Today I'll do nothing but watch daytime TV from 8 to 5, flipping channels in search of infomercials, soap operas, and court shows, intermixed with commercials for "career colleges" and weight loss "systems." No news, no reading. Nothing but network television (and occasional visits to my email account). My only companion for most of the day? A cat happy to have a warm body on the couch. Why am I doing this? Hard to say. I guess I'm just interested in the daytime television world that I generally never get a chance to see.
From time to time, I'll update this blog-post with Daytime Dispatches.
8:00: Let's start with an informercial for Hair Club for Men and Women.
8:07: Pat Walker describes life before Hair Club: "You're very uncomfortable going out. It's a windy day. You don't know if it's going to blow off. I'm a profuse sweater, right? It could just slide off. Then you pick up a kid. They grab it, it moves. It's like, enough already! There's got to be something better."
8:20: They keep showing the same montages of vital, cool looking guys riding jet-skis and motorcycles every five minutes or so. I suppose the idea is that few people actually watch an entire 30-minute commercial.
8:25: "Young or old. Man or woman. No matter what kind of hair-loss you have, Hair Club has a unique solution for you, guaranteed. No other company on the planet can make that claim."
8:30: Let's buy some cheap real estate with Real Estate Disposition Corporation!
8:32: Wendy Walsh, standing with one leg in front of the other to create an "hourglass effect," stifles her disgust about the the competition: "You've probably seen the advertising for real estate seminars and TV commercials selling strategies on how to get rich quick by buying and selling real estate..."
8:41: The benefit of buying a home at auction? "You set your own price! You are not at the mercy of a seller's unrealistic asking price."
8:45: I'm getting a little creeped out by how often Wendy emphasizes, "these are real auctions."
8:48: I think this is the third time I've seen that animated iron stamp marking "FORECLOSURE AUCTION" in red stencil font on my television: "Your attention please! This is a public auction notice!"
9:00: It's time for Judge Maria Lopez!
9:01: The first case: "A Terrible Tussle Over Some Toy"
9:03: Pete the Bailiff explains to Judge Lopez how iPods work.
9:07: Judge Lopez does a swell Jack Nicholson imitation over those horn-rimmed glasses.
9:15: A commercial explains, "Life doesn't always give you options. Meineke does."
9:16: I'm beginning to see a pattern in the next commercial: "Is there anyone out there who wants more choice? Is there anyone out there who wants more freedom? Is there anyone out there who wants to be treated with a little more respect? It's time to give choice - a voice. MoneyGram. The power is in your hands."
9:17: An urgent message from a law firm about Digitek: "Call today if you've taken any of these medications and experienced cardiac instability, heart palpitations, kidney failure, or death."
9:17: "Do you want to own a brand new HP, Dell, or other name-brand computer and improve your credit at the same time?"
9:25: "Are you a woman who feels taken advantage of by a man - and you want justice? If a man in your life took advantage of you, call 1-866-Maria 12."
9:30: Let's switch over to Judge Hatchett. It's a special intervention into the life of a 17-year old sex addict.
9:34: Kimberly keeps a list of the 22 sex partners she's had from 15 to 17.
9:38: A business-suited man stares into my soul: "You need to see the dentist, or maybe your child needs braces. But you've put it off because your gasoline or living expenses are so high." Those folks at Western Dental really understand.
9:42: Judge Hatchett lays down the law on Kimberly: "You are playing Russian Roulette with your life." It's time for a Reality Check.
9:44: At last, the bearded dude from OxiClean!
9:45: Hmmm. Another trend: "Are you a woman who feels taken advantage of by a man - and you want justice? If a man in your life took advantage of you, call 1-866-Hatchett."
9:51: Kimberly attends a sex-addicts anonymous meeting, but we don't.
9:52: After her intervention, Kimberly seems poised to leave a life of skankdom
9:53: A woman wearing white dances in slow motion while installing a Glade air freshener.
9:58: Judge Hatchett is going to help Kimberly learn about her future career as a child advocate: "I expect greatness!"
9:59: Choices, choices. The People's Court, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, or The Price is Right?
10:00: "Come on down!"
10:01: Drew Carey, huh? I miss Bob Barker.
10:02: Drew notes that the first successful contestant, Morgan, isn't wearing some sort of slogan on her shirt.
10:05: Morgan loses, paying too much for a pair of scooters. But at least she gets a souvenir oversized check.
10:06: I think I've switched audiences. Commercials are now for AARP, a multivitamin, and a calcium supplement.
10:08: Poor Drew Carey. He looks like he'd rather be anywhere but here.
10:10: The crowd lustily boos when a kid (his t-shirt slogan reads "Show Me The Money") overpays for Gold Bond cream.
