as much. Funny, where a child’s mind draws those lines of logic.

Nothing like a mystery solved. With this new information at hand, I was even able to watch some of the episodes on You Tube.

It’s pretty hokey by today’s standards, but it captivated me as a child. It did what it was supposed to do. When I look at the pictures, I’m taken back to the den in our home in Oceanside, NY, where a 5 year old boy was taken to outer space via a black and white Zenith television.

Thanks, Internet. Is there nothing you can’t do?

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Commercials I Mute!

muteFor my inaugural blog, I will share some gripes about TV commercials. While I understand their necessity in non-public supported programming, there are some that irritate me more than they should. I think the problem with commercials often lies in the sponsors’ need to reach as broad a market base as possible; as quickly as possible. This leads them to create a spot designed more for getting you to react and remember it, than for telling you about what they’re selling. It’s like a little kid smacking a girl he has a crush on. Sure, he gets her to notice him, but she just wants to smack him right back.

So here we go – a list of the kinds of commercials that incite me to pound on the mute button (in no particular order):

1 – Shout-outs. This is where you see a huge crowd of people shouting some unintelligible slogan or company name. I don’t know what you’re saying! I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING! YOUR VOICES ARE BLENDING INTO SOME KIND OF ROARING AURAL TURBULENCE!

2 – Sentence Relays. One person begins a sentence which is continued by another, and then another, and then another… Yeah, I know, they are attempting the “bandwagon” scenario – learned about that in my college commercial art courses. But this has been so overused, it’s painfully cliche. Add to that, the editing is more often than not too choppy. I mute the known offenders on sight, and continue with my own Mad Libs version of the narrative.

3 – Shouters. Okay, there’s this one guy who leads the pack in this department. I won’t say his name because he wants me to. Okay, I will – Billy Mays, as in “BILLY MAYS, HERE…”. He shouts at me in my living room every day. Why is he doing this? I want to call him up and tell him that his spiel is being recorded with a microphone and his voice will carry from the far reaches of the planet via receivers, satellites, transmitters, and speakers. And who IS this guy anyway?

Stop yelling at me Billy Mays!

4 – Buy this product so it can kill you or make you sicker. This one is for the pharmaceutical companies. In a two-minute commercial you have to listen to one minute and forty-five seconds of the narrator telling you how their product will give you, oh, I don’t know “oily discharge”? Brain aneurysm? Hypertrichosis? Listen, these are prescription drugs. Let the doctors and pharmacists inform the potential patients. I guess what bothers me is what I’m hearing is the lawyers telling the sponsors how to cover their asses against any lawsuit that could arise.

Funny thing is these self destructing legally-over-analyzed commercials started multiplying right around the time political candidates felt required to tell us, at the end of their ad, they supported the nice things the ad said about them (even when we saw them saying it themselves!). No comment on that – just an observation…

5 – Dad’s An Idiot! Yeah, yeah, we know. Dads/husbands are inept cretins. We can’t do anything right. Ha ha ha. We get it. (That’s all I dare type – my wife may read this)

6 – Out-of-Tuners. For some reason, some commercial directors think it’s humorous when “regular folks” sing loud and way out of tune in (faux) earnesty. Don’t they realize it’s only funny when I do it!

7 – Purposely Cheesy. Certain advertisers think it is kitsch to make their commercials seem as hackneyed as possible. It’s not. It just comes off as something produced by high school kids who’ve recently discovered beer/pot – not something to inspire confidence in their product!

Which leads me to…

8 – Bob’s Discount Furniture. I don’t know if you are subjected to his torture in your area, but in mine, he won’t go away! His nasal squalling is inescapable on nearly every local channel (and radio!).

AHHHH!!!  He's even in my BLOG!

AHHHH!!! He's even in my BLOG!

He takes already overused catchphrases and tries to make them his own, while flashing images of furniture most of us would drive past on “heavy trash day”. And he insists on putting his own desperate visage in every single commercial (and on his trucks and storefronts). He even names furniture (that he bought from a warehouse) after himself and has puppets that look like him. I am positive that the purpose of his business is to raise money to put his narcissistic face on TV. I have been tempted to send him a bill for all the AA batteries I drained from having to hit the mute button so many times.

Okay… calm down, John…. Take a breath…. These are just commercials, the backbone of a consumerist society. You can always change the channel, mute, or zone out until your show comes back.

Or get Tivo.

Anyway…

Did I miss any?

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