Countdown to Triviality!

One of the great banes of 21st-century American culture is TV’s “countdown clock,” which ominously winds down to the start of a media hyped event. Because no one protested its initial appearance, the countdown clock today is ubiquitous, heralding everything—except something important.

We’ve seen the countdown clock inject itself in politics, such as the government shutdown; in sports, such as the Super Bowl; and in the celebrity culture, such as the royal wedding.  

Obviously, these events have significance for TV anchors, reporters, and pundits, who garner fame, ratings, and revenues if you watch them explain what your own eyes have just seen on screen.    

For viewers, though, the media fanfare over such events does not make them all of equal—or any—import. Nonetheless, so as to avoid the media feeding frenzy around such an event, it is incredibly stressful for viewers to see the countdown clock ticking away the fleeting seconds of their finite lives while anxiously awaiting the moment to turn off the network and—gasp!—turn on Netflix or YouTube or something else to occupy the fleeting seconds of their finite lives.  

Yes, friends, life is hard; but need it be this hard?    

No. It need not. But how to reconcile viewers and the media to reduce Americans’ stress levels?

As a staunch supporter of the First Amendment and free markets, I cannot and will not advocate banning the countdown clock. I have a far more radical solution.

If we start from the premise that the TV’s countdown clock does provide the dual benefits of letting viewers know if the event started on time; and, ergo, when to avoid the full media feeding frenzy from said event’s commencement through its conclusion. But how does one know that said event is over, seeing as a viewer is not watching the event’s breathless coverage?

Hard as it is to admit, what becomes apparent is we need . . .

A second countdown clock.

Only this clock would start and end with the media’s coverage of the event, including its pre-event promotions, live event reportage, and post-event follow-ups.

The second countdown clock’s appeal to viewers is obvious: they can know when it’s safe to tune back into regularly scheduled network programming without fear of channel surfing into a media feeding frenzy.

Finessing the press might be a bit more difficult, but not impossible. The best approach would be through someone the media utterly trusts—say, an Obama appointee—who could explain the second countdown clock actually helps viewers know “how much time remains to enjoy watching the network talents’ expertise on display.” What TV talent would be heartless enough to refuse to aid viewers in planning their day—no, their lives!—and ensuring “they don’t miss a single second of the on-screen cognoscenti’s wit and wisdom”? I’m betting not a single one of those kind, telegenic souls.

Doubtless, some will argue the impossibility of reaching a consensus and implementing this second countdown clock. But given the stakes are increasing the health and wellness of all Americans by reducing their stress levels, count me as one who stands ready to prove these pessimists wrong.

But not right now. I’ve only got 17 hours and 53 minutes until the royal wedding.


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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

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