We watch... so you don't have to.

Faux Family Channel

Complaining about mind-numbingly bad TV commercials is a little bit like trying to hunt down a cockroach. You can lay down the roach traps and set off the foggers and fire-bomb your apartment, and maybe you'll take out a couple dozen of the little bastards. But no matter the strength of your pesticides or the fervor of your blood-lust, there's always going to be that one roach who survives, camped out on top of your Jell-o bowl... mocking you.

So it is with the unhappy few of us whose job it is to warn an unsuspecting populace that an abysmal TV commercial is now saturating the airwaves. We can rant and rave until our vocal cords are raw and bloody. We can fire off flare after flare to warn you of the oncoming inanity. We can shout and threaten and carry on until craven ad execs finally get it through their thick skulls to pull the offending commercial or risk a consumer backlash of New Coke-like proportions.

And it still doesn't matter. Because for every bad commercial that's driven from the air, another one rises up to take its place.

Case in point: A few months ago, us Vidiots whetted our rhetorical axes and proceeded to mash the commercials we found most offensive into a fine paste. For the most part, our guerrilla campaign was a success -- Isuzu's hateful Amigo campaign, that damnable Inland Valley fries spot, the repulsive Triple Play '98 ad have all vanished without a trace. Oh sure, the Old Navy ads with their parade of hacks is still going strong. But rest assured, Eartha Kitt, your time is coming.

Well, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, having made the world safe to channel surf again. We toasted our good fortune with cheap Canadian whiskey and slapped each other on the back and had a grand old time... completely unaware that a far greater threat to humanity would soon assault the sense of unsuspecting TV viewers everywhere.

The Fox Family Channel ads.

Perhaps you've managed to escape the full-frontal horror of the Fox Group's ad campaign on behalf of its latest cable outlet. If so, count yourself among the lucky. Then, yank the cable out of the wall, sell the TV and run off to live in a moss-covered shack in the mountains. To do any less is to risk seeing the Fox Family Channel ad and to have your brain permanently scarred by the Fear.

The ad begins with a shot of a peppy young woman, apparently in the throes of a cocaine overdose.

"Have you heard about the new Fox Family Channel?" she screeches in a voice that sounds like gymnast Kerri Strug being stuffed in a blender. "No? OK! OK! It's like..."

And then this poor hopped-up banshee continues to squeal in increasing frantic tones about how "the Family Channel and Fox got married" and how they have "family programming but not dorky family programming." She shouts out "OK! OK!" with alarming frequency and runs around the set as if chased by demons that only she can see. Finally, her methamphetamine jag apparently on the wane, she stops spasming long enough to proclaim that the new Fox Family Channel is "Family programming for the new millennium!"

The new millennium, apparently, being unspeakably, cataclysmicly awful.

Bad enough that I have to watch this woman have one of her episodes on my TV. But the other day, I was driving to work, listening to sports talk radio as I am wont to do. And in between the ads for penile enlargement and hair replacement and offshore Internet gambling services came the horrible Fox Family Channel harpy, shrieking her siren's song about family programming for the new millennium.

I almost drove my Plymouth into a lamppost.

I know what the Fox folks were thinking. "We need something to let the people know that our new cable channel has energy, verve, moxie... Fox attitude, if you will. But how to convey that in a 30-second TV spot?"

"I know!" one of the junior Fox executives probably shouted after a good 10 minutes of soul-searching. "We'll shovel a fistful of pep pills down some broad's gullet and then film her ensuing narcotic episode."

"Brilliant!" the Fox head honcho thundered. "Now patch me together another one of them 'World's Deadliest Swarms' specials!"

Yes, I know what the Fox folks were thinking... and they are clearly wrong. No parent -- no right-thinking one, anyhow -- is going to see a commercial where a pathetic shell of a woman is in the apparent grip of Madness and think, "Now, that's the kind of channel I want to serve as a virtual baby-sitter to my offspring. Flip the TV to Fox Family Channel, honey, and bury the remote. I simply must see more of this enchanting harpy."

I'm not in the habit of pleading with rich, powerful TV tycoons. They've managed to amass large quantities of cash and liquor without my help, thank you very much, and they'll probably continue to do so long after I'm buried in an unmarked grave in a potter's field. But Fox executives... if you have any sense of human decency, you will yank the drug-crazed woman off your Fox Family Channel ads forthwith.

The woman makes me think of crazy things, Fox executives... crazy, unnatural, violent things. And I suspect I'm not alone. Poll a random sampling of the tired souls unfortunate enough to have seen the Fox Family Channel ads, and you'll find that, to a man, everyone is wishing a horrible fate upon your screeching spokeswoman and the people who employ her.

So please... please, Fox executives. Do the right thing. Bound and gag the shrill Fox Family harpy before she causes more traffic accidents, splitting headaches and broken homes. Stop her now before our nation's emergency rooms are flooded with people who have driven knitting needles into their ears in a vain effort to stop the horrible squawking that haunts them day and night. Haul that horrible woman on to your "World's Funniest" program so that a smiling James Brown can pour industrial sealant down her throat, drowning out her hideous shrieks forever.

Now, there's family programming for the new millennium.


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