MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., October 29, 2012 — When I saw that the History channel was going to start a new mini series titled “The Men That Built America,” I was happy. Increasing my knowledge on this period of American history seemed like a good idea. After watching two episodes, I am not so sure.
Yes, the series is well made. The dramatizations are well acted and one gets the meaning of each segment, and its integration into the whole narrative is flawless. Period photos are seamlessly integrated into each segment. The overall presentation is worth watching. I have to confess that I am a TV addict. I will watch just about anything, including new series in broadcast television (although not situation comedies — they are too predictable).
With this frame of mind I decided to watch “The Men That built America.” However, after the first episode, I started to fidget in my chair. I noticed that the pleasure that I derive from watching TV combined with one of my preferred pleasures, history, was somewhat diminished.
The reason I soon found out was the constant commercial messages and the relatively small amount of new information being provided in the presentation. As I sat down to watch the second episode ,I decided to time the relation between new information, commercials and recaps. To my surprise I found that in every 10-minute segment there were five minutes of commercials, one minute of recap and four minutes of actual presentation of the show.
So in the second episode out of two hours and two minutes of running time, there were only 48 minutes or less of actual show. This is not counting the “as seen in the last episode,” introduction to the current episode and coming attractions.
Now, I am not saying that commercials should not be shown. I realize that someone has to pay for the work in creating and producing the show as well as a hefty profit for the station. However, I believe this scheme abuses the person watching and in the long run may also be deleterious to future shows of this kind. The audience may decide in the future that the hour and 15 minutes that we wasted watching commercials could be used in a better way.
The news is not all bad. For comparison I decided to look into the “On Demand” service for my cable provider and found some encouraging things. First, the show only runs for 90 minutes, which means that the ratio of show to commercials appears to be a little more balanced. Of course, we have to pay extra to get On Demand, and this service is rather capricious. One never knows when the shows are going to be available, as they don’t follow a predictable pattern.
So, if you want to watch this series and not be too annoyed, watch it On Demand.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a bleeding heart liberal, agnostic, exercise fanatic, Redskin fan, technophile, civil engineer, combat infantry veteran, jewelry maker, amateur computer programmer, Environmental engineer, Colombian-born, free thinker, and, not surprisingly, pacifist. You can find his articles - ranging from politics to cooking a mean brisket - in 21st Century Pacifist <http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/21st-century-pacifist/> at The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.
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