What I Hate Most About Today’s TV

What I Hate Most About Today’s TV

© David Burton 2015

Television 2015

     “Marketing surveys now show that when Americans come home from work, more folks turn on their computer than their television sets. That is a first.” (Ref. 1) A main reason is that TV is just plain awful!

     TV stations are free to show as many ads as they want. And do they ever! The FCC should be tasked with stopping those interminable commercial breaks that keep growing in number and duration. I spend what seems like an inordinate amount of time channel-surfing when commercials come on. The networks just keep piling one commercial on after another during their commercial break time. Even the supposedly commercial-free publically funded stations now tell us who is sponsoring their “commercial-free” programs and contributing funds to keep their programming going. Enough is enough – let’s get back to content without so much selling. “The early promise of cable TV was that, in exchange for paying for TV, we'd be spared the commercials and get a wider variety of quality programming. But that never happened. Not only do the cable-only channels show ads, they show lots of ads. Classic reruns and movies are cut beyond recognition to make room for more ads than can possibly be sold, with the void filled by endless station self-promos. Even HBO runs ads - infomercials disguised as "Making of" shows for current movies. Cable operators should pay us for every home shopping channel they carry. Those channels earn them a profit end exclude other more valuable programming.” (Ref. 2)

     Since I’m paying for cable television, why should I have to put up with the infinite number of commercials that fill up air time? You’d think that you could get programming without commercials since you are paying for cable. I am totally sick of the interminable number of commercials on TV! At any given time, there can be a string of 4, 5 or even 6 commercials, one right after the other. Try channel-hopping to find a station that isn’t airing a concurrent commercial and it seems that all the TV stations have colluded to air their commercials at the exact same time so you can’t avoid being forced to watch the commercials.

     A good commerical can be both informative and entertaining - the first time and maybe even on the 5th showing. But by the time the commericial is repeated for the 20th or 100th time, it has lost its crowd appeal and, if you are like me, turned me off to the product being advertised. A too often repeated commercial is like a dead fish - after a while it stinks!

     I am appalled at those commercials for various prescription medicines that scare the unwary with all the bad things that can happen when one uses the medicine. The commercials spend 10 seconds telling the viewer about the benefits of using the medicine and then proceed to spend the next minute and a half terrifying the viewer with a seemingly endless list of calamities that can result from using the product.

     What is needed is legislation that limits the number and/or the amount of commercials in any show or in any span of time. In France the amount of commercials allowed is decided by law. No more than 2 commercial breaks per show or movie.

     Do you, like me, watch TV in order to find out what is happening around the world? I watch the local and world news every evening before I head for bed. What infuriates me is seeing and hearing the same news stories for days, and sometimes weeks, on end. If there is nothing new to add to the story, the station will find some human interest fluff to fill up air time. Please, give me the facts, add anything new that is relevant, and then stop! I don’t need to keep hearing from friends and family of a victim about what a great person the victim was and how much the victim will be missed. My compassion for the victim will come from the story and not from interviews with friends and family. News should provide new information and not a rehash of outdated stories.

     TV stations must stop their unreasonable rush to be first with news! Instead, they should focus on being right, rather than first. All too often, I have seen flash newscasts with some reporter screaming out “We’re first with this breaking story!” or “This is an exclusive report!” All too often, they are premature – they don’t yet have the facts, or the report they are giving is just plain wrong. Unfortunately, the rush to be first trumps all other considerations. Accuracy in reporting takes a very distant second place.

     I hate the on-the-spot interview with some incomprehensible witness to a news event. In the rush to fill up air time, the station sends out a reporter who finds someone who may have seen or heard something related to the story on the air. This “eye-witness” is all-too-often illiterate, incomprehensible, irrelevant or totally uninteresting. Better the station and the reporter should take the time to find out in advance if the local witness should be on the air.

     I hate many of the unnecessary "live on location" reports. Frequently, I am annoyed by this during the 11 o’clock news. Often, it’s a reporter standing in an empty parking lot in front of a sign or on a street with some supposedly relevant building behind him. Why don’t they just present the news item from the studio and only do a "live on location" report when there is truly something worthwhile to show and report from that location?

     With respect to TV news coverage, the unfortunate truth is that, in all too many cases, the drive for ratings has produced nothing but boring mediocrity! Oh for the good old days with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

     I hate those totally stupid, mindless and boring reality shows such as “The Real Housewives of (you-name the city)”. I can only imagine the idiots that actually watch this crap. What, in heaven’s name can anyone find entertaining with this claptrap? Other reality shows that totally turn me off are “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”, “19 Kids and Counting”, “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”, “The Bachelor”, “Extreme Makeover “, “The Biggest Loser “, “Botched”, “The Reality of Anger Management”, “Storage Wars”, ” Wife Swap”, “Naked and Afraid”, “Dance Moms”, and “16 and Pregnant”. Actually, the list of this garbage is nearly endless. But, it can’t all be really garbage, can it? After all, millions of supposedly intelligent Americans watch this garbage. If they didn’t, why would TV producers be churning out this ridiculous pap?

     I can’t stand: uninteresting programs on the Animal Planet channel; a cable channel that claims to be the Travel Chanel, but mostly shows people pigging out and stuffing their faces with exotic and not-so-exotic foods to prove that they can out-eat anyone else or eat foods that we here in America would never consider eating; televising the auctioning off of unclaimed goods; vapid shows on the paranormal that mesmerize the ignorant among us with claims of communicating with ghosts and spirits; a cable channel that claims to be the History Channel but never shows anything historical - all it shows are a family of pawn shop owners and people trying to pawn a variety of items - mostly uninteresting items at that.

