As more and more alternatives appear, TV broadcasters seem oddly hell-bent on making the viewing experiencing as unpleasant as possible.
Is there anyone – anyone at all – who is so engrossed in what is passed off as ‘showbiz news’ that they can’t even sit through a single feature film without having to have an update? It seems unlikely, yet several TV channels seem to believe otherwise. In an age where there are countless platforms, formats and channels jockeying for our attention, broadcasters like the ambitiously named Great! TV and various ITV channels feel that they have such a grip on the viewer’s attention that a movie – perhaps a movie with a thrilling story that is just reaching its important moments of revelation – can be interrupted by some vacuous airhead with a desperate desire to be a TV presenter popping up to host ten-second snippets of press junket interviews with disposable movie stars talking about how great their new film is, followed by an even briefer red carpet clip from some pointless premiere of a film that everyone will have forgotten about within a year.
I know that commercial television is awash with ever-expanding and ill-placed commercial breaks – rules about careful placing to avoid interrupting important moments now so shamelessly ignored that a break can occur in the middle of a line of dialogue these days – but crowbarring an actual programme – even if it is only a few minutes long – into the middle of a film seems ludicrous and self-defeating. If I flick through TV channels in a desperate and often futile search for something – anything – to watch on those moments where I am required to do ‘family time’, these pointless showbiz reports are listed as an actual scheduled programme, and so I have little idea if the film I’ve stumbled upon is about to finish, or will recommence after we’ve been breathlessly told how great Bree Larson is again, and so I’ll probably just move on to another channel that actually allows a movie to play from start to finish without feeling the need to schedule another show in the middle of it.
You might think that with Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Mubi and all manner of other free and paid platforms offering programming without any commercials breaking it up – not to mention Blu-ray and DVD still going strong – more traditional broadcasters might be rethinking their operations and finding better, less obtrusive ways of featuring ads, but instead, they seem to be doubling down on the intrusions with longer breaks, more crappy filler mid-programme (if it’s not showbiz news, it’s actual news headlines, shown as if there are no other options for people who are desperate to know if anything has changed politically in the last hour) and more interference all-round – ever-larger channel idents, the end of thrillers invaded with distracting on-screen messages telling us what is on next, shows barely able to finish without some bellowing voice-over by a cretin who mistakenly thinks that they have ‘personality’ shouting about what is coming up.
This desperation to cling on to the viewer – to stop them tuning out or changing channels, to constantly remind them that they are watching Channel Shite or whatever it is – is surely self-defeating. How many viewers enjoy the fact that watching a TV show is an assault course of empty information, screaming ads and visual interference – not to mention the appalling picture and sound quality of much that is shown? Once, perhaps, TV broadcasters could get away with murder because we didn’t have much more choice – ironically though, that was a time when they seemed to have some respect for the public with some genuine choice offered across the limited channels available. Now, even as we tune out in droves, traditional TV broadcasters treat us like morons with endless variations on the same dismal programmes shown day after day, piss-poor versions of classic shows that are often so blurry that you might find yourself booking an optician appointment while watching them, relentless channel idents and endless, exhausting and mood-shattering interruptions throughout. Their desperation is their own worst enemy and will be the death of them yet.
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