COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | ROGER BROWN

Artificial ignorance: The TV is programming us

Spoiler Alert: I am not making any of this up.

A cable TV product offers to “change the way you look at television.” I immediately investigated, hoping it was a remote with only an “off” button. No such luck.

It turns out that the machine-learning crowd has created an adaptive tool that personalizes recommendations based on watching what you watch.

It’s television that programs us.

Either we have found a new definition of creepy or this is The Promised Land.

Eager to game the system, I consulted the channel lineup to see if I could create a profile that was the combination of Little Bo Peep and Ted Kaczynski, the serial killer who raged against people involved with modern technology.

The short answer is: Not a problem! This is something you can do at home.

A&E stands for “Arts and Entertainment” and offers programs including “Criminal Minds” and “Cement Heads.” Are these really different programs, and which one is Art and which one is Entertainment?

VH1 has “America’s Most Smartest Model,” in which no grammar was harmed (or used) in making the program. I yearned for “Real Housewives of Altoona” only to learn that there actually exists “Baseball Wives” and “Basketball Wives.” Somehow I can’t imagine what the playoffs will be like.

How can cable carry a network called Antenna TV? I found out the first program it aired was a “Three Stooges” short titled “Woman Haters.” The NFL, which also has its own network, should look into acquiring them, or at least Animal Planet.

Those who still doubt that the NCAA is a business should spend 48 hours straight watching either the Pac-12 or Southeastern Conference network.

Things you might not know about include HRTV, which covers horse racing, not human resources. Chiller TV, where every Friday is Friday the 13th, claims it is in 37 percent of households that have a TV (is there one that doesn’t?) .

The Liquidation Channel is not about bankruptcies or swimming pools.

Spanish language network Univision Deportes is not devoted to immigration reform.

“TruTV” is the new name for “CourtTV,” leaving open whether the truth and the courts have anything in common.

It seems like a lot of bandwidth could be saved by consolidating the Disney Channel, Baby TV, Toon TV, Cartoon Network and all three C-Span channels, as they are essentially the same programming.

And why do we need The Golf Channel in HD? Am I more likely to see the ball when the camera points at the sun after a drive off the tee?

Reality TV is an embarrassment. I am not saying we should bring back “Ozzie and Harriet.” I just want to live long enough for someone to say we should bring back “The Jerry Springer Show.” I then learned he is still on and I stopped questioning why our society is in a tailspin.

Occasionally, I wonder whether “Duck Dynasty” might be a reason to rethink the Taliban’s agenda. What did get canceled was “Dance Your Ass Off” on the Oxygen Channel. It was a weight-loss program. I guess that is just another war we won. It sort of gives new meaning to the idea of a shrinking audience.

The worst outrage is that TV has become a virus that has infected my computer. Every time I want to use a computer as God intended (which is to check weather.com) I get a blizzard of pop-ups, advertisements, videos and trailers.

Actually, as long as we have Oprah running “Iyanla Fix My Life,” it will be hard to pick the worst outrage in TV.

I still hold out hope for the perfect marriage between technology and media: Television that watches itself.



Brown is an investor and freelance writer residing in Alpine.

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