Over many years of teaching --- no matter whether it was English, History, Humanities, etc. --- there was one lesson I always taught my students: critical viewing, particularly television. The premise was simple, really --- watch commercials carefully and critically (critical = serious, not negative). In an age of digital streaming this is less cogent, of course, but the tenets of critical viewing remain the same. If you are watching any entertainment on a screen keep your eyes peeled to discern who the producers/directors/sponsors think their audience is. Even back in the 1970’s I would point out that during NBA games McDonald’s commercials were suddenly replete with Black people in their ads. Soap operas got their name for a reason --- starting back in the 1950’s the consumers of daytime television were housewives and various laundry and home cleaning products were the advertisers. George Carlin did a routine where he pointed out that during Sunday football games, most of the commercials “had hair on them.” “Tires that grip the road!,” for example, and lots of razor blade, power tool, and John Deere ads. The same holds true for streaming channels, too. While some try to appeal to a wide audience (HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon Prime), others have a clear target audience (ESPN – owned by Disney), and still others offer “ad-free” or “with-ads” (Hulu, Sling, et al) trying to straddle the divide. But even with those channels, you can watch their programming with an eye toward “Who do they think the audience is for this (horror, crime, rom-com, etc.) offering?” The point is, be an active viewer/consumer of whatever is on your screen --- don’t simply let it wash over you without thinking (unless, of course, you simply need to spend some mindless couch time --- and you consciously turn your brain off).
All that said, it dawned on me recently, that I have been mindlessly watching a lot of television since retiring in 2014. Even though we subscribe to Netflix, HBO/MAX, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Apple+ our default mode is, too often, cable television offerings (with commercials!). We have taken to watching syndicated shows that were on when we were very busy working on school reform (read: approximately 1990 – 2014). Many, many episodes of Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans, CSI: NY, Criminal Minds, and other “police procedurals” have taken up countless hours of mindless viewing (usually while “multi-tasking” – reading, making grocery lists, playing Wordle, etc.). We’ve also seen every Seinfeld episode (several times?)as well as lots of MSNBC and Food Network chatter. What prompted my thinking about critical viewing of late, however, has been the discovery of the Rewind Channel (151 on Fairfield County’s Optimum cable) --- which “specializes” (?) in recycling old sit-coms. As I have surveyed their offerings throughout the day(retirement affords a lot of tv time) it is clear they have geared their programming based on whom they believe might be watching their channel throughout the day. Therefore, during the morning and afternoon, prior to Prime Time, there are a lot of “family” and “kid” oriented sit-coms (Different Strokes, The Facts of Life, Head of the Class, Family Ties, Hogan Family, Growing Pains, Who’s the Boss?, 227). At 6:00 p.m., though, the programming shifts to more mainstream/”adult”/prime-time shows (Wings, NewsRadio, Drew Carey, Just Shoot Me, Becker, Murphy Brown – all in two-episode, one-hour blocks). We have, of late, found ourselves catching Just Shoot Me (from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m.) and Becker (from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m.) several evenings per week. I won’t critique either show (they are amusing, well-written comedies with engaging cast members) but I will apply my own critical viewing lesson regarding who advertises during the 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. time slot on the Rewind Channel and reflect on how that reflects whom they believe their audience is.
During the past week I have taken notes on the advertising we have been subjected to while watching these shows. After examining this list of advertisers, it becomes rather apparent, I believe, who Rewind television thinks is watching. But you be the judge. All these products are advertised more than once during the two-hour span --- another significant critical viewing fact.
I hardly know anyone who owns a Time-Share but there must be a shocking number of people who do because the Time-Share Relief Hotline advertises again and again on Rewind TV. According to these ads, many people bought their Time-Share after being “kept in a room for as long as 10 hours without water,” subjected to “arrogant, aggressive salespeople” who wore these innocent victims down until they relented and invested in a Time-Share. Years later, these people have not only come to regret their purchase but are saddled with enormous annual debt they can’t get out from under --- unless they call the Time-Share Relief Hotline. The wizards at the Hotline have expertise that will allow these Time-Share victims to finally escape their oppressive, crushing financial burden.
