To paraphrase an old joke about hockey, I watched hours of promotion for new primetime TV shows over the weekend, and it was rudely interrupted by football.
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Without entirely falling victim to gender stereotypes, men make up the primary audience for football, which explains all those mouth-watering beer ads. Women, by contrast, watch a disproportionate share of primetime television, and — according to Nielsen data — are far more likely to commit to series.
As you might have heard, the new TV season officially begins this week, which has ratcheted up promotion for new and returning programs to frenzied levels. Yet the relatively modern wrinkle that drives me batty is having announcers read plugs for the shows in the middle of games, occasionally pretending as if they’re just dying to rush home and watch them.
Any audience is precious these days, and football draws a ton of viewers. As a consequence, football fans can’t be allowed to enjoy whatever game it is they’re watching in peace. Indeed, because the networks pay so much for football, they have to help justify that expense by using these expansive showcases as a platform to advertise (and advertise some more) their entertainment lineups.
Simply from a practical standpoint, I question the wisdom of allocating promotional time to programs with scant male appeal — ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” say — along with the benefits of having play-by-play men handle those chores.
It goes without saying an announcer’s job now includes reading an ungodly amount of ad copy during games. Still, there are those blurbs that make sense — such as “Stay tuned for the Sprint halftime show,” or watch the big college football showdown this Saturday — and those that sound faintly ridiculous.
“We’re told no one loves the thrill of a chase more than U.S. Marshal Annie Frost,” a miserable-sounding Al Michaels said about NBC’s new series “Chase” during “Sunday Night Football,” leaving you to wonder who told him that.
Later, the announcer offered with about as much conviction, “’The Event’ is almost here. You’ll want to see it.” Maybe you will, but I suspect Michaels doesn’t give a rip about it.
He’s hardly alone. CBS seems to toss out more in-game pitches than anybody, forcing the likes of Greg Gumbel (“There’s more to love with the new comedy ‘Mike & Molly’”), Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist to tout shows it’s hard envisioning them watching.
During the Florida vs. Tennessee game on Saturday, Lundquist delivered spiels for the new sitcom pronounced “Bleep My Dad Says” and “The Big Bang Theory,” even though the 70-year-old announcer probably isn’t part of the target audience the network had in mind.
“Catch the wave,” Nantz enthused about “Hawaii Five-0” on Sunday, prompting color man Phil Simms to add weakly, “I liked that show when I was a kid,” which would be great if CBS wasn’t doing all it could to push the notion that this flashy update isn’t your father’s “Five-0.”
To his credit, Joe Buck played it straight by talking up FOX’s new Monday tandem of “Lone Star” and “House,” but the copy as written — “An all-new season of shocks, surprises and a premiere that will have everyone talking” — nearly tied even his golden tongue into knots.
Admittedly, this might sound like a silly pet peeve, but the practice is emblematic of a more irritating trend — the belief (and certainly the hope) fans are so addicted to their preferred sports that no amount of embedded promotion will chase them away. Besides, football ratings are through the roof this season, so it’s easy to conclude viewers don’t resent the steady downpour.
Maybe they’re right, but I doubt I’m the only one annoyed by it.
So let’s make a deal: If the networks take pity on their announcers and stop making them read stupid ad copy for their shows, those of us who just want to watch some football will agree to say less bleep about you.