Daytime TV, it’s not the most challenging content with its house renovation, antique flipping and sometimes unfathomable quiz show formats but that’s not what I am concerned with this time. This time we shall be dealing with the advertising segments between these programmes and their rather dark agenda; we’re talking about what I have dubbed Televised Neurosis Terrorism. TNT for short.
In fact the opening of the similarly named AC/DC track ‘TNT’ would suit perfectly this nefarious use of the magic box in the corner of the room.
‘See my ride out of the sunset
On your colour TV screen
Out for all I can get
If you know what I mean’
Very symbolic, is it not? The rest of the song then wanders into perfectly harmless references to womanising, knives, guns, explosions and suggested physical violence,so we’ll stick with the first four lines for our illustration purposes and possibly the rallying cry for any national campaign against TNT (Televised Neurosis Terrorism, not the rather fun song) should anyone feel the need to instigate one.
“Will Barbara be able to sell the condemned house she bought for sixty quid for many grands of profit after applying a lick of magnolia emulsion? Find out after the break.”
That cue, spoken through a smile whiter than a penguin’s frosty tadger, beckons the start of six minutes of doom laden hard selling that is specifically designed to scare the living shit out of you and the cash out of your wallet. Strokes, cancer, heart problems, life insurance, funerals, will writing, accident claims. Those, off the top of my head, are a handful of the great insights that are gifted to you because you know what, you might feel okay now but at any second the shit could hit the fan and that rug, now covered in greasy shit, could be whipped from under your feet. Are you scared?! Are you scared?! You should be! But they can help, they only exist to help…for a fee of course.
TNT falls into two design camps. The first is the informative, outlining the type of stuff that can happen to you be it a stroke, heart attack or many other ailments waiting to pounce upon your weak-ass physiology. This TNT is generally asking for donations to continue medical research into eradicating the specific malady before it becomes a problem for you personally. Prevention is always better than cure but we all know in our hearts it is unlikely our three quid a month is going to cure condition ‘x’ in a timely fashion for our benefit.(Unforeseen accidents, car crashes, slips on mopped floors, etc., also run along a parallel track in this sector of the terror mill.)
The second format is more concerned with accepting the inevitable demise we all face daily and preparing for it in a way that makes the impact less harsh on those we love and/or depend on us and leave behind. This TNT pedals insurance and assurance as safety nets against guaranteed disaster although anyone who has ever tried to make a claim against a policy might wish to argue the point of their viability when the turd of bad luck actually does get diced by the tennis racquet of misery.
Many of these adverts are designed to rattle people in a specific age group, an age group, according to the TNT, into which I am sadly clumped. It’s the 50 plus viewers that are being targeted because it appears we could pop our clogs at any time. And they work too because I have found myself tapping the side of my face to see if I still have feeling in my cheek as the bloke on the telly acts out a stroke for my reference in all its full blown glory. I’m thinking that a free Parker pen or pair of binoculars might be the incentive I need to take out an insurance policy to cover my funeral costs because if I leave that burden to my kids I am an absolute bastard of the first order…without a biro. Also now I am a doddery old fucker I am unavoidably bound to slip on a wet patch (possibly of my own incontinent making) and I am going to need the services of ‘Vlad, Vlad and Impaler’, lawyers who specialise in helping clumsy tossers and accident prone losers get mega-compensation for free…give or take some very, very small print caveats.
But it’s not exclusively old gits like me that are targeted, parents of young families are also mentally water boarded with a towel soaked in choking guilt by this daytime TV TNT.
‘What if one day your face is ripped off by a piece of machinery you use at work and then your head implodes? It could happen. It WILL happen. It’s all well and good for you dying on the job, quick and easy, but what about the young family you leave behind? How will they and your bereaved partner cope without your income? If you’re not around to support them financially your kids will be cleaning industrial chimneys with their faces and your partner will be on the game selling their body to make ends meet…which is the actual mechanics of that job. Is that what you want, you selfish scumbag; to expire and leave your loved ones in a melodrama, sweating in chimneys or under sailors? Of course you don’t, you’re nice. Call this number and give us money continually over a very long period of time and you’ll be a better, happier person. Terms and conditions apply, policies will not always pay out and your partner may still become a ho.’ (This last statement is either always spoken at a speed that is unintelligible or written in a tiny white font against a white background at the bottom of the screen.)
What is worrying about the particular strain of TNT paraphrased there is that the target is always the Dad of the family, he is always the one who gets the pang of worry and guilt and is pressured into ringing up for a policy right there and then. A bit sexist, isn’t it? Women don’t go to work or can’t be the main breadwinner? Or even more fantastical, they’re not going to die and leave the exact same problems outlined above for their partner to deal with? And what about an event that wipes out both adults, a Batman and Catwoman bedroom role play that goes wrong because his Batwang went off too early decapitating both of them? I don’t see that scenario ever mentioned. It’s always a nice clean death of the bloke that leads to the happy ending, which might please Germaine Greer but it leaves me a bit cold.
