"I guess I have a lot of problems, so many that I don't have time to go into them all in detail. Suffice it to say I'm anal, obsessive, vain, quick to temper, overly introspective, lazy, judgmental, insecure, and self-righteous. Probably the most annoying thing about me is that I'm hugely opinionated. But I kind of make up for that by always being right."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New! Improved! Crappier than Ever!

Though I watch a lot of television, for years my favorite feature of my Direct TV system was their commercial-free radio service. I especially liked their 50s & 60s classic rock station. After my divorce, when I was having trouble falling asleep at night, I would use this wonderfully upbeat music to drown out the voices in my head that kept telling me to kill my ex-wife and throw her body over a cliff out at Point Reyes so it would look like a hiking accident.

In a classic “Classic Coke” move, however, the powers that be at Direct TV have decided to make their TV service comparable to their radio service. Unfortunately, they decided to do this not by raising their TV standards, but by lowering their radio standards.

For one thing, they thought these commercial-free stations might be improved by adding commercials. What’s especially annoying is that the commercials they run are actually in-house promos for their own “programming.” What they fail to realize is that, in this day and age, nobody’s life is so vacuous that they actually plan to listen to a specific radio program.

The worst thing they decided to do, though, was use disc jockeys. I’m sure the program directors over at XM (the new service they’re using) convinced them that listeners prefer the personal touch of having an announcer chime in from time to time. The reason program directors believe this is that they either are, or once were, disc jockeys themselves. It would take years of intense therapy for them to ever be able to admit to themselves that what they do for a living is both useless and annoying.

What people want from radio announcers is to occasionally be connected to the outside world in real time. They want to know if something important has happened in the world. They want to know what the local weather is going to be. They want to hear the time, from time to time, and they want to know about any major traffic problems. XM disc jockeys provide none of this information, because the shows they pretend to host are actually recorded days before they’re broadcast. World War III could break out and it wouldn’t be announced on these stations. The disk jockeys would simply blather on, heard only by some cockroaches who actually stand a better chance of enjoying their sardonic rants than we do.

Also, the announcers, at least on the 50s and 60s stations, use that phony, over-the-top disc jockey voice that, as children, we found amusing, but, as adults, we just find annoying. Which points up another big problem with this new formatting. They refuse to let the music speak for itself, but, rather, demean it by marginalizing it as “nostalgia.” By constantly playing snippets from old TV shows, commercials and movies, by using such phrases as “sock hop,” and “pink and black days,” they’re basically saying that these songs are only about our memories surrounding them. If they really want take us back to those times, maybe they should dedicate a few songs to “you little ladies slaving over the stove,” or “all of you Commies over there in the Senate,” or “you black folks in the back of the bus.”

In the immortal words of Joni Mitchell, “They paved paradise to put up a shitty new radio service.”