Attention spans are a funny thing. I've never thought about it before, but the attention spans of my fellow North Americans dictate what I see on TV. What I want to know is, are those 12-second sound bytes of news, sports and Britney Spears geared towards the average American, or--and I hope this isn't the case--the lowest common denominator?
I kept this in mind as I watched TV last weekend and I saw three major themes.
The first was The War on Terrorism. Once named Operation Infinite Justice (you can almost smell George Bush on that one), it occupied the top and sometimes only slot in most news coverage. A war is important, but the war coverage, especially CNN's coverage, seemed rather excessive considering nothing new ever got reported. The experts kept saying the same things, as did the anchors, the witnesses, and the always delightful Donald Rumsfeld.
The second big theme this weekend was Harry Potter. It surprised me that a children's book and its corresponding movie got so much attention from the adult press. Adults tend to stick to adult things, which makes this fascination with young Mr. Potter a little perverse.
The third and most disturbing theme was Survivor. With the war and all, it hardly seems like survival to me. I would gladly give up a month or two to hang out with some really cute girls in Africa, regardless of the fact that I don't get to eat turkey on Thanksgiving. I might even win a million bucks or see a giraffe or something.
With that said, what some would call fate and others marketing, dictated that I saw The War on Terrorism, Harry Potter hoopla and abundant Survivor commercials this weekend. I do however think these were aimed at the average attention spans, not those of the lowest of the low. There were three themes after all. All this sent me on a very interesting tangent. What would happen if they crossmarketed to the lowest common denominator?
For better or worse, I came up with this: The three themes can be combined to make an über-theme that's more digestible for those of us who can't handle more than one sound byte at a time.
We could have Survivor in Afghanistan. Think of the ratings in the U.S. South. Imagine the pretty girls and the chiselled hunks giving war updates as they returned from "surviving" the rugged Pamir Mountains.
Imagine a sombre looking accountant giving an update on Kabul falling, followed by a moment of silence for members of the tribe that didn't make it back from the immunity challenge. They stepped on land mines. They were looking for mutton, but instead they found death.
Young Harry Potter could be found flying overhead giving updates on troop movements with his tussled hair and sello-taped glasses. Kind of like your morning traffic guy, but on global scale. Wouldn't that be grand? Finally, something a whole family of short-attention spanners could enjoy.
Feedback on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.