On one hand, you have to understand where they're coming from. Television stations want you to watch their shows, but in order to finance production of those shows stations need you to watch advertising.
On the other hand, as a viewer, we all know commercials suck. The vast majority of them aren't creative, every other commercial is a lame car ad, and it gets old being told you need to buy things you really don't need.
So you can see how the invention of devices such as TiVo and cable company-supplied digital video recorders leaves television stations in a bind. They want you to watch the show, but they also need you to watch the ads.
I say this because my TiVo broke.
Normally I don't watch a lot of television, at least not a lot of non-sports-related shows. If I run across a good prison documentary marathon on the National Geographic Channel, I'll be hooked. Should I stumble across a "Victory at Sea" run, I'll hop aboard. But very rarely do I go out of my way to watch a television show.
Except for the ones I "TiVo" (how often does a trademarked name become a verb anyway?). I'm hooked on trashy reality shows. "I Love New York" might be the single greatest argument for completing one's education this country has ever seen, and if it's not then "Flavor of Love," which spawned "I Love New York," certainly is.
"America's Most Smartest Model" won't split the atom, and neither will "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequlia" (I swear that's a real show), wherein both male and female contestants vie to win the affection and two-month love of their life affair with a bisexual whose famous because...I have no idea. Don't even get me started on "Rock of Love."
The thing is, I would never go out of my way to watch these shows. I don't even know what time they're on. But my TiVo knows, or at least it knew until the motherboard fried. And because my TiVo knew, I watched them, sans commercials of course.
It's specifically because I don't have to watch the ads that I watch these shows, so I'm sort of doing the network a half a favor: I'm watching their products, but I'm not subjecting myself to inane advertisements. In other words I'm buying the product without paying for it.
In an attempt to get around this, networks have taken to starting shows three minutes early, or late; they run shows at 34 minutes in length or shows start at the quarter hour. Real difficult maneuvers to figure out.
I've been out of the loop since my TiVo went down. Apparently a DSL line anywhere in the same zip code as a TiVo will burn up the motherboard, so thankfully the company is replacing it for free.
Until then, I'll continue spending my nights reading books, playing guitar, watching movies, maybe a prison doc if I find one. Because if I have to sit through advertisements in order to watch shows I'm too embarrassed to admit in person that I watch, I'm not watching.
That's the conundrum facing television stations and advertisers. Because I'm not the only one.
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