Thursday, January 22, 2009

Convert this!

You know, TV is not a necessity. I mean, it’s hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t a TV in every room of every home but I can vaguely recollect a period in my life where there was only one television in the entire house and generally it was commandeered by my father who somehow managed to watch it in his sleep. Moreover, this was broadcast television and we only had access to four channels, three of which required extensive technical skills to properly tune. Unless you were my father, in which case he could punch or kick the TV until it did what he wanted.

I’ve heard stories of an era when there was no television and there weren’t even dinosaurs running around. Seriously. There are people alive today who lived without the comforting and informative din of television. Could you imagine that? No Tony Little infomercials at 3 am.

Ironically the people who lived without television for so long are the same people who are lamenting this new-fangled conversion to digital broadcasting. These people managed to suck the life out of the Federal program that provided coupons to help people purchase digital converter boxes for their televisions. Sadly, the majority of the people who acquired these boxes didn’t stop to consider the fact that they didn’t need them because they either had newer television sets that were digitally compatible or they were hooked up to digital cable already.

That’s the thing about old people; they love to get stuff on the cheap. Even if they don’t need it they will buy it if they think they are getting a good price. If Barack Obama wants to stimulate the economy he needs to figure out how to get old people onto Craigslist. As long as we find a way to keep them out of the Casual Encounters listings…that stuff is creepy enough as it is without catching a glimpse of granny's hooha.

It’s no surprise that the government ran out of money to fund the converter box program because the government used PSAs directed at old people to promote the program. You’ve probably seen them. One has an old biddy sitting by a pool with an ancient CRT floating on the water. She prattles on and on in a whiny old biddy voice about the digital conversion and how to get a coupon. The geezers watching probably don’t hear anything other than “free” and “coupon” but that’s all it takes. That and a toll free number. And of course it’s an 800 number because old people still don’t trust those fancy 888, or 866 numbers. I hate that old lady.

Of course they have an equally annoying PSA featuring a grouchy old coot standing in the middle of the desert. Now I suppose that there’s some sort of visual metaphor behind these commercials but I have to use too much brain power to connect the dots, so I’m pretty sure that old people aren’t getting it. If anything I imagine they’re getting worked up over the wrong things. “Get out of the desert! You’ll get dehydrated!” or “You can’t put a TV in a pool!”

I get pissed off because I know that the government forked over too much money to pay for those ads. As annoying as they are, there is some production value involved and that’s going to confuse the target audience. PSAs from the government are supposed to be severe and very blunt. Uncle SAM wants you to get a digital converter box. Then you make them go to an office in the nearest big city to pick it up. Old people are used to being inconvenienced. They like it. It makes them feel like they're doing their duty.

Two PSAs is excessive but I suppose that there are a bunch of old men out there who won’t take technical advice from a split tail and they needed to have a PSA featuring a woman so the retired old haus fraus would understand that they were allowed to fix their own TVs. It’s all so complicated and the worst part is that old people only tune to one channel and they never really watch it; they just nod off in front of the TV. That's a lot of effort so Aunt Esther can take her post-poop snooze.

And it doesn’t have to be that way. TV is not a necessity. It’s also not a right. When TV was first marketed the government didn’t implement a program to help people purchase them. You had to scrimp and save to buy your own and for that one brief moment in history the joke was on the rich bastards who could buy the TVs since there was only one show for the first 20 or 30 years of television. All Uncle Milty all the time. Boy, did I miss out.

So why are we all of the sudden worried about a handful of people who are still watching TV on the old black and white Zenith they bought in 1956? So what if their sets go dark later next month? Is it fair to hold back progress for everybody because a couple of people are going to be inconvenienced? Buy a new TV, gramps!

I know; a lot of these people are too poor or just not able to run out and buy a new set. So what? I don’t mean to sound heartless but people are denied food and medical attention all the time. Why the hell are we worried about TV?

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