For the last seven years I have posted articles mostly about great places to visit in California and the Pacific Northwest. From Oregon’s Crater Lake and the Eagle Cap Mountains to Southern California’s Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park, I’ve suggested a number of extraordinary destinations. I have written over 130 articles as “Portland Scenic Travel Examiner” and am confident there are many more fun and scenic places out there to report on in the months and years to come. The American West is a rich playground for those who seek history, adventure and inspirational natural beauty.
And now for something a little different. I was about nine years old when our family got its first television set. It had a roundish screen about the size of a dinner plate and the programs in those days were broadcast in fuzzy black-and-white. You fiddled with its “rabbit ears” antenna to try to get a reasonable picture, and there were only three or four channels to choose from.
I grew up watching programs such as “The Honeymooners”, “I Love Lucy”, “Gunsmoke”, “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Twilight Zone”. It was a more innocent time for television and for the nation in general. The scripts for Westerns were simple and moralistic. Comedies were often slapstick. Parents didn’t have to worry about their children seeing inappropriate subject matter on television because there simply wasn’t any.
And the sponsors of those wholesome shows were mostly mainstream companies offering consumer goods such as toothpaste, laundry detergent, automobiles, breakfast cereal and soft drinks. I still remember some of the silly jingles that accompanied the advertisements.
Fast forward 50 years plus and today’s TVs are thin and wall-sized with incredibly sharp color images and stereo sound. Instead of a handful of network channels, now we have hundreds of cable channels from which to choose. And the content is all over the map, from awe-inspiring to raunchy. Gone are the sweet, uplifting stories that appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show” or “The Waltons”. Today’s situation comedies are packed with stupidity and sexual innuendo. Characters seem universally cynical and snarky; I wouldn’t want any of them as a friend.
But beyond the largely tasteless content of many prime time TV shows is the transition in television advertising. Gone it seems are the Wheaties, Campbell Soup and margarine commercials from the evening news programs. Now a preponderance of the ads are for prescription drugs, those “ask your doctor” ads that spend most of the time listing all the dire side-effects: rash, loss of vision, heart attack, suicidal tendencies, death. This week I jotted down the names of the prescription drugs that we were bombarded with over just a 48 hour period: Tecfidera®, Tamiflu®, Brilinta®, Harvoni®, Januvia®, Xeljanz®, Lyrica®, Restasis®, Jublia®, Opdivo®, Costenyx®, Neulasta®, Xarelto®, Trulicity®, Prevagen®, Pradaxa®, Entyvio®, and Belsomra®. Unless you pay close attention, you have no idea what these weird-sounding drugs are meant to cure.
They are not only annoying to watch, they should not be on television in the first place. Patients should not be telling their doctors what drugs they want to take, it should be the other way around. The American Medical Association voted last November in favor of banning direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising. It tends to build a demand for expensive, unnecessary treatments that doctors might not otherwise prescribe. It is not a healthy system for the patient or the overall cost of medical care.
The pharmaceutical industry spent $4.5 billion last year on direct-to-consumer drug advertising, and the number is growing greedily. Sadly, the television industry is becoming hooked on such advertising. Pfizer, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline have very deep pockets for TV advertising, which is both highly effective and profitable. And to assure that nothing disrupts this gravy train, they are huge contributors to the legislators who might otherwise be inclined to ban commercially-driven prescription drug advertising on television.
The United States and New Zealand are the only developed countries in the world that permit promoting prescription drugs commercially. I’d like very much to see the practice end, wouldn’t you? I’d prefer to see ads for Rice Crispies, Dairy Queen and Dodge trucks rather than suffer through more of those tedious disclaimers about all the possible negative side-effects of taking a drug that I’m very, very unlikely to ever need. No, drug companies, I definitely will not talk to my doctor about your expensive patented pills!
Now, to get back to writing about scenic travel destinations.