There’s not much TV in my life these days. I’m bored with cop and detective and legal shows. I worked in hospitals so I don’t watch Doc-dramas. NOVA is still good stuff. I do watch some sports; oddball Euro stuff like bike racing, soccer, and just about anything that involves sliding down snow and ice covered mountains in winter. I watch a little basketball, tennis, a bit of golf, and the odd football game. Of course, at 7:00 pm, I do not miss Jeopardy, and I will admit to a Big Bang Theory problem that may require a 12 Step Program, but in the main, if the TV is on for more than sixty minutes a day with me in front of it and paying attention, that’d be a shocker.
It wasn’t always this way. I can still quote lines from WKRP in Cincinnati. Bob Newhart in both Chicago and Vermont. M*A*S*H. L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues. I used to be able to do the TV Guide crossword puzzle in the loo in the time it took to drop the kids at the pool. But today, the chances of me completing that puzzle in the WC is about the same as the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl. Unless I had a huge bowl of native hot Pad Thai. But I digress.
What has changed? It’s the screaming. I turn on The Today Show and what do I see? A camera races around the Plaza outside their studio and everyone, from age 6 to 86, is jumping and screaming like tween girls at a Bieber concert. I hit the mute, and go back to reading 4 newspapers on my laptop. At the 9 o’clock hour, I turn the sound back on. Al, Willie, Tamron, and Natalie are shouting over each other, no doubt in response to a producer in their ear who urges them to “get on in there.” I like these people, at least the part of themselves they show us on TV, but goodness, can just one, maybe two people talk at a time?
I flip to a home repair channel. A handsome young man shouts at the camera as he helps a young couple renovate their yard. The couple screams in glee at their friends who have come over to help. Shouting aside, the made-over yard looks great.
Over on Food Network, some tall and handsome guy wanders a carnival and shouts at the camera about the glories of churros, funnel cakes, and batter fried meats on sticks. The food looks good, damn good. But good lord, stop screaming at me.
Maybe there’s life on ESPN? Nope, Skip Bayless and Stephan A. Smith shout at each other about Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat and his blood clot problems. Hmm, neither one of you has access to Bosh’s health history, and I’ll wager that neither one of you has done much research on pulmonary emboli and deep vein thromboses. Ergo, stop bellowing at each other.
It’s just so damn noisy out there. Everyone is shouting to be heard. Here’s something that I learned as a coach and teacher. If the person in the front of the room raises his or her voice to be heard over the crowd noise, he or she is heard for a few minutes. But what happens? The crowd comes back a little noisier. And the person at the front raises the voice some more. And the crowd gets noisier still. Pretty soon, everyone is shouting at maximum volume and no one is heard over the babel and cacophony.
Here’s an idea. Stop using volume to gain attention. It doesn’t work anymore. We’re all at our maximum. When everyone has turned their “Look at Me!” volume control dial up to 11, no one can cut through the tumult.
Why not try substance and quality? Be funnier. Be more clever. Be more engaging. Be more talented and offer content that is the most useful in its genre. Do not think that you can make up for crap content by waving your hands at the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, hitting 110 decibels, and doing a bazillion jump cuts every minute.
What, exactly, am I saying? Simple: Do not confuse noise with quality.
I’m not saying “Get off my lawn.” In fact, I hereby offer you a permanent lawn chair and a chilled beverage under an umbrella.
If you’ll just stop the screaming.
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