Want to know which shows are watched mostly by older folks? Just look at the commercials.

For instance, the average age of people who tune into "Jeopardy" apparently must be just-this-side-of-total-bodily-Armageddon. Every other commercial is about some miracle drug that's going to cure whatever particular ailment you have.

Want to quit smoking? Here you go. Oh, by the way, though, keep an eye out for suicidal thoughts, periods of extreme anger and whether or not you fall over dead.

Not that there aren't serious conditions that, if you're suffering from them, you certainly need to keep an eye on. But it's almost enough to keep you from watching certain shows because the symptoms they mention for any disease can make you think, "Wait, I have those symptoms. I'm gonna die!"

The commercials are the same if you're watching CNN, Fox or one of the other news channels. TV Land time travels back to shows like "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke" and "The Andy Griffith Show."

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Shawn Ryan

But commercials for millennials have their own problems.

Want to live an amazing life that takes you to beaches, swanky hotels, fabulous parties and interesting people? Drink this beer.

Need to get away to nature, reconnect with the universe and find yourself? Well, you'll only be able to get there if you drive this car. Other models will veer away from nirvana and take you to an industrial-waste dump site.

Jonesing to jump on your skateboard and practice your pop shuvit or 180-degree kickflip sexchange without slamming? You need this energy drink to jack up your adrenaline to volcanic levels.

Sure, TV commercials have been bone-dumb since the beginning of time. Smoking was cool and made you look urbane.

When Mustangs first came on the market, much of the advertising was aimed at young women. In one commercial, a woman named Liz walks through a laboratory as the voiceover says, "No one knew how much fizz there was to Liz." Until, of course, she took off her lab coat, shook out her hair and "the Ph.D. becomes pure TNT." In the background, a group cheerily sings, "It's gonna happen when Mustang happens to you." What is fizzy Liz expecting to happen?

Let's face it. Most TV commercials aren't supposed to be Mensa-level art. They sell product. But who's the product for? Is it us?

Contact Shawn Ryan at


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