Hurtful truths of TV adland

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
You can learn a great deal from television. For instance, I have recently discovered an interesting mathematical absolute. The number of decent programmes is always constant, no matter how many channels we get.

This has recently been proven by the splitting of Channel 4 into E4 (which costs) and Bore 4 (which no one would pay for). Both are only half as good as old C4, but this isn't surprising. Every new channel has to take a smaller share of quality programming.

Last month I finally gave in to the Offspring Lobby over digital. As the girls have seen most of their "faves" hived off to non-terrestial stations I knew I'd couldn't hold out much longer. Hitherto I'd not been able to imagine what kind of person needed 30 channels to help him make it through the night but thanks to my digibox I now have daily Simpsons, reruns of Frasier and Hill St Blues plus the brand new Ally McBeal.

Unfortunately I've also discovered something very depressing. As a Simpsons fan I'd thought myself cool swapping Homer's catchphrases with my kids. I first cught this show on BBC2 where it seemed witty and iconoclastic. But watching The Simpsons on Sky I've begun to notice how many ads for flatulence are transmitted during the commercial break.

What does this tell us about the average audience? Bunch of middle-aged farts? Worried, I've started looking more closely at the ads. Ally McBeal has been running compassionate appeals for impotent males to see their doctors while Hill St Blues offers unsecured loans and no doubt pretty soon Frasier is going to start promoting walk-in baths!

Young Tom's only programme at the moment, Robot Wars, is on BBC2 so we'll never get to see the demographics of that audience. Were it on commercial no doubt the breaks would be targetted by anorak manufacturers. Whereas Sarah and Ginny are big fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sex and the City, which means they get ads with perky actresses who say "Cos I'm worth it". My programmes seem to be for men who say "Cos I'm a flatulent, penniless sexual has-been." I think you can learn too much from television.

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