Obviously the dark souled hawkers of TNT have done their statistical homework and know exactly where to aim their poisoned barbs for their best financial gain. They must know that young men are more likely to die due to their rashness or genetic stupidity than a young woman is, or at least I assume they do other wise the adverts are not fit for purpose. For example, there’s little point in offering a will writing service in the ad breaks between a show that attracts viewers in the 16-25 age bracket, they’re less likely to die for one and another factor is, what have that slacker generation got to leave to anyone? Who the hell wants a phone with a cracked screen or a collection of…of…Pokémon? I have no idea what it is young people own but I’m pretty sure it’s not property, a stock portfolio or anything of proper worth. Which is very sad reflection of the times but on the other hand they should have had the foresight to have been born earlier and get all the good stuff while it was cheaper, so let that be a lesson to them.
Although still vile, TNT for people of a certain advanced age (I’m talking of the assurance against funeral costs adverts) are my favourite for a few reasons. The jollity of the acting amuses me; yes, we’re talking about you going six feet under or up in smoke but it doesn’t mean we can’t do it with a huge smile on our faces. They all seem to start with some innocuous opening premise to get a sincere, personal dialogue going between two older people, like having too many turnips to hand and sharing them round the neighbourhood like stinking communal hippies or attempting and failing to play video games with grandkids and so looking a right tool. Finally there’s the scripts of the adverts which are priceless in their jocularity and invariably take place in massive and obviously expensively fitted kitchens …
“I’ve taken out a policy for when I’m gone so you don’t get hit with funeral costs that can be up to seven million pounds these days.”
“Don’t talk like that, Mum, you’re only 135 you’ve got decades left in you yet.”
“I know but it’s best to be prepared and it makes me happy to know you won’t get bitch slapped by some thieving muppet wearing a black top hat with a feather init.”
“Oh, Mum, you’re such a treasure.”
Of course in the real world these sensitive conversations are more likely to run like this…
“Jesus, Mum, are you ever going to die, haven’t you had enough now you’re 55? I need to sell your house to pay off my student loan.”
“Screw you, I’m still fighting fit. Besides that the sale of the house won’t cover the cost of the St Louis style jazz funeral I’m planning, the balance of which you’ll be stung for.”
“In your dreams, you selfish old cow, as long as there is a man with a van you’ll be gone for under fifty quid.”
I suspect TNT is actually creating new customers/victims by the level of guilt and stress they pile on susceptible viewers; the old, the frail, the gullible and any combination of those three. The adverts are designed to plant a ravenous maggot made of fear and self-reproach into the subconscious that slowly eats its way into the realm of consciousness and results in the parting of money for products that may not be suitable or fit for purpose. I also reckon you won’t, despite all the ‘no medical questions’ or ‘no age limit’ promises, be accepted for any of their products if you are likely to kick the bucket before they have had a decent profit out of you. Or worse still you will be accepted but come ‘pay-out day’ the policy will be invalid for some reason that was present, and outlined in the tiny print, but carefully avoided at the point of sale. Most of these helpful policies have a minimum time period or amount of payment to be made before they become active which has pissed all over my idea of who the first people I was going to call should I be given two weeks to live. Try as you like to outsmart it, TNT has got you coming and going…especially going.
The actuality of the matter is I have no desire to be reminded of my mortality or physical frailty at every ad break during ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ or ‘Cash in the Attic’. Yes, the fact I am watching these programmes suggests I may have tired of this world, that I no longer possess a desire to hold onto life anymore but’s that’s not true, I’ve just temporarily loosened my grip on my spirit of adventure. I don’t want to die or lose the use of the hand I use to stroke to a stroke or get a free Parker pen that will, in reality, cost me thousands of pounds. But this TNT has got inside my head, it does make me consider the mess I could leave and I’m thinking that even though statistically speaking I’m not that close to the gapping maw of the grave (accidents and sickness aside), so imagine the explosive impact these TNT adverts are having on the properly old bastards, the ones sharing tea and biscuits with The Grim Reaper on a daily basis; they must be shitting themselves…although in fairness they might do that already without these broadcast scare-ads’ input.
Adverts that influence and target the young to their detriment, for fast food or heavily sugared snacks/drinks for example, have already felt the hammer blow of legislation and are banned from being aired on TV. Isn’t it time we extinguished the lit fuse of the TNT at the other end of the age spectrum and protect our old folks from commercialised manipulation that is literally trying to scare them to death in their own newly stretched covered floral armchairs. Ban TNT is what I’m saying and instead let the never ending hikes in domestic fuel prices thin out the mass of our geriatric millstones as nature intended.