It wasn’t until I watched Rewind TV that I discovered “every 39 seconds someone has a heart attack” until I was bombarded by American Heart Association ads. In the same way, I’ve made the acquaintance of Jonathan Lawson, who has instilled in me the importance of “the 3 P’s” which govern the Colonial Penn Insurance Company. “Price, Price, and Price” guides Colonial Penn, offering insurance options starting at $9.95 per month --- even if you’re “54 and a former smoker,” or “80 and taking medication.” You don’t have to pass a physical and your rate is “locked in” for the rest of your life (but no benefits are available in the first two years of your policy). There aren’t a lot of other details, but Jonathan is a convincing pitchman ---you might want to consider calling that 800 number!
Another product you can’t escape on Rewind TV between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. is Plexaderm. This is a skin care product that makes wrinkles and discolored skin disappear! Of course, if you happen to read the fine print at the bottom of the screen you discover “Effects last for hours. Results are temporary and vary by individual and require 10 minutes for maximum effectiveness.” Of course, it’s only $14.95 for a small jar (about 6 applications) so why not change your appearance like the folks in the video? Part of my issue with this one --- aside from the clearly ephemeral nature of the product’s effectiveness --- is that the “models” in the ad barely look different in their “before” and “after” pictures. But you be the judge --- just tune in weekday nights between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. and keep your eyes peeled for the Plexaderm people.
Before watching Rewind TV, I was not aware of the severity of “IRS Tax Nightmares” affecting my fellow citizens. Most egregiously, according to the Tax Relief Line, there are cases of divorced single Moms who have been left with enormous tax debt by their slacker ex-husbands. Luckily, the Tax Relief Line has used the “Innocent Spouse Relief” card in cases like these and saved numerous damsels in distress (we’re led to believe). Along with the “Tax Relief” pro’s there are a bevy of personal injury lawyers who will represent you if you believe you’ve been a victim of a “medical mistake” which has led to your child’s cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy --- particularly if you believe the disability could have been prevented. I’m sure people are victims of this kind of malpractice but I’m not sure I trust lawyers who are advertising to encourage people to engage in litigation designed to line the lawyer’s pockets by preying on tragic victims.
If you suffer from diabetes you need to get in touch, posthaste, with the Diabetes Solution Center to get your CGM – Continuous Glucose Monitor. There is no doubt millions of Americans suffer from diabetes --- and I’m sure a CGM is a very useful device --- but I’m guessing one’s doctor can provide the best advice regarding your obtaining a CGM. Along those lines, I’m also convinced Instaflex Advanced Pain Cream is not any better than taking a couple of Tylenol (or any other topical cream) for relieving your arthritis pain. Given the bombardment by these products on Rewind TV, I can’t begin to guess how many of my fellow citizens are suffering from these maladies.
Finally, the ASPCA and the ACLU make numerous appeals between 9 & 11 p.m on Rewind TV. Both (quite worthy) organizations ask for $19.00 a month (“only 63 cents a day”). Even non-profits that don’t advertise on Rewind TV (St. Jude’s & Shriner’s Hospital, for example) are also asking for $19.00 a month --- as if there’s some magic in not asking for $20.00? Whatever . . . the ASPCA runs a heartbreaking video of poor animals (mostly dogs) who have withstood abominable treatment and conditions --- making you consider that $19.00 a month, even if you can’t afford it!! The ACLU simply lays out their “protect our rights” case directly and logically --- and then ask for $19.00 a month, the magic number.
Given what’s been presented here: Time-Share Relief, Tax Relief, “medical mistakes,” diabetes, heart attacks, Life Insurance, Plexaderm, the ASPCA and the ACLU --- who would you say is watching Rewind TV weekdays from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m?