Sometimes when I am in a hotel room on some trip in an unfamiliar time zone, jet lag wakes me up at an odd hour and I watch television. Within 15 minutes, I again feel vindicated in my decision not to own an idiot box.
At 4am or so in the morning in Southern California, channel after channel offered the same meme:
(1) You are not all right the way you are (e.g., you are fat, lonely, unattractive, out of work, poor)
(2) There is a product you can buy that will immediately make you all right
All the 30 minute advertisements masquerading as talk shows or game shows or medical shows did indeed address genuine problems (e.g., obesity), but only insofar as would instill anxiety and self-hatred in viewers sufficent to induce them to pick up the phone or order whatever crap exercise equipment, pill, CD, book, or educational course was being hawked.
The most vivid was “confidential confessions”, in which a series of attractive young women told us viewers what they would not tell their boyfriend, namely that he was sexually inadequate and needed to buy some herbal concoction ASAP or it would be splitsville. It recalled nothing so much as “P.P” (pedic perspiration), the brainchild of ad man Gordon Comstock in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, touted on billboards saying “She never told him” why the engagement was off, but it was P.P., for which Comstock was promoting a supposed remedy.
This all becomes sadder when one thinks about who watches T.V. at 4am. The audience then is disproportionately suffering from major depression (early morning awakening is a symptom), alone, unhappy and unemployed. Advertisers are shooting fish in a barrel…I am not sure how they look at themselves in the mirror without feeling some of the self-loathing they try to instill in potential customers.