Evening-News Tomfoolery


Even though one try mightily to escape the commercials during the evening newscasts on television – working crosswords, humming a mantra, trying handsprings over the kitchen table, doing a little kazoo practice, laughing at the anchor’s new hair color, etc. – those awful messages of commerce come through. Admittedly, however, these messages sometimes are so inadvertently funny that they furnish a welcome relief from the rantings of the elitist anchors and the windblown performances of reporters silly enough to stand in a freezing rain just to – what – prove he/she is actually where seen (or claimed) to be? All this exercise proves, of course, is that anyone dumb enough to expose himself to the elements for no good reason lacks the credibility to be taken seriously, ergo, a quick switch to another channel, only to find the same sort of silly people doing the same off-the-wall stuff, such as standing in a snowstorm and talking about a Supreme Court ruling. Egad!!!

Of course, much of the news stuff is about as silly. On the CBS clambake of the 14th, the first segment had to do with the fact that terrorism can be carried out almost anywhere in this country. Roughly speaking and admittedly without any statistical proof, the claim is made herein that this breaking news was something that a third-grader has known for quite some time. All the usual shots of relaxed people identified as soft targets most everywhere (in the park eating lunch and feeding the pigeons, for instance) and air marshals jumping into action accompanied the piece, the obvious conclusion being that Monday was a slow day for news.

It got a bit sillier, however. On the screen flashed a reporter outside somewhere (naturally), although memory can’t actually claim this as a fact, only as a certainty, delivering solemnly the world-shaking information that Karen Hughes is going to – get this – have a new job in the administration in an effort designed to permeate the world with the goal of HUMANIZING the Administration’s policies. Yes, humanize! Naturally, this led the viewer to wonder who de-humanized the policies in the first place…or perhaps wonder if the policies originated in the Washington zoo, perhaps conceived by a consortium of loons, written down by the chimps, and announced to the world by the hyenas, probably laughing all the while and wondering which of their fellow inmates would be chosen to animalize the administration’s policies. It was, of course, a bit of Rather redux.

Interspersed with segments of this kind of silliness are the commercials, the latest craze being advertisements for prescription drugs. There was a time when only the over-the-counter drugs were advertised, but that time is long gone. Where once a viewer could suffer with the guy squirming his hemorrhoid-cursed way through a movie, with no side effects suggested as a reason he might reconsider the treatment advertised as the equivalent of the biblical balm in Gilead, the viewer is now regaled with accounts of wonder drugs prescribed only by a physician and then reminded of all the terrible side effects that could occur if the drug is used. If the drug should be a statin (for heart patients), the viewer is reminded that everything from gangrenous hangnails to paralyzing diarrhea to the collapse of muscles could result if the drug is used. The disclaimer, of course, is necessary to assure against lawsuits resulting from use of the drug; actually, it only gives the user more and greater grounds upon which to sue everybody from the drug-maker to the doctor to the TV people who advertised the stuff, in the first place.

The logical question: Why advertise to the general public a product accessible only upon a doctor’s permission? Shouldn’t this kind of advertising appear only in doctors’ journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, or something like that? Well…yes. The logical answer: Money! Patient tells doctor what he wants. Doctor writes prescription. Bingo! If the advertisement is for a procedure rather than a medicine, such as the popular stomach-stapling procedure to hasten weight loss, the disclaimers appear, naturally – everything from intestinal distress to emotional distraughtness, not to mention the not-mentioned possible bankruptcy accruing to impossible outlays of cash for new clothes. Seeing people drop 175 pounds in a few months is enough to warm the hackles of any tailor or dressmaker…maybe even the undertaker in the event things come unstapled and the spleen exchanges locations with the tonsils.

One remembers the outcry of the feminist groups when Medicare agreed to pay for erectile dysfunction medicines for men (mostly called lecherous old codgers) while disallowing payments for birth control pills for the ladies. This was laughable but not nearly as funny as the TV erectile-dysfunction ads themselves, which warn that anyone suffering heart ailments, for instance, should consult the doctor. The medicine can’t be gotten without a doctor’s prescription, in the first place, so this is a double-disclaimer and doubly dangerous to doctors since the drug-maker explicitly warns men taking nitrates (heart patients) NOT to take the medicine. The TV ads include, besides the portrayals of couples in paroxysms of ecstasy (or the leering expectations of same), the warning that a man experiencing more than fours of erection should see a doctor immediately. FOUR HOURS!!! A guy goes to the local emergency room in that shape and maybe scares everybody witless either on his way there or, if not arrested first, when he arrives? If he should cash in his chips on the way…well, what can an undertaker do but use a chisel? Literature concerning the medicine mentions that the pill takes a little longer to kick in after a fatty meal (hamburger and french fries), so, obviously, MacDonald’s is out if ecstasy is to be the main course of the evening.

And then there are the painkillers that are all the vogue now…or at least were until, instead of killing the pain in some arthritic-cursed folks, it was admitted that they killed the pain by killing the folks or turning their insides into masses of messes, depending upon whether the heart or the intestinal tract was administered the medicinal coup de grace. Once TV becomes the vehicle of advertising, complete with its amazing visual images that enhance the written and spoken word, the viewer is hooked, certain that while he is still on earth he has found heaven, nirvana, the happy hunting ground, or some other paradise, maybe where all the Moonies go. The old codger is/was shown digging his golf clubs out of the attic, or the old codger and his wife are seen cavorting on the beach like teenagers without a care or, more importantly, a pain in the world…the stuff of ’57 Chevy convertibles and six hot dogs at a sitting. Just get the friendly doc to write that magic prescription and launch into a second or third or fourth childhood, never mind the normal aging process. This definitely is not laughable.

So…in the final analysis, maybe it’s better to stick with the over-the-counter potions that may actually work or are simply elixirs. People find out soon enough which is which. Television is a study in contradictions, as also proven by the ads that have nothing to do with medicine but much to do with life. See the happy-go-lucky college kids boozing it up in that Coors commercial and having the time of their lives, for instance, and then take in the news segment following the ad showing a similar happy-go-lucky bunch of boozers being pried out of a wrecked car in various stages of pain or of dying.

It’s the Evening-News Tomfoolery, stupid! Get it? Television, thy name is “profit at all costs!”