Bugged about Bugs

Okay, maybe it’s just because it’s so late at night (or so early in the morning, depending on your perspective), but I feel a good rant coming on. Is anyone else out there getting fed up with the “bugs” and “crawls” and other visual junk that the networks are throwing on the screen while you’re trying to watch a show?

Now, I’m not talking about the news channels or weather channels or sports channels or business channels that do their best to induce a catatonic seizure by providing three or more streams of information — some visual, some text, and some auditory — all at the same time. Hey, that’s what they do, and you know to expect that from them. And I’m not talking about major network coverage of sporting events; with all the fantasy leagues these days, you want a text crawl at the bottom to keep you posted on other games.

No, I’m talking about the run-of-the-mill broadcast network sitcoms and dramas and (sigh) “reality” shows. It started with the little network bug that would appear for a while after commercial breaks, just to remind you which network you were watching. Then the bugs stayed on all the time in the lower right corner, like a numb toe that you just don’t feel after a while. But the networks didn’t stop there. They’d flash a promotion for another show during the current show’s credits. Then they’d put a text announcement on the screen during the show. Then the announcements added graphics, and animation, just to make sure that you’d stop paying attention to the show you were trying to watch, so that you’d see this network advertisement.

I can’t believe that I’m the only one who finds this practice profoundly irritating. The promos for the Olympics last summer were extreme offenders. I find this to be even more annoying than radio DJs who insist on talking over the music that they’re playing. Hey: if your message is so important, let it stand on its own. But don’t overlay it on the content that I’ve chosen to watch. And I can’t believe that the creative people who put the content together are happy about having their art scribbled on this way.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to fight back. Like annoying telemarketing calls, they probably are effective, so there’s a financial incentive for the networks to continue the practice. Maybe their online episodes don’t have the bugs and promos and other junk cluttering up the shows. Maybe I’ll just have to watch the online episodes, and give up on the broadcast content altogether. But I have to say that it bugs me.