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TV Yesterdays

Love Network

Considering we only caught the last half hour of the MDA telethon, why do I want to comment on it? Especially, why am I pushing off other posts I wanted to write in order to do this? Partly, I guess, because of the great comments on the telethon that Mark Evanier provides. My comment is that what with Jerry having mellowed out considerably in his autumn years, there’s one thing that consistently annoys me about the presentation, and it’s on the local cutaways.

I suspect most of the nation now can only see the telethon on the WGN Superstation feed, but I’d sure like to know if any other stations do this: during the local cutaway segment, where we go to your local studio and see the Boy scouts and firemen answering phones, the ‘GN folks announced the match challenge period from one of their big sponsors. As in, "Every pledge we receive during the next three minutes will be matched by our sponsor! $25 becomes $50! $50 becomes $100!"

All fine and dandy, but they demark this match challenge by shrinking the live picture into a corner so there’s room for the sponsor’s logo and a three-minute countdown clock and then…

  • The live picture becomes jumpy and stuttery, like the picture-in-picture function on a TV set. But I’m sure this a special effect chosen by the production crew, because:
  • Most of the live feed is now shown by the should-mounted news cameras, whose operators keep zooming in and out, tilting back and forth, panning way too fast, like a bunch of 13 year olds playing with a Fisher-Price Pixelvision. Maybe they think this effect will hypnotize us into calling in a pledge.
  • Once the three minute countdown gets to about five seconds, they fade the clock off the screen for a few seconds, then fade it back in, and presto! It’s starting again from three minutes. The same cheap trick they use on infomercials urging us to "call within the next ten minutes" for a "special offer" that’s really being extended to anybody, anytime.
  • To really get us in the mood to send in our money, during this match period they run a music bed that for the past 16 years has featured "Gonna make You Sweat" by C+C Music Factory played over… and over… and over. Does this 1990 chestnut stir anything in anybody’s breast besides extreme ennui these days?

In the interest of disclosure, I have to admit that we did not phone in to pledge, so in some regards, we really don’t have the right carp about it. We did, of course, throw some change in the fireman’s boot here and there, but finances have kept us pretty tight these days. But the MDA telethon is after all, a landmark of our culture, and very soon that’ll be gone, too.

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