Will Edwinson

Author & Storyteller

More About Those Abominable Commercials

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 I wonder how many readers of this blog remember the time when one could watch TV or listen to radio for longer than six minutes before being subjected to seven or eight minutes of nothing but commercials back to back.  On New Years Day a few years past, I started watching the Rose Parade on NBC, but soon found myself surfing to see if I could find a channel that was showing the parade without all those annoying commercial breaks.  Lest you misunderstand, I’m not one who believes all broadcasting should be government owned, and commercial free.  I realize there is no such thing as a free lunch; but doggone it, folks, there is a limit to what one can endure.  Common courtesy and decorum by these TV networks should determine the limits of how much of this commercial debris we are subjected to  in any given hour, not just the final figure on the bottom line of the profit and loss statement.  I’m a capitalist who believes in free markets but I think the old axiom of “follow the money” is in play here.  In the old days, service was as much a part of being in business as was making a profit.

The younger folks who have grown up with these hard sell commercial break tactics have known nothing else, so it’s understandable why they might not be as offended by them as I am. I still remember  the old days of radio and TV when the major focus of the program was to entertain the audience, and not for the primary purpose of selling all the various wares on the market at so-called bargain prices.

I decided to track the frequency and longevity of these commercial breaks.  The intervals of actual programming (the parade in this case) between breaks averaged around six to eight minutes. The commercial breaks—which actually cut away from the parade—averaged about five to six minutes in length, with as many as a dozen or more  30 second commercials in one annoying block. This is also true with most other programming as well.  This is almost a 50-50  ratio of programming to advertising, and it’s enough to drive away from the program an impatient cranky old duffer like myself —which in fact it did.

In my New Year’s Day channel surfing, I did find one channel, the Home and Garden TV channel, which showed the entire parade without bombarding us with those so-called “important messages.”  This channel is also a commercial channel, by the way.  It did have parade sponsors, but the mention of those sponsors was done without cutting away from the parade.  I, and others who may have found this channel, were able to watch the entire parade uninterrupted.  When they did show a brief commercial, they did so by showing it in a small window in the corner of the screen, but we were still able to watch the parade in conjunction with the commercial.

This limited commercial format brought back memories of some old radio program favorites. One of those being, the Kate Smith radio show.  It aired here in the mountain west at ten a.m.  It opened with the velvet mezzo-soprano voice of Ms. Smith ringing out over the air waves singing her theme song,  When The Moon Comes Over the Mountain, and a voice-over by Ted Collins saying,  “This is Ted Collins. It’s high noon in New York, and time for the Kate Smith radio program.”   Ted would then take about thirty seconds to mention the product of the program sponsor.  In the remaining fourteen and half minutes of the fifteen-minute broadcast, we were treated to a full thirteen and a half minutes of musical entertainment, with only one additional minute for commercial announcements.  In those days, each radio program usually had only one sponsor.  In rare cases, there may have been two.

Then there were the morning soap operas; remember those?  One of Mom’s favorites was Helen Trent.  The soap’s theme was: “Can a woman find romance at age thirty-five and after?”  These fifteen minute dramas usually filled up the morning fare on network radio and were nearly always sponsored by soap companies; hence the term “soap operas.”

I also remember the old soap jingles.  Super suds, super suds, clean your duds with Super Suds. Then there was Duz.  “Duz does everything.”  I guess that meant you could use Duz for all your washing needs; even dishes. The Blondie and Dagwood radio show was sponsored by Duz.  My point for my mentioning these old shows is to say that the commercials of olde were not hard sell; they were entertaining and took up only a minor portion of the time allocated to a particular program.  No more than a minute and half to two minutes out of a thirty-minute program; three to three and half minutes out of an hour program.

Times have really changed, but as much as I’ve railed in the past against computers and electronic technology, there is one area where I must concede and thank the Good Lord for the pause button.  I’ve been watching the old Matlock reruns on INSPN.  They run from 7:00 to 9:00 pm here in Arizona  I can put it on pause at 7:00 o’clock and go do something else until 7:30.  Then at 7:30 I start watching the show.  I ‘m able to speed through all the commercials,  watch two one hour shows and still be through by 9 o’clock , and I don’t have to endure all those unholy commercials. The down side to this, however, is that to insert more commercials, they cut so much out of the show that it’s difficult  to follow the storyline. Oh…well.

But if I really want to keep my blood pressure in tow; it’s turn off the TV and pick up a good book.  One like Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, for instance, where you can spend about two hours in simpler by gone days of five cent Coca Colas,  ten- cent twin scoop ice cream cones, and where kids could get into the Saturday matinee for a nickel.  For a free sample, click on the free download button and get a copy (while they last)  of the prologue and first three complete adventures.

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