     I am really not interested in watching a program about 16 year old girls who got themselves knocked up. I don’t care to see a program about someone who got arrested on TV after a drunken binge. I can’t stand to watch a program about someone who compromised their morals and made a sex tape. Why is it that television networks today feel the need to reward bad behavior? The truth is they are trying to find more ways to combat increased competition for ratings and money. But is celebrating stupidity and immoral behavior the way to do it?

     Some TV channels have completely lost their way - they misrepresent who they are. Some of the biggest offenders are MTV, The History Channel and The Learning Channel. What exactly is there to learn from American Chopper? And what history is revealed in Ice Road Truckers? What we have is a load of bad channels, with bad programing. A few good channels subsidize the rest, while the majority only get in the way of us finding something good to watch.[3]

     There are some very competent and interesting female sports analysts or commentators that do a great job of livening up the broadcasts of games or of presenting useful or interesting information. But, all too often, this just isn’t the case. I find it annoying to be watching a live sports broadcasts when they have some pretty face doing senseless interviews in the stands or providing totally irrelevant information during breaks in the game. The same can be said about a number of former professional athletes who have been hired to provide informed color to the sports broadcasts. Unfortunately, too many of these ex-jocks should not be on television. They are just plain boring to watch and hear. On the other hand, several ex-professionals do a great job of livening up the broadcasts – Jerry Remy who does color on Boston Red Sox telecasts being one prime example.

     Then there’s the sports segment of the news where instead of reporting the sports news, the sportscasters invent the sports news. Just recently, the New England Patriots and their quarterback, Tom Brady, played the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots had just enjoyed their bye-week and were undefeated in their first four games of the season. The television stations in Boston and New England had to find something interesting to fill up air time over the two-week break in the local professional football wars.

     During the AFC Championship game back in January 2015, the Patriots were accused of tampering with footballs by the Colts by deflating them to get an advantage for Tom Brady. The Patriots blew out the Colts, 45 to 7, that day.

     The sports and news media repeatedly tried to get the Patriots to say that they wanted to wreak revenge against the Colts for causing the “Deflategate” scandal. However, the Patriots, under their coach Bill Belichick, are not that kind of team – they wouldn’t bite and repeatedly stated that revenge had no place in their plans or preparations and that their sole focus was on simply getting ready to win their next game.

     So, with no blood-thirsty calls for revenge from the Patriots, the TV sportscaster invented their own news story and for two solid weeks they all shouted that Tom Brady wanted to lead his New England Patriots to a ‘blowout’ score against the Colts as revenge on their foes for starting the Deflategate scandal. These claims were totally fabricated by the sportscasters / TV stations and endlessly repeated before, during and, even occasionally, after the October 18th game. By the way, the Patriots won 34 to 27, hardly a blowout.

     Just one more reason to hate TV!

     Here’s another major gripe of mine – the never-ending "impending major weather event". – “There’s a major storm coming!” “The end of the world is imminent!” “Stay tuned to our station for the most up-to-date weather information!” “Be prepared!” “The snow is falling at a rapid rate!” Etc.

     With a major snowstorm we get the following: A few days before a snow storm, the hype starts. At first it is 1 to 3 inches. The day before it changes to 4 to 6 inches. Not to be outdone by other stations, it becomes, “we could be looking at 6 to 8 inches of snow”. This turns into THE story of the night, interviews with plow truck drivers, the State Police, etc. How will you possibly survive Mother Nature’s fury?

     All too often, you wake up the morning after the storm and find that only an inch and a half of snow has actually fallen.

     Sometimes, this kind of weather sensationalizing leads to "expert advice" about the storm. The station finds an “expert”, like a doctor, a coast guard officer or someone else with a title. The station then has them advise on how to avoid frostbite or how to keep warm, etc.

     The late night news with the weather forecast has what seems to be an endless number of weather related segments. At the start of the news we get “there’s a disastrous storm coming – details in 15 minutes!” Five minutes later we get, “The disastrous storm is on the way – specifics in 10 minutes!” Five more minutes later, we see/hear, “Listen in in 5 minutes for the latest on the disastrous storm!” and then, we finally get all the information about the impending disastrous storm. “Tomorrow we will have some rain accompanied by light winds and moderate temperatures. Don’t forget to take an umbrella and close your windows before leaving the house. Tune in tomorrow morning for the latest update on this disastrous storm.”

     One of my constant complaints concerns my cable provider – Comcast. I subscribe to a relatively basic plan. What I hate is that the channels and programs which I subscribe to are not grouped together. What I hate is that the on-screen guide that I access is not color coded to show me the channels and programs that I can watch under my plan. Finding programs and channels that I can watch is just a big pain in the butt. But why should Comcast care? They have me trapped. I live in a high rise condominium with no satellite TV or fiber-optics available. It’s Comcast or nothing!


  1. Audience tunes out un-real TV, Bill O’Reilly, Boston Herald, Page 21, 6 December 2013.
  2. What's wrong with Television, Bill O’Reilly, http://ethanwiner.com/television.html, Accessed 10 June 2015.
  3. Editorial: What's wrong with TV, and what it might take to change it, Ben Drawbaugh, http://www.engadget.com/2011/12/16/editorial-whats-wrong-with-tv-and-what-it-might-take-to-chang/ ,
    16 December 2011.

  6 October 2015 {Article 237; Whatever_44 }    
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