My City for a Decent Cable Company

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I’ve written before about how I went to private school with children of the family that runs Toledo’s local cable company, Buckeye Cablesystem. (The same family also owns our local paper, the Toledo Blade.) I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m hardly a fan of Buckeye, particularly when they were slow to add new channels I really wanted in the 1990s (Food Network, ZDTV, MuchMusic, Bravo), which was why I had DirecTV for a few years there. After the fire I didn’t bother renewing DirecTV, though, mostly because I didn’t have much interest in television once I went back to college, and by that point I was tired of trying to catch every single televised performance of every musician I liked. (Now that other people have put those performances up on YouTube, I feel fairly vindicated in my decision.) Buckeye does have the best local cable and high-speed Internet access in town, yes, but given how Toledo is, that’s kind of like being valedictorian at summer school. There wasn’t even any serious competition in town until recently, when AT&T; started making offerings, and so far their introduction into Toledo has been a huge disappointment. (I don’t even think they’ve gotten their service out here to my suburb yet.)

That being said, Buckeye still puts up a lot of its own commercials during various broadcasts advertising their various services, and apart from the gratingly smug tone many of these commercials take, some of them are just so bad I can’t stand to watch them. One of their recent commercial lines has been to show "humourous" things you can do with your old satellite dish after getting Buckeye Cable, like use it as a frisbee or an outdoor grill. Now, they’re not that funny to me, but I’m willing to accept that my sense of humour is significantly different from most people’s, so maybe that’s just me. However, in each of these commercials, when they’re advertising their special offers at the end, those offers include cash and/or credit for selling them your old satellite equipment. In other worse, they’re showing you what you can do with your old satellite dish, and then basically saying you won’t have the dish after you use this special deal. This is the kind of elementary logic failure that makes me want to go down to Buckeye Cable’s offices and start yelling at no one in particular about how ridiculous they make themselves out to be.

In another of these "alternate use for your old satellite dish" ads, they show a guy turning his old dish into a replica of a Star Trek starship that he then hangs from the ceiling of his bedroom. They even have a crappy synthesizer playing a rip-off of the first four notes of the old Star Trek theme, and they only refer to it in the commercial as a "starship model." However, the man’s bedroom is full of licensed Star Trek merchandise, including bedsheets with the Next Generation logo on them and a life-size cardboard cutout of Data. It’s like they’re trying to have it both ways, referring obliquely to Star Trek like they’re trying to avoid a lawsuit, but then having all this official merchandise in the background. There’s no disclaimer about Paramount licensing the use of Star Trek stuff for the commercial, either, so I have to assume that Paramount could shoot a cease-and-desist order to Buckeye Cable here to get that commercial taken off the air, which would do wonders for my nerves.

The other big line of commercials Buckeye has introduced lately has been for their home phone service, trying to show why it’s a good idea to have a landline even in this age of cheap cellular service. I have to admit that the first of these commercials, about a grown-up daughter bonding with her mother over the phone, was actually quite touching and well done; it’s probably the best commercial I’ve ever seen Buckeye put out. However, after that they started trying to be funny, and as before, the commercials became ludicrous. One commercial shows a guy having to lean out of a window of his house, with an active beehive right above him, trying to get good reception on his cell phone. (They couldn’t even afford to get fake bees for him to swat at, so he just looks like he’s having an episode.) After the Buckeye guy comes in and does his thing and hands the guy a wireless landline phone, though, the guy goes back into his house, but only closes his window part of the way. If the bees there were as bad as he made them out to be, his home would be uninhabitable within about five minutes. It’s like that commercial the soda industry put out trying to get Congress not to put a national tax on sodas where the woman takes groceries out of her car’s trunk and then leaves the trunk wide open as she goes into her house and closes the door behind her. I’d meant to blog about that commercial a while ago, but then Jon Stewart beat me to it.

The worst of these Buckeye phone commercials, though, makes me want to pull my hair out, so of course it’s in heavy rotation. It’s about this guy who tries to order a pizza at 2101 (9:01 PM, if you insist) since he doesn’t want to use up any of his weekday minutes, only to be told that the pizza place he called stopped delivering a minute ago. First of all, nearly every cell phone company I know starts offering reduced/free minutes at 1900, not 2100. Secondly, no pizza place I know of stops delivering that early. Pizza places, like fast food (especially Taco Bell), make a killing on the late night just-got-stoned-and-need-munchies crowd, so it’s in their best interest to stay open as late as possible. Those logical flaws alone would be bad enough, but then the Buckeye guy comes in and gives the caller a landline phone, the caller smiles, and then places a call on the landline phone. Uh, excuse me, but why the Toot is he calling again! The pizza place will still be closed! He’s still going to spend the night hungry and miserable! Couldn’t you have gotten the phone to him fifteen minutes earlier?

I know that looking for logic in television commercials is kind of foolish to start with, and I admit I probably view Buckeye more harshly than I do other companies, so I’m probably looking for this stuff to point out. Still, though, stuff like this makes me batty. If your commercials are going to be smug and self-righteous, at least have them make some sense.

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