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TV 101: The Vuvuzela And Five Other Annoying Things on TV

by Jay Black, posted Jun 16th 2010 1:00PM
The vuvuzela: designed by the architects of hell.Like most of you, I spent the first 30 minutes of last week's USA-England World Cup match convinced that I was having a stroke. As it turned out, the buzzing I was hearing wasn't the result of my neurons being shut down by a burst blood vessel in my brain, but rather from a traditional South African horn called the vuvuzela.

The vuvuzela is the most horrifically annoying torture device ever devised by man. The only problem is that since I've been watching so much of the World Cup, the sound of it fades into the background and I occasionally forget to be annoyed by it.

There's nothing worse than when something annoying becomes omnipresent, like the buzz of the vuvuzela. Because once an annoyance becomes commonplace, it's all too easy for it to become the new status quo.

The vuvuzela is just the latest in a string of annoyances that TV watchers have had to put up with ...

Before we begin, just a word on the rules for how I selected the following vuvuzela-level annoyances: all of the choices are a) annoying b) omnipresent and c) so ingrained that we forget to hear the buzzing anymore.

1. The vuvuzela being played during World Cup coverage

Sorry, I'm not done writing about this yet!

Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, recently commented on the calls for the glorified kazoo to be banned by saying, "Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?"

Here's the thing, Sepp Blatter (and all the peoples of South Africa). If one person tells you that your traditions are annoying and stupid, you go ahead and stick by them. But if several billion people around the globe unify in venomous hatred for your dumb horn like they did at the end of 'Watchmen,' maybe it's time to rethink the way you do things.

Listen, sometimes it's OK to get rid of traditions. I mean, at one point the people of New England executed people suspected of witchcraft -- that doesn't give Patriots fans the right to celebrate touchdowns by burning a woman alive. (And if you think I'm drawing an unfair comparison, you try watching a full half hour of World Cup soccer without jamming an icepick into your brainpan. The vuvuzela on ESPN is more dangerous than the 'Ring' video.)

2. Previews and recaps before and after every commercial on reality shows

We all know that reality television insults our intelligence. In fact, 'The Hills' was actually filmed on a government grant to keep sub-sentient monkeys entertained; the fact that it became a hit on MTV was just a fortunate byproduct of that experiment.

Of all the insults, however, it's the preschool-level previews and recaps that drive me the most nuts. There are only two reasons why a show would devote significant amounts of its runtime each week to telling you what you just saw every six minutes: either the producers think we've got the memory of a goldfish or they assume that we're not smart enough to realize the show is using these recaps to pad itself to an hour.

3. Logos in the corner of your screen

People still get annoyed at the pop-up ads that jump up on the bottom of your screen every 20 minutes or so, but I think we've given short shrift to the annoyance of the network logo that stays in the corner for the entire length of the show.
Why does that logo need to be there? I can only assume that this is the scenario the networks fear.

Viewer One: "Hey, I'm watching 'Losing it with Jillian!'"

Viewer Two: "God, why?"

Viewer One: "There's a dude on here that eats his own weight in bacon every day*. Jillian is telling him to stop it." (*not an actual episode, but rather a page from my wish diary)

Viewer Two: "Huh, that sounds awesome! What channel is 'Losing it with Jillian' on?!"

Viewer One: "Dunno. There's no logo in the corner."

Viewer Two: "Why not just look on your cable box?"

Viewer One: "Because that would require shifting my head a degree and a half and I'm already in my pajamas. Sorry. Guess whatever network this show is airing is gonna lose a viewer by not having its logo in the corner."

4. The same three jokes being used in every beer commercial

Hey, listen, I think beer is pretty great. I owe my whole existence on this planet to three six packs and the second side of 'Dark Side of the Moon.'

That said, beer is not better than sex. Beer doesn't make you any more or less manly. And not all women are horrid creatures designed solely to stop you from enjoying your life. I'm all for making whatever jokes you want to make, but there's got to be a better way to get me to buy a beer than by emulating attitudes that wouldn't have been out of place in a 1959 'Hi and Lois' strip.

5. The loop that runs on the OnDemand menu screen

When I press the "OnDemand" button on my Verizon FiOS, a perky sounding woman tells me about some of the other great movies that OnDemand has to offer.

This would be fine except that the video always starts at the exact same place, so I hear the same 15 seconds of OnDemand selections every ... single ... time I press the button. Since I have a child who is addicted to 'Little Einsteins,' I press the button a lot. So I hear that woman's voice a lot.

