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Crawling Through Hollywood

12 Aug, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

It took nearly 100 years, but I think they have finally come up with the most annoying device in broadcast history.

I'm referring to the station ID bugs, banners, crawlers and other animated graphics that networks now feel compelled to stamp into the corner of the TV screen over every broadcast. It's the TV equivalent of interminable pop-up ads on the Web.

By far the most intrusive one I've seen yet is the helicopter on TNN, announcing the impending change of identity to Spike TV. It's a yellow-green helicopter that rises from the bottom of the screen, crosses about a third of the way up and swings a searchlight around to show a drive-in movie type screen, also about a third of the screen height, with the message on it.

Thank the TV gods the only stuff I watch on this channel is coming out on disc. I can barely tolerate an episode of the once-enjoyable “Highlander” series on TV because of an ugly, oversized graphic that obscures everything from swordplay to hot romantic scenes. Not to mention the absurd contrast of a police chopper flying across a screen that's playing out a scene recalled from the Scottish highlands of the 17th or 18th Century.

This may be how Hollywood's battle to squash Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) like TiVo and Replay TV backfires in a big way, to the benefit of packaged video dealers. Because like Web pop-ups, once you know a site will feed you a bunch of them, you find other places to get what you want sans the clutter.

I'm sure the reason we all have to endure those in-your-face TV graphics is because the networks are terrified of a few hundred thousand ad-skippers. Since they skip over the promos, the networks have to force-feed their messages to all of us from every nook and cranny of the screen during the program.

That hideous TNN helicopter is enough to send me scurrying for Anchor Bay's “Highlander” boxed sets (just the first two seasons are yet available) and Paramount's “CSI” set (season one is out, season two streets Sept.2).

In case you aren't listening, network programmers, that means I'm not only skipping your ads, I'm skipping your programming as well.

It used to be something you heard only when a group of friends was deciding what movie to see in a theater. But at this rate, the new TV series mantra will have that familiar ring: “I'll wait for it to come out on video.”

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