Television commercials have always been an annoyance, but the latest crop might possibly finally lead to its death.
Year after year, it seems that these annoying interruptions have been getting longer and longer. Actually, they’ve been getting shorter and shorter. But, on the main networks anyways, there are more and more of them, packing so many of the accursed things into each break that it seems they’re fast approaching 50% of a show’s broadcast time. Commercial breaks take so long now that it becomes difficult to keep the thread of the story going, that is assuming there is a story. And of course, syndication on cable channels doesn’t make the commercial time any less because the newer shows are written to accommodate them. Even the old shows have time cut out – seconds here, seconds there – to allow for more commercial time.
It isn’t that these commercial messages are particularly enlightening. They aren’t funny or different or any other thing that would make them stand out. They barely have time, after all, to say what they’re selling, and they sometimes don’t even do that. They just seem to run together, 15-30 second of white noise that just disappears into the background of ever more message bursts. I don’t even register them any more myself, just like my mind tunes out printed ads in a newspaper.
Is this commercial proliferation really necessary to fund increasingly more expensive programming? After all, some actors, particularly those on popular shows, make obscene amounts of money per episode. Or is it just a money grab, to see how many ad dollars can be sucked out of the market?
I realize that, with PVRs now so common, you can record the shows and then fast-forward through the commercials. But this still leaves that annoyance of having to constantly sit with your finger on the remote and watching carefully so that you don’t cut off even more of the 20-minute (if that) show than is necessary. Many have taken to buying discs or using on-line media with whole seasons and then binge-watching them.
This must be a boon to the artists connected to TV shows. While they make ever more money, writers have to write less and actors don’t have as many lines to memorize.
But this ever shortening show time means there’s barely time to develop a plot any more (not that most have a plot anyways). They may soon find that, if commercial fatigue becomes too great, they won’t have to write or memorize at all any more.
In my circle of friends, this has already begun. My TV is on less and less all the time.