A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lessons Learned from Television

I have had the opportunity to watch more television than I usually do during my recent hospitalization and at-home convalescence. My usual television watching habits consist mostly of the morning news and catching up with reruns of “Monk”. Otherwise, television for me is that vast wasteland that was foreseen as far back as 1960. Still, I have learned a few things about broadcasting during my recent reacquaintance with the medium.

For example, I learned that it is okay to wink your eye during a nationally televised political debate. This happened during the Sarah Palin - Joe Biden vice presidential debate, when Palin resorted to using her feminine wiles to charm the electorate. I couldn’t believe the use of this visual communication cue in this type of setting. I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised, given that this will be a ground-breaking election on several levels.

It’s too bad Al Gore didn’t think of this in 2000. Imagine him winking his eye while W. "ummed and ahhed” his way through one of his trademark convoluted responses. People watching the debate at home would have been astounded. They would have said, “My God! Al Gore just winked his eye! This proves that he is alive after all!”

It is also apparently okay to partially use a dead actor’s performance to sell a product. In this case, the client is DirecTV and their use of a scene from “Poltergeist” to sell the virtues of their product over old-fashioned cable television. The spot stars Craig T. Nelson, who played the father in the original film, and the voice of child actress Heather O’Rourke.

O’Rourke would have been about thirty-two years old if she were alive today. It’s true: I looked her up on the IMDB website and she is still dead. This means she can’t even wink her eye, let alone star in a television commercial.

The commercial takes place in the parents’ bedroom where a television is throwing off all sorts of fireworks from the spirit world. A little girl at the foot of the bed witnesses the light show and intones her famous line, “They’re here!” At this point, the father wakes up in bed and tells her that no, the spirits are not here, and the television is acting this way because he didn’t sign up for DirecTV.

There’s no mistaking Heather O’Rourke’s voice when she says “They’re here.” One Internet article believes a double was used to photograph the ad, but I should point out that the computer technology to physically lift the image of O’Rourke out of the “Poltergeist” film probably does exist. As an example, a couple of geeks were able to create an entire film sequence with two Hollywood icons that never crossed paths when they were alive: Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart. This happened a few years ago, so I’m sure the technology has advanced since then.

My point is the whole idea of using an actress who died way too young (at the age of 12) to sell a product is tacky. I’m sure any legal qualms were settled with a payment to her estate, but the ethical objections remain. The whole spot made me uncomfortable, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t have DirecTV either. Just in case, though, I’ll watch for any signs that my television set will become possessed.


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