They have us right where they want us, folks.
A couple of years ago, my precocious child convinced our household to switch cable services. He did all the math. Modestly more cash, lots more channels. His pitch might have included “call to act now” and “four easy payments,” but my memory is dim on that point.
Being a good salesman, he let the customer fill in the blanks. One might assume more channels equals better selection, which equals a more enjoyable viewing experience. Only a foolish salesman would interfere with that fantasy.
When I get home late in the evening with the where-did-the-day-go blues, I just want an hour of entertainment or enlightenment as I flip through the mail and unwind. Alas, Jay Leno is not what he once was, and SportsCenter has become a bad soap opera.
Flit over the history-and-animals range of channels, where both history and animal are endangered species. It turns out Animal Planet scored its biggest audience ever with “Mermaids: The New Evidence.” And “Finding Bigfoot” seems to be on all the time.
Someone has to say this: There is no such thing as Bigfoot. There are no mermaids. Thus, there is no new evidence of mermaids, despite the sham documentary. For that matter, there are no pirahnacondas or sharknadoes. But I’m paying for the cottage industry that peddles these notions.
Flit, flit. Reruns. No good. Flit, flit. Yakking heads on the economy and dysfunctional Washington. That gets old quickly. Those people make as much sense as the piranhacondas. Flit, flit. Movies. I love movies, but 11:02 p.m. is no time to begin committing the next two and a half hours of your life.
Flit, flit, stop. I always end up at the same sad place.
In the wee hours, Time-Life trots out those 30-minute ads, the ones with some ancient rocker paroled from rehab long enough to pitch “’60s Music Revolution,” “The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection” or “The Golden Age of Country.”
I am usually resolute on this point. I have little patience for the indulgent re-re-recycling of the baby boomer music that surrounds us at the grocery store and dentist’s office. Yes, CCR is vastly underrated, and “Fortunate Son” speaks truths that we still ignore, but it’s been close to half a century, folks. Let’s move on.
And yet, here comes 30 minutes of “The Folk Years,” with the guy who was either Peter or Paul but not Mary, offering a fairly liberal definition of folk music. I wouldn’t have thought to include “Monday, Monday” or Bread’s dreadful “Make it With You,” but they have to fill up eight CDs and the obligatory bonus CD to get your $119.96.
And I cannot turn it off. It’s like falling into a time capsule. There is no way on Earth I’m ordering any of these – well, maybe the old-school country – but I sit transfixed. Bad ’70s rock, doo-wop, country – doesn’t matter. Old, grainy clips and simpler sounds. I sit there perfectly aware that I’m paying money to watch an ad for a product I will not buy, but I am cheaply entertained. That seems to be about as good as it gets.
Regarding the Internet’s ability to gather and collate frightening amounts of information about us with every mouse click, some wise person has observed that if you’re getting something for free, that means you yourself are the product. That sounds about right. They’ve got us where they want us. They have closed the loop. Enjoy.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.