Thursday, March 26, 2009

Putting on the breaks

OK, so I’ve had a go at Hungarian TV and its love of dubbing, and now it’s the turn of Romanian TV. Not for dubbing (they don’t, they subtitle *roars of approval*), but for the advertising breaks. It’s not so much the content of the adverts themselves, which are rubbish, but no different from anywhere else (loads of really crap ads for things you don’t want, with one or two funny ones mixed in as well as the standard highly produced ones telling vomit-inducing sweet little stories to a cutesy indie backdrop for mobile phone network providers), as the length of the advertising breaks themselves.

In the UK people typically use the ad breaks to nip to the toilet and have a slash. Or, occasionally, go and put the kettle on. In a football match for example, you might make trip to the fridge to get a bottle of beer. All these activities are doable within a normal sized break, allowing one to settle back down in one’s chair just before the action restarts. In Romania, you can not only go to the toilet, you could run a bath, lie in it for half an hour until the water gets too cold, get out, shave, trim your nose hairs, get dressed, go to the kitchen, cook a large dinner, go out and buy a bottle of wine, invite your friends round, eat the dinner, play scrabble a couple of times, and then clean the house from top to bottom, before settling back down – and you’d still have time to make serious inroads into A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu (to be fair you probably wouldn’t get past the first book of the three, unless you were a really fast reader) before the programme restarts. It’s insane. I have no idea how people stand for it.

Not only are the advert breaks interminably long, but they are also placed in such a way as to really really disrupt the film or whatever you happen to be watching. Some exciting, nerve-wracking piece of the action? The crux of the plot, in which the dying old men begins to explain what has gone before? The moment when the hero is halfway through cracking the code? This is when the ads cut in. By the time the film returns whatever tension has been built up has gone, and to be honest you’ve forgotten what the film was about in the first place. Not only that, but on a number of channels they’ve decided that the best time to have one of these endless breaks is 5 minutes before the end of a film. I actually, out of interest, timed all this the other day – just before the end of a film on Pro TV, the ads cut in. The break was 22 minutes long. 22 fucking minutes. Twenty-fucking-two fucking minutes. Then the film came back for the denouement – 4 minutes. But if you’ve got that far in a film, you really need to watch those last 4 minutes. And that of course is what they’re counting on, that you will have to wait and wait, and started plucking your own eyes out in frustration until you get to watch the conclusion which you knew was coming anyway.

The concept of the half-time show in football is unknown here. There is no half-time show. There’s just 15 minutes of adverts. The broadcast stops when the ref blows his whistle and restarts when the match does. No half-time analysis, no highlights, no review of the action. I have no idea if they have any of that stuff at the end of the game, since I have never bothered staying on the channel that long. Perhaps after the obligatory 30 minutes of ads, they do actually have a post-match analysis. But I’m not waiting around for it.

And finally, he says, taking a deep breath before launching into the last element of this angry angriness, many of the channels have this weird propensity to do a kind of mini-skit as the link between the programme and the ads. I have absolutely no idea why, unless it’s just to add a further minute or two on to the break. National TV have this odd “fat policeman walking down a catwalk” thing going on, which I guess (though it’s difficult to really know) is supposed to be amusing. It’s not. Not even the first time you see it. It’s just bizarre. Prima, on the other hand, have this protracted thing with loads of blokes sitting in a company boardroom when two sexy window cleaners appear and put on a little dance. Why? Who the fuck knows.

So, I’ve given up. From now on I have resolved only to watch films and shows of interest on one of the State TVR channels, since they at least never put breaks in the show itself. They do have a lot of ads between shows, but at least the programme is left untouched. (They also show the best programmes anyway, so this is no great hardship)


keli said...

That's one of the main reasons I don't really watch TV anymore. Especially not movies on ProTV (I guess they have the worst content/ad length ratio of them all)

Maybe TVR2, or some Discovery-like stuff.

And as far the mini-skits go, as annoying as they are, as far as I recall, Antena1 does this really irritating thing (once they've got us hooked to the concept that mini-skit equals end of the ad flood), to inter-cut mini-skits seemingly randomly inside the ad-block, pretending it's almost over now. "Now sit back and watch a few more ads"... bleh.

Emily said...

Yes! What is up with the mini-skits? When I first started watching Hungarian TV, I figured they were a reminder of "you're watching M2," "you're still watching M2," "just two more minutes of ads on M2 then maybe we'll show the program again," etc.

But then I realized that during nearly every minute of TV, the station keeps it's logo on the screen, in the lower left corner. So why, why the constant, redundant reminders?

Is Romanian TV the same as Hungarian, in that the breaks are divded into two sections (framed by mini-skits): first the commercial commercials, then the second section of community service things and ads for the stations own shows and such?

Soj said...

Here's an idea, throw your TV out the window! Sounds like your conscience is telling you something :P

If movies are truly your obsession however, either watch TVR like you said or else spring for the expensive channels like HBO and Showtime. Guaranteed uninterrupted!

Or else download them legally mind you ;) - from the internet and watch them on your TV if you so wish.

BTW why do you say "National" TV channel (for Nationala) but not "First" TV channel (for Prima)?

Just curious! :P

Andy said...

I thought the name of the TV channel was in fact National. In fact, I'm sure it is.