10:15: The next contestant looks like she's about to leap out of her low-cut blouse. Yikes!
10:20: I can tell it's going to be a long day. They keep showing those danged Progressive Insurance commercials on each channel I watch.
10:21: At last, the first commercial for a power chair from The Scooter Store!
10:27: Dude! The poor college dude bid one dollar over the price of that electric guitar!
10:36: Alex Trebek speaks to people "our age," 50 to 85: "You may know me from TV, but I'm also a husband and father with family responsibilities just like you. So I understand the importance of life insurance. I have it myself." And yet for some reason he never looks into the camera. He sits on a "soundstage" with monitors that show him from various angles, always slightly off center. I imagine that the effect aims for some sort of "authenticity." We know he's shooting a commercial, he's not actually talking to us. Maybe that makes his pitch more honest.
10:42: Ahh, good old Wilford Brimley.
10:48: "Bye Bye ooze. Hello Sea-bond."
10:49: Dixie Plates promise to remove the guilt: "I will no longer be defined by the number of dishes I wash . . . I deserve a paper plate that's as strong as I am . . . My children come first, it's as simple as that, and I'm proud to use Dixie Ultra Paper Plates if it means fewer dishes and spending more time with my family."
10:57: I'm feeling "young" and "restless." Is there anything on TV that can help me?
11:00: "So my father is wanted for murder..." I don't think I've ever seen an episode of The Young and the Restless. But based on the first words of today's episode, I like it!
11:04: Guys with greasy hair and two-day beards. Nice.
11:06 "The Young and the Restless. This portion sponsored by: Caduet."
11:07: "Venus believes every woman is a goddess of something. Embrace your inner goddess with new Venus Embrace!"
11:23: I have no idea who these people are on The Young and the Restless, but that woman with the snippy attitude and the pulled-back hair seems shifty. I just don't trust her.
11:35: I wonder how many minutes of this show are spent in fancy restaurants?
11:39: A lover's quarrel on The Young and the Restless: "You are a very sick man." "Sick for you!"
11:51: Is it me, or do many characters on this show look like cast-offs from Friends?
12:00: Oh. Yes. It's Time for Jerry Springer. The first sound effect? A flushing toilet.
12:01: "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!"
12:03: I love how Jerry interviews a guest who has been dating a woman online for four months, as if he has no clue that the guest is about to meet . . . waiting . . . waiting . . .
12:04: A transsexual! Wow, what a surprise.
12:07: Have a structured settlement? Need cash now? Call JG Wentworth!
12:15: The bell rings and two guys start fighting! Does this happen every time on Springer?
12:18: Place your unwanted or broken gold or silver in an envelope, wait, and receive cash in the mail. Thanks Cash4Gold!
12:21: Springer waxes poetic: "Every guest we have comes from a very small universe. There's a small town called Springerville."
12:24: And the crowd chants: "Fight like gay prisoners!"
12:30: California Culinary Academy: "Just imagine getting paid to prepare gourmet dishes for hungry guests."
12:31: Jerry meets a mobile home park manager named Jerry Lee Springer.
12:36: A gay soldier. An angry uncle. More fighting.
12:43: Reverend Shnorr inducts a couple of guests into the Army - and the audience sings The Star Spangled Banner.
12:47: "USA! USA"!
12:48: "Own a timeshare or campground membership? Turn it into cash!"
12:49: "Do you want to have a successful business career? Work with executives in a fast-paced environment like this? Well, you can with Heald College. They can take you from boredom to boardroom in less time than you think."
12:57: "Here are three good reasons why you should get off the couch and call California Culinary Academy!"
12:59: "There are consequences for all our secrets . . . Take care of yourself - and each other."
1:00: It's time for - Maury! One topic: "Is the man she wants to marry a male prostitute?"
1:06: "No way in hell that baby's mine!"
1:10: The lie detector results come back, producing a shriek that wakes up my cat.
1:14: "Do You Believe The Man You Are Madly In Love With Is Cheating On You? Call 1-888-45Maury."
1:17: I love when they're showing back-stories; they intersperse grainy-looking footage of the guests shaking their heads angrily.
1:23: "Peachtree can turn your structured settlement or annuity into cash today! . . . Money does grow on trees!"
1:26: "She says he is selling his body for money and sneakers."
1:28: "When I come home every night she's checking me for scratches and sniffin' my underwear. What is that about?"
1:30: Yep. He's a cheater.
1:40: Several minutes of shrieks and censor-beeps.
1:43: An ad for "The General" Auto Insurance announces a down payment for as low as $59 in huge print. Tiny text below? "Average down payment about $125."
1:46: Another cheater caught. More minutes of shrieks and censor-beeps.
