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Washington Voices

Front Porch: Hey, TVland: Remove bar, too-cute kids

OK, I’m mad at the TV again.

The list is too long for this space, so just let me focus on three things. Maybe then I can stop talking to the TV. Pay attention, people who run things in TVland. This is important stuff, and I want you to fix it!

First, get rid of those annoying information bars that block the bottom of the screen. It’s OK, for example, to put up the name and title of the guest for a few seconds from time to time during an interview so that those of us who tune in midprogram know who the heck that guy is, but then knock it off!

I was watching a morning news show, and the info bar had on the left the name of the show, the date, time and temperature. On the right was the Web address. In the middle was a short summary of what the speaker was saying (text which got swapped out every 30 seconds or so) along with the name and title of the speaker. It was like “Pass This Bill Now, Barack Obama, President of the United States.” Hold. Then it was “We Can’t Wait 14 Months, Barack Obama, President of the United States.”

And to make it worse, there’s some kind of changing-color graphic moving behind the semi-transparent info bar, which is even more distracting. Way too busy, people. Old eyes here. Don’t bombard me like that. It makes my temples throb.

And the worst, worst, worst thing about that stupid bar is that it often blocks something I want to see at the bottom of the screen. There was coverage of one of this year’s flooding disasters, and I was desperately trying to catch sight of something in the water, something in that now-forbidden zone at the bottom of the screen, but it was obscured by the name of the local reporter, the network logo and some fatuous, obvious wordage like “Rising water wreaks havoc.” You think?

Stop it!

Next, please forbid owners of local businesses who advertise with you from putting their grandchildren in their commercials. Here’s how it goes – yammer, yammer, yammer, then cut to cute little kids who mutter something in high-pitched, unintelligible, too-fast voices that is only comprehensible if your name is Fido. If we were even paying attention in the first place (doubtful), we then have to strain to make out what was said (impossible) and then get annoyed at you, dear merchant, for making us cognizant that our older ears don’t have the range that they used to and that we skipped our usual bathroom break just to try to figure out what was said. That pretty much guarantees we’re not going to buy your thing because you’ve ticked us off.

And besides, our own grandkids are cuter than yours, so why didn’t you audition local talent? Nepotism is so not attractive, though I will give a pass to the car guy whose TV dogs are the most mellow ever seen anywhere. There could not be other dogs on the planet that calm and cooperative who are still breathing. And since they don’t say anything, the unintelligible issue doesn’t come into play.

Finally, two items in one category, hair and shoes on news programs. OK, I understand that TV is an entertainment medium, even in news programming, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fashion and touch of sex appeal. We’re kind of wired that way. But please, all you on-camera news and interview ladies, stop fussing with your hair. Stop all wearing the same long hairdo, and stop repeatedly placing that stray lock behind your ear. I get it, you’ve got great hair. I’m sure the researchers have shown that the audience judges you by it and that it’s more important than in fact it really is. There really are hair products that can keep everything in place without making you look like you have helmet hair. Trust me on this.

And, please, consider that spiky heels and short dresses take away from the real subject matter – what the newsmaker is saying. He or she is way more important than you. No, really. And that attire makes you look a little like a Stepford wife.

Sadly, the audience is truly shallow and distractible enough that it works. As the camera pulls back, we switch focus to you as you toss your hair or adjust it, focus on your long legs (long legs are a requirement now, right?) and zero in on those shiny spiky heels. The newsmaker is superfluous. It’s now about you and how hot you are.

There’s something inappropriately sexual about how you’re trotted out there, and I suspect (sadly) that’s probably the point. You are strong women. Can’t you push back the network execs a little? You can look great, dress great and do great work without being sexed up this way.

Message to the lords of TVland: Is this really what you’re going for? Frankly, if so, I think you should just be honest, bring out the stripper pole and have the ladies do the interviews from there. Or you could dial it down a notch or two.

Too much to ask for?

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at

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