After a while, it becomes less a sales pitch than a film running at a Maoist reeducation camp. Does Comrade Mao want me to rent 'Avatar' for the low price of $4.99?! Then it shall be done!

6. Snarky bloggers finding stuff on TV to complain about

Just wanted to get ahead of the curve on this one. But don't let me stop you from filling up the comments with your own pet peeves. Just remember the rules: It needs to be something annoying that has gotten to be so pervasive that people have forgotten to be irritated by it.

And now to celebrate the end of my column, I will blow my vuvuzela. And before you ask, yes that is the dirtiest thing ever written on TV Squad by a large margin.

(Jay Black is a writer and comedian who really hopes you like this article. To find out more about Jay to or catch one of his live shows, check out www.jayblackcomedy.net).

[Follow @jayblackcomedy on Twitter]

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Anyone noticed the garbage at the bottom of the screen on CBS Morning Show? It's a white box taking up nearly 1/4 of the vertical screen, totally opaque, and even includes Braille on the right side (what for? How does a blind person "read" this on a TV screen?) Wise up, CBS!

July 27 2010 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the complaints about vuvuzelas have actually become more annoying than the horns ever were. I've been watching a match a day since the World Cup started, and after awhile you get used to the horns. It's just a different experience if you're used to watching European football leagues. The only people who have the legit right to complain about the horns are the people in the stadiums - not those of us watching around the globe. In comparison to what they must be hearing, the buzzing on our television sets are a minor inconvenience.

June 17 2010 at 1:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

#7. Only seeing some of the stuff that's supposed to be on the screen.

Look, I don't have a new-fangled wide screen TV, and it will be a while before I can get one, but the thing that bugs me the most at TV stations not letter boxing their broadcast (and Cable) for shows that are filmed exclusively in wide screen. I am sick of only seeing half of some one face, or seeing one person talking to the tip of someone's nose. Even worse, one time on House there was a 3 minute conversation with no one on the screen. They were on the edges of the wide-screen view but not viable on a regular screen.

Like I said, someone needs to fix it, or at least broadcast with a letter box.

June 16 2010 at 10:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That damned annoyong Staples "Low Prices!!!" commercial. Hate it, cannot change the channel fast enough. Will drive past a Staples to spend money elsewhere just becaise of it.

I can tolerate the graphic bugs in the corner but the animated pop-ups are really irksome.

It was unlikely that I would've watched any significant amount of the World Cup but there is no way I could tolerate that damn buzzing.

June 16 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stephen Colbert put it best when he said it sounds like bees are swarming the soccer stadium. I muted the TV during the USA/UK game because of the buzzing and I really don't care what the sports commentators are saying. But there are more annoying sounds in sports. They are called Philly fans.

June 16 2010 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Vuvuzela comments are ridiculous.

I've watched every one of the games of the world cup so far, with the sound blarring on my TV, and you couldn't be so more wrong.

It's complete white noise to most people, and everyone of the people I've talked to about it, have actually enjoyed what's been going on.

The only people I find complaining about it, are the players, and the media taking what the players are saying and trying to turn it into a bigger deal than it is.

AND YES, comparing murder to horn blowing is VERY unfair.

June 16 2010 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Loathe how when you are watching a show a motion popup comes - taking up as much as 1/3 of the screen - to let me know when another show is airing this week. It totally ruins the experience of the show I'm watching and it's way more annoying to me that the logo in the corner.

Also hate how commercials are broadcast at a much louder volume than the show I'm watching.

June 16 2010 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the preview/recap thing is because it allows people to pick up what is going on if lets say they are flicking channels. Odds are better they will keep watching with a quick recap. The preview is so you remember to come back.

the logo on the bottom of the screen is a "bug" and mostly is about copyright, the way a photographer adds a watermark.

then one news channel can't use the footage etc. without paying.

June 16 2010 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


Number 2 I've noticed for ages on stuff like Mythbusters, but it's mad that it's now creeping into stuff on the BBC in the UK, which doesn't even have adverts - Masterchef & Dragon's Den seem to break off every 10 minutes to recap what they've just shown & preview what they're just about to show - I think it's so that Dave (the commercial repeat channel )& the USA can stick ads in but it's bloody annoying.

Oh, and F8CK the Vuvuzela - I don't like footy but have to suffer it in pubs & it's like listening to angry bees!

June 16 2010 at 1:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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