Honest Abe and cable TV
“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Everyone is familiar with this quote, often mistakenly attributed to P.T. Barnum, but in fact muttered first by Abraham Lincoln. It’s obvious to me from that questionable opinion (not to mention the fact that Lincoln died in 1865) that Abe was never employed by an electronic entertainment/visual media conglomerate ... because had he worn a stovepipe hat with a satellite TV or cable company logo emblazoned on the front, the last part of that quote would have read ... ”but with the proper strategic marketing campaign, I can fool nearly everyone 99 percent of the time.” If employers such as these had padded Abraham’s resume, “Honest” Abe would have been a misnomer, and instead of The Rail Splitter, his other much more colorful nickname, "A-Linc" would forever after be known among his circle of friends, and perhaps throughout history as, “The Co-axial Cable Splitter.”
Though well documented as a possessor of extraordinary oratorical skills, it is an absolute impossibility (even at the height of his popularity) that Lincoln could have convinced me of the need for The Hopper (a DVR which, as the incredulous announcer voice informs us, can record up to 2,000 HOURS of your favorite programming).
That, for my math-challenged friends, is just over 83 days straight (without sleep) of horribly written and acted, cliché riddled, recycled joke filled, low brow productions masquerading as entertainment. To further illustrate the ridiculousness of this claim as an attractive feature to consumers, one would have to listen to Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods sing “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” 30,000 times to equal the time capacity of a single Hopper.
Figuring in my average of (at minimum) eight hours a day at work, five hours of sleep, four combined hours of reading and/or listening to music, and five hours of other various necessary survival activities, that leaves me with about two hours a day (if I don’t encounter a slow coal train on my way to or from work) for TV viewing. Out of those two hours, 35 minutes are commercials (which I am theoretically paying to view, even though the advertisers themselves have doled out a sizeable chunk of change to have them broadcast) for products I have no interest in ever purchasing, or for more unappealing (and if you believe the hype, highly anticipated) ridiculously-scripted network projects. At that rate of 85 minutes per day, one full Hopper would take me almost 3.8 years to fully view. The Voyager space probe travelled to Jupiter in less time.
The other thing old Abe the satellite TV guy would have a difficult time making me believe, is that his company provides me and my family with a great entertainment for the dollar value. Let’s see, I have (more or less) 400 channels to choose from, half of those broadcast in a language I can’t understand. There are (it seems) 50 selections for 24-hour news, which really isn’t news as much as it is opinions from people I don’t trust. Multiple religious, food, shopping and “Big Bang Theory” rerun selections round out the majority of what’s left. So it comes down to a monthly bill of $130 for a few hours of programming on the History Channel, a couple of sporting events and “Austin City Limits.”
Ol’ Abe should feel lucky he was just the president, because the Lincoln-Douglas debates are gonna be nothing compared to my call to customer service.
Chuck Mason, a self-described opinionated wiseguy, resides in Princeton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.