Column: And now a word from our sponsors
WORTHINGTON -- I was asked, "What was the best thing that happened to you in 2011?" What was the worst thing?
I can never answer those questions. For one thing, I never remember all the things that happened. Last March 24 I -- did what?
There was a moment sometime in October that clings in memory. I suppose I was watching television. I have cable. Suddenly the thought came to me, "Buddy, you're laying out $200 to $300 a year to watch TV commercials." It depends upon whether you think commercials fill one-third of all television time or one-half. (Commercials: TV people call them "messages.")
I watch network evening news. They claim to have news reporting through 22 of 30 minutes. I don't know. There are a lot of commercials. Anyway, lop off the introductions and the wrap ups and the hype for things to come after the next stream of commercials, there is no more than 21 minutes of news.
I grant there are commercials that get my attention. I enjoy the lanky guy in blue jeans and a cap who sells Fords. I thought the Chevrolet ads in the Christmas season were great. Santa Claus with a white shirt and a necktie is selling Chevys. One potential buyer tells Santa, "I really would like a Silverado." Santa wonders, "What would you do with it?" The guy says, "I hunt." Santa asks, "What do you hunt?" "Deer," says the guy, and then rolls his eyes toward Santa looking both sheepish and apologetic.
There are commercials for things I don't understand. I don't know what they are selling. There are the endless drug commercials beamed through a country where drugs are a huge concern. (Take a drug; you'll feel good.)
Do you remember George Fenneman, the announcer for Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life"? I know you remember Ed McMahon, announcer for Johnny Carson. There used to be men -- Fenneman, McMahon -- who made princely incomes by announcing. They had rare, fine voices and they worked hard at speaking and pronouncing words clearly and precisely.
Now it seems anyone may be an announcer. I grant you my ears are not the world's finest, but there are people talking on television I don't understand. I hear only half of what that pretty young woman selling Progressive insurance is saying. Sherunswordstogether.
I don't understand Geico's green worm. Now Geico commercials feature a pig. I don't understand the pig. I watch commercials for Zoosk and Orbitz. I don't know what they are.
We were talking lately about early days of television at Worthington. Did Worthington first have TV in 1950 or 1952?
We first got television in 1955 and there weren't many along our street that had TV at that time. You needed an antenna mounted on the roof, of course. The antennas creaked in the winds. I think we could get two Sioux Falls stations. That was it. Installing and repairing TV antennas was a business. Bob Anderson had a fine antenna business on Oxford Street.
Pictures were black and white. Screens were small. And then -- depending on weather conditions -- there sometimes was nothing but white splotches and buzzing. "Nothing but snow on TV last night," people would report.
I don't recall the first programs we watched but (oddly) I think I remember the first commercial. It was for Oxydol. There were boxes of Oxydol around our house for as long as I could remember. Suddenly there was a glowing box of Oxydol in the living room, filling the little screen. I think I laughed at that. Smiled anyway.
Now I lay out hundreds of dollars each year to watch commercials. Messages. I pay to see those twin bathtubs down at the lake's edge. A peep show.
I hear people talk of corporate greed. This caused me to look up some figures. The most recent seem to be from 2010. Television networks do well:
"...Overall, CBS reported fourth quarter revenue of $3.90 billion, up 11 percent over the same period in 2009...NBC Universal's quarterly revenue rose 12 percent to $4.8 billion...Fox, NBC, ABC, CW and CBS took in approximately $21.7 billion in 2010, a 5.3 percent increase over 2009..." *
*Totals include my monthly contributions.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.