Friday, February 10, 2006


Feeding and cuddling my pet peeve

If you spend 168 hours per week watching TV, like I do, you are bound to find a few faults with it. Like any relationship in the real world, the object of your affection has some habits which you wish you could more successfully ignore. People turn the heat up to ungodly temperatures, or leave toilet seats up, or fold down corners on your books, or whatever. Most of the time, you take a deep breath and move on, sometimes you have to spend some time with a friend fishing for sympathy, and occasionally you will seethe homicidally or yell a little. Healthy relationships survive this.

I don't know whether a relationship with television can be healthy, but I am certain that mine is not. I do a lot of yelling, swearing, making sarcastic remarks that are well across the line into the realm of hurtful, and generally being emotionally abusive. The television, being the codependent medium that it is, sits there passively and continues to do everything that I beg it to stop doing.

There are things that make me wish I still had the styrofoam toy rock that I used to keep next to the remote, for the purpose of symbolically stoning the TV. The news kills me. I want to know who is in charge of making certain that all stations broadcast exactly the same stories in exactly the same order, so I can transport him or her back in time to the USSR under Stalin and make him or her watch the one channel of TV all the time. I want to forge and circulate a memo that says the first snowstorm of winter is never "news" anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line, unless it occurs in August, or 30 days earlier than the previous record, whichever comes first. Reality shows always do something lame at the end, because they are based on a group of people competing, and don't work as well when it gets down to two. This could be easily remedied, by just having the last two people fight to the death. Think of it - America's Next Top(less) Model, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice - they would all benefit from a "Thunderdome" approach to the finale. (Who runs Bartertown? Master Blaster runs Bartertown!)

Now I'm getting worked up, and we move to my favorite two peeves. The first is cheating. Most TV shows are now blatantly cheating me. Dramas, reality shows, daytime TV, the 20/48 Insider and ET types, all of them, are padding their content by having reruns during a new show. The show starts with "Previously, on XXXX," for a while, then the show goes on for a little bit, and some of them (like American Idol and 48 Hours and Entertainment Tonight) have teasers so the show staff can take off for their snacks or bathroom break before the commercials even start, and then at the end there's more filler in the form of "Next time, on XXXX." If you watch a show once, you have seen approximately 12 minutes of programming 4 times over with 12 minutes of commercials. Someone should come out with Tivo II, which will cut it all out, not just the ads, so you could watch the 12 minutes and be done with it. You could watch 4 times as many shows that way.

The last pet peeve is a sneaky little bastard. With all the others, I know they're coming, I can brace myself, but this one could get me at almost any time. It finds me in the movies now and then, too. You've seen it. The good guy gets hold of the blimp coverage of a football game, and scans the audience of 80,000 for the villain, and finds him, or maybe it's a satellite taking a picture of an entire city, or a blurry security video of a dark scene or something. In any case, they have a videotape. The camera and the tape, apparently, have infinite capacity - unlimited resolution, so some random tech guy can just zoom in, using the tape of a grainy image from a gazillion miles away, mind you. Either that, or they "enhance" the image, like adding data to the image is somehow going to turn out OK. They end up being able to read the time on the guy's watch. Just NO. No, no, no. That's not how pictures work. "Enhancing" pictures doesn't exist. You can make the left half of a face look like the right to eliminate shadows, you can take something blurry and add unblurry features, but they are a guess or a substitution, and will only be approximate, etc. In the television of my mind, the villain fails to attend the football game or whatever, so there is no surveillance video at all. Looking at the pictures without the villain, the hero says, "Enhance that, so we see him better." The techie gives him the look you aren't allowed to give your boss when she says something equally stupid, and tells him it can't be done. "Fine," our hero says, in the same tone you use at age 14 when you say "Fine, Mom." Then he slaps his own drivers license on the table and says, here's a photo, enhance that," and they scan it and enhance it and the mysterious computer enhancer lines generate a perfect photo of the villain, and I throw the styrofoam rock at the TV so hard the actor actually puts his hand up to his head and says, "OW! Dang!"

Whoo. Good to have that out of my system. Thanks.

Your humblest and most devoted servant,

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