TV Deprivation Day 4: All Was Not 'Lost'

ABC Saved Matthew Creamer From Watercooler Scorn, but Visa's :30 Was Another Matter

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- While millions of Americans watched the "American Idol" finale in bars, at parties or perhaps alone in a darkened room wearing nothing but thigh-high boots, a chiffon dress and a dream, I had it narrated to me by someone known only as Angie.
ABC's presentation of the 'Lost' season finale online was 'spectacular,' says our TV-deprived reporter. | ALSO: Post a comment on this series below.
ABC's presentation of the 'Lost' season finale online was 'spectacular,' says our TV-deprived reporter. | ALSO: Post a comment on this series below.
Angie, you see, was charged with live-blogging the finale on Slimtainment, a website maintained by DJSlim, aka Brent Natzle. And since the Fox website shut me out and nothing was popping on YouTube, Angie was all I had. She was my Virgil, my only link to one of the few mass-media events left in American culture, her 50- to 100-word entries posted as close to real time as possible serving as a crucial guide to this pop-culture vomitorium.

A neutral medium she was not. Angie had stark opinions on the various performers. Here's her take on Gwen Stefani: "I love ya, girl, but UGLY outfit!" Green Day: "More like Gag Day." And Ruben Studdard: "Gotta love a big man who dresses well! (I'm married to one.)" At 10:06 p.m. I learned that, as Angie predicted, natch, Jordin Sparks had been crowned.

Great as Angie was, her entries didn't capture everything. For instance, it wouldn't be until the next morning when a few clips popped up on YouTube -- and were gathered on Slimtainment -- that I felt that cloying reality of "Idol." The annoying everyone-wins vibe. The broken Paula Abdul with her weeping. The mangling of great songs. Seacrest.

Still, if there is a more carefully guarded piece of broadcast TV programming than "Idol," I haven't found it. Trying to breach Fox and Fremantle's media defenses is not unlike breaking into Fort Knox. (Even Slimtainment makes mention of "cease and desist" letters it received for posting downloads.) Which makes sense given that much of what gold is left in dem dar TV hills has the scowling visage of Simon Cowell on it. But unlike bullion, the value of this treasure starts to expire pretty quickly. Once the winner is announced, it's tough to care much about any of the run up. Angie told me all I needed to know.

The fall and rise of Western Civilization

"Lost," however, is another matter entirely. The delicate interweaving of plotlines, characterization. The absence of Bette Midler. The relentless banality of "American Idol" -- which comes through even in a blog -- led me to bed down early, with visions of the decline of Western civilization dancing in my head. But upon waking and arriving at work, I was met with a great gift from the ABC gods. The "Lost" finale, as you've probably either seen or heard, was just spectacular, and the network's presentation of it was on par.

If, prior to this week, you told me I'd be watching an ad-supported, 83-minute prime-time program on my 18-inch Dell monitor without blood literally pouring out my eyelids, I would have called you a liar. But, as it turns out, you'd have been right on. My only complaint about the presentation is the ads. As promised by the network, there was limited commercial interruption. But there was still one minor problem.

Visa, the exclusive sponsor, decided to play the same TV ads over and over again. Featured in one of them is the Petula Clark ditty "Downtown," a song I used to like until it was jammed down my throat. These kinds of exclusive deals make all kinds of sense, especially online. But advertisers, agencies and media sellers have to think about formats other than the 30-second spot, something that actually takes advantage of the fact that you're in an interactive medium and not dealing with the confines of a half-century old commercial pod. Please?
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