1:48: RightSize smoothies can help you lose weight! "Have you ever had a diet fail because you were hungry all the time? If you have, don't worry. It's not your fault."
1:53: Roseann thinks Don cheated on her again - after going on the Maury show six weeks ago.
1:54: Yep. He cheated. "Six women?" "No, they were six dancers."
2:00: Let's watch General Hospital!
2:03: Dig the rockin' intro.
2:05: "You've got the baby sleeping in the closet," he says. She replies: "Dressing area!"
2:12: "Because a bathroom can be more than a bathroom, Clorox helps keep it clean - even the imaginary parts."
2:25: Apparently there's a guy on General Hospital called Stone Cold. Cool.
2:28: A commercial for Botox depicts one woman in various poses, virtually all of them making her look kind of gross, particularly when she "winks." Seriously, who thinks the full-face wink that lifts the jawline to the forehead is remotely attractive? It gets better. The background music for a product known to remove facial expressions? "Express yourself."
2:38: "With kids, teens, pets, and husbands, ever wonder how you can keep your house clean?" Lovely. A commercial for Stanley Steamer that reaffirms the popular television motif of the dumb guy.
2:40: I get it! That annoying blonde is supposed to be General Hospital's version of Paris Hilton.
2:45: "Are you making it easier for bacteria to grow on your dentures?" Yuck.
2:52: "You cannot petition for visitation rights with an unborn child!" "There are many studies that indicate that it is possible to bond with a child in utero." Well, you're not bonding with this one."
3:00: I need justice! It's time for Judge Joe Brown.
3:02: Cool. Miss Sonya, the bailiff, has a gun!
3:03: I like this judge. He appears to have just woken up from a long, long nap.
3:05: The eye-rolling defendant who wrecked the plaintiff's car while driving drunk needs to get her comeuppance.
3:11: Here's comes the justice! Referring to the defendant who crossed a lawn to crash a car into someone's house, Judge Brown asks, "How did you manage to drive up there? What were you doing? Trying to run down sassy squirrels who were sittin' up there trying to act crazy and audition for a Geico commercial?"
3:19: The next case and another rude, clueless defendant, to which Judge Brown admonishes: "Don't talk over me, son! I might say something humorous or enlightening and people will miss it."
3:25: "There's no manual on how to be a good parent. Fortunately, there is a recipe." Thank you, Duncan Hines.
3:30: It's time for more Judge Joe Brown!
3:37: Linda says, "I will not take care of my sister who has been very irresponsible herself." Awkward pause. The sister, Lisa, then replies ominously, "Oh. She went there."
4:00: My adventures in Daytime TV conclude as they must, with Oprah. How could this day end any other way? Today's topic: "The Law of Attraction."
4:03: Weird. This show seems to be drawn from a conversation and set of key words that this audience already knows. It's as if this show began a few hours before 4:00. Oprah would surely respond: a lifetime before!
4:05: Hmmm. Oprah sure loves quoting O Magazine.
4:06: Buzzword alert! Go into your "Core of Peace."
4:08: One Oprah guest discusses her work with homeless heroin addicts: "I love 'em to pieces. They're just wonderful."
4:15: Oprah thinks about all of her good fortune and asks, "Why does that happen? 'Cos it happens to me a lot." Her guest responds, "Because you're living at your Core of Peace!"
4:21: Jenny McCarthy discusses her "Vision Board."
4:28: Another Oprah guests opines, "There's another great affirmation that I have hanging on my wall, I have for years: 'The world is conspiring in my favor.' Isn't that great?"
4:30: Oprah asks about getting a Vision Board. A guest explains that she merely needs to snip and affix pictures from a magazine. Oprah beams, "I can use my own magazine!"
4:36: One guest ponders, "We all hope we will win the lottery or dream about a new life, [Of] course many of those things don't happen. So what's the difference between an intention versus a wish or a dream?" Oprah replies: "Good point. Ohhh, good, ohhh, ohhh, ohhh, that's so good."
4:42: Brittany (age nine) explains, "If you think about something for a long period of time, you will eventually get it." Oprah then looks at Vision Boards created by Brittany and her sister Dominique, asking, "What's come true so far?" Dominique answers, "So far, I've been on Oprah's show." "Wow," Oprah replies, "I'm impressed with that. I'm really impressed with that."
4:48: Oprah has an epiphany! It turns out that she's been living her vision board, even though she didn't make it yet!
5:00: I can't believe it's actually over: nine hours of daytime television. I'm surprisingly tired, even though I've done nothing but sit on the couch with one of the cats, flipping the channels. It was fun. It was unique. It was enlightening. I'm glad it's over.
Maybe next time I'll write dispatches from the land of night time "news" shows.