Really Uncompelling Broadcasting

We could have asked the bartender to change the channel.

But we didn’t.

Why? Why?

So my colleague and I were out trying to track down a client and we stopped off at a local restaurant for some lunch. We bellied up to the bar and ordered our food.

16009454716_9380e31342_b_boring-televisionThat was when we noticed the NFL Super Bowl Venue Selection Committee Meeting on the TV. This may not have been the precise actual name of the entity that was in session. But, there it was on the TV, live and in high-definition color. Picture a large room in a hotel or convention center somewhere, with a bunch of old white dudes, with a handful of white women and black dudes, in suits, sitting in very comfortable-looking chairs along long folding injection-molded banquet tables, all with their tablets or other electronic gadgets and variously binders and loose paper notes propped up in front of them, mostly sort of talking to each other while they stared at their screens or got up to drop off ballots at the head table. Periodically, the NFL Commissioner took a podium and announced the results of the various votes.

This riveting action was interspersed with shots of other groups of mostly older mostly white mostly dudes sitting around other hotel conference rooms decorated blandly but for either a single football helmet (for Atlanta and Miami) and jerseys (for Los Angeles), with the ones from Atlanta, Miami1 South Florida, and Los Angeles variously standing up and patting one another on the back as their venues were awarded future Super Bowls through 2021.

This was not compelling television. It was dull, dull, dull. Yet we watched it.

I was reminded of a time way back in law school when my then-roommate found C-SPAN video of then-Vice President Al Gore doing a demonstration of this new thing called the “internet,” which consisted of a camera pointed at Gore sitting in front of a computer, typing. Occasionally he’d say, “Oh, look, here’s a fellow from Kansas City, Missouri! He wants to trade recipes for making barbecue ribs with me.” But Gore was mostly silent as he typed, staring blankly at the computer screen and very occasionally smirking. To recap: Al Gore, typing. For an hour.

And yet we watched it.

What’s the least compelling television that you’ve watched for a longer-than-you-really-want-to-admit period of time?


Image by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

  1. I guess you aren’t supposed to call it that anymore for some reason. []

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42 thoughts on “Really Uncompelling Broadcasting

  1. I once found myself watching an entire episode of Saved By the Bell.

    To this day, I cannot begin to explain why I didn’t change the channel or turn the TV off.


  2. The Weather Channel.
    For hours.
    Without knowing what the weather forecast in *MY* area is, because I always have my attention turned elsewhere during that segment.


  3. The third day of the NFL draft. I didn’t actually watch it, but it was on, droning away. And every half hour or so I’d take a look at the ticker to see if the team I cared about was coming up soon so that I could watch for a minute and a half.

    In my defense, my team’s front office is unusually interesting at the tail end of the draft and the scramble for free agents that immediately follows it. And not in a “trade up into the second round in order to draft a kicker who would have been available with either of the two picks we gave up” sense.


  4. Once upon a time, there was an internet thing called the internet multicast backbone (the “Mbone”). One of the things the Mbone was used for was live multicasts of audio and video. Some multicasts were of interest to technical people (eg, IETF meetings). Some multicasts were of interest to a wider audience (eg, the view out of a lab window somewhere in Florida as a hurricane passed through, until the power went out). One day Vice President Gore was announcing a batch of new internet funding, and the announcement was multicast. The same day, a researcher multicast a video feed from her apartment because her cat had had surgery and she wanted to keep an eye on it. By accident, the cat video was accessible globally. By the end of the day, hundreds of people around the world were watching low-quality video of a black cat wearing a “cone of shame” take naps. VP Gore’s audience peaked at something less than a hundred.


    • Remember back in the early 2000s that college student who set up an early webcam in her dorm room and just left it on? People were obsessed with this. They would have it running on a window on their computers all day. This seemed to me like an awfully big commitment for the chance to maybe see her naked.


  5. I was skiing with a bunch of people who insisted in having CNN on constantly, my explantion that staying informed was different from being made stupider notwithstanding. The thing that stuck out as the worst was a panel of third-rate TV pundits debating whether it was offensive that some black celebrity had used the N word. (Spoiler: it was, by a vote of several white pundits to one black pundit.)


  6. My FIL, on visiting us once, sat and watched hour after hour of Blue Bloods and the ilk. Then, when I go visit my father, CSI of some variation. Hour after hour after hour… (not sure about this whole retirement thingy… though they both have had some medical issues that have forced them to slow down.)


    • At least that was setting up something, at least in the director’s cut. Try the last 90 minutes of “The Last Temptation of Christ”. Full disclosure, I think the first 90 minutes are the just about best movie that currently exists about the early days of Jesus. Just throw away the second tape, or disc, or whatever.


      • I actually liked the last half-hour or so of the movie and could’ve done away with the rest. But that’s just me.

        (That’s also my view of the novel. It could have been a more compelling (for me) long short story that focused only on the end-sequence. By the time I got there, I was almost fed up with the novel.)


      • It felt like 90 minutes of walking and talking and then they did a “Woh Bundy!” and declared themselves the fellowship and I said, “Wow… A whole movie just to form their little group for the later movies?” And someone said, “That’s only the first half of this movie.” And I left the room.


        • I can respect that. Unlike Batman or Spider-Man, though, I don’t think that significant streamlining would actually help. In Tolkein’s vision, the Shire is as much a character as any of the people, and setting that up just inherently takes a lot of screen time.


      • The Pontius Pilate scene is worth the price of admission!

        I’ll grant that the movie has some pacing problems but the choice is between being faithful to the book and speeding things up and, no matter what, you’re going to be stuck making a choice that will disappoint many.

        Now I’m thinking about how I thought “these temptations are so much better than the temptations presented in the Bible!” during Kazantzakis’s wilderness scene and I thought that that reflected poorly on the Bible’s wilderness scene rather than “how much have we, as a society, changed that we see these temptations as better than those in the Bible?”

        How much have we, as a society, changed that we see the second half of Last Temptation as dull and throwaway?


        • I think that my take on it is that I liked the little things, down at a detail level – like the scene with Pilate – more than the big things. So the narrative arc that gets us to the denouement is more compelling to me than what actually happens once we get there.


  7. Infomercial for a convection oven. Although I was like eight years old, and the idea of cooking a whole turkey in under an hour was legitimately fascinating to me. So I’m not sure that counts.


  8. This is the great evil of televisions in bars and restaurants. It could be showing whatever sport in the world I’m least interested in; it could be showing Ron MacLean and Don Cherry in a ridiculous suit sitting at a desk silently moving their mouths – if it’s in my line of sight I’ll end up watching it, rather than looking at and conversing with the people I’m sitting with, who are invariably more interesting than Don Cherry’s suit.

    Lots of pubs have boards or signs outside advertising the fact that they have this or that sport event on the TVs. I suspect that there is probably a niche for a bar devoted to conversations with your actually present companions, with a sign outside that says “There are no televisions at all in this bar”.

    Also this is pretty funny.


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