What We Sell To Coca-Cola Is Available Humain Brain Time

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Once I understood “beavers tails” weren’t actual cute beavers’ fried tails but just a name for a kind of waffle, I started to relax. I had mastered North American supermarket (80% frozen food, 10% junk food and 10% “healthy” bars), I could drive an automatic car, and I had learned to check addresses before walking mile-long streets hoping to bump into the right building.

But there were one thing I couldn’t yet figure out: the TV.


“There are many ways to speak about TV, but in a business perspective, let’s be realistic: at the basis, TF1’s job is helping Coca-Cola, for example, to sell its product. What we sell to Coca-Cola is available human brain time. Nothing is more difficult than obtaining this availability. This is where permanent change is located. We must always look out for popular programs, follow trends, surf on tendencies, in a context in which information is speeding up, getting manifold and trivialized.” (TF1, French private network’s CEO, Patrick Le Lay)

See, back in France, it was quite simple. I had a small black and white TV with a broken antenna I had to trap between a pile of books and the edge of the couch in order to get clear reception. I only watched TV when: 1) I was copying Chinese ideograms for practice (a repetitive task!) 2) I was drawing 3) I was plucking my eyebrows.

We had 6 channels. Really, only five. Or four.


  • TF1, a private TV network, is basically the right-wing campaign headquarter. It boasts excellent news at 1 p.m. where you can learn about the last guy who make handmade oak casting rod in a small village, how civilization destroy small business, all that because of the immigrants and the youth who doesn’t even go the Mass anymore. Crucial news, usually broadcast prime-time.
  • France 2 and France 3 are part of the public network, the former being very”local”. France 2 was the channel I watched most back then, with a lot of talk show—not the Jerry Springer kind, more like “Middle-East politics towards peace” head games.
  • Arte is Franco-German. Do I need to say more? Alright. Black and white silent movies about blind Ukrainian dancer performing for the first time in Uzbekistan. “Is red the key to existentialist paintings” kind of talk shows. All subtitled in German.
  • Canal + is pay television with a monthly X-rated movie on the first Saturday of the month. Only reason I know that is because back in high school, guys would brag about watching it, even though all they could see were encrypted pixelated naked bodies.
  • Finally, M6 is another private network which thrives on US series badly dubbed in French. The channel is mostly famous for introducing reality-TV in France in 2001 with the show “Loft Story” (Big Brother).


With so few networks, no need to say that I never had a remote. I just stuck to one channel for the night and never bothered channel-surfing.


You see where I come from and you probably see where I’m going. I’m holding the remote in my hand right now, and I see 998 channels. Granted, we have cable. But still! Why on earth would you have a channel dedicated to weather forecast? To plan landing? To biographies? What’s the idea here? “Oh, I feel like watching planes landing tonight”? Or “gee, I’m so lazy I can’t step out to see what’s the weather like”? “I desperately need to know more about Sandra Bullock while I’m eating”?

Oh yeah… that’s because every bloody five minutes you get twenty minutes of commercials! I see!

France is straightforward and borderline boring when it comes to commercials. Private networks do have one commercial break during movies or shows. One. And public networks only have one break before and after the program! Yes, French don’t pee apparently, nor they eat, makes calls, do homework or go grab a beer when they watch TV. When French watch, they sit their butt in front of the screen and they don’t move for two hours! They don’t change channel!


Can’t blame you though. The first couple of times, I didn’t mind the commercial breaks. But hey, like everybody else, I got sick of seeing clean toilets being scrubbed, happy kids being fed, great families buying SUVs and poor little rich women applying for high-interests credit cards. So I was introduced the wonderful world of channel surfing.


Step one, pick up the remote. Step two, select another channel. Eventually, there would be a commercial break as well. Pick the remote again or best, keep it handy. Select another channel. Etc. Basically, search for actual shows or program and avoid commercials. Forget about actually watching a show—that’s not the point. Duh. The point is to surf between commercial breaks.


Commercials are okay. Saying “fuck” is not. In which kind of world are we living for, I’m starting to wonder. Cause in France, commercials are bad but hosts, politicians, the audience are expected to swear. France doesn’t beep “”merde”, “enculé” or “putain”. This is punctuation. The magnificence of French language. Art. “Beeep” isn’t. Beep is cowardice. If the talk-show theme is “my sister is having sex with my lesbian partner” don’t expect much politeness for fuck sake! (excuse my French). The way US TV manages to be puritan yet extremely offensive will always baffled me.


Now if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna read. A book. During commercial breaks.



About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Hey!

    ~~I like your spunk! Come on over to LOng Island, New York, and rant a bit at me.

    ~~Gotta agree with your accessment of American TV. It kinda sucks. very much merde, here!


    kisses, adam b.

  2. ~*SilverNeurotic*~ on

    I always find it amazing that I have all these channels at my disposal…a huge list of movies or tv shows that I can watch whenever with ON DEMAND…and I still can never seem to find anything to watch when I’m bored. I usually just end up putting on the classic vh1 channel and put the volume up for the music and go clean or read or something.

    Commercials aren’t even that fun anymore either.

  3. lol, interesting country France is… and oh, the place you lived sounds quite bad…. reminds me of a prison cell… poor Zhu lol

    You’re in a better place now though haha 998 channels, that IS quite a bit.

    Here in Australia, we receive about 4-5 channels with 3 commercial channels that has ad breaks lasting roughly 90 seconds. I can also receive Chinese channels such as TVB, Star, CCTV and Beijing TV and a whole bunch of regional channels so it’s great! But the commercials, omg… trust me, it’s more painful… For good movie/tv series, it lasts on average 5-15 minutes… sometimes you just wanna smash the telly lol…

  4. Adam b: welcome here ! I promised no commercials on this blog 😉

    I’m gonna go visit you in NY in a sec !

    : yeah, it’s exactly that. So many channels and nothing on. Sometimes, quality is better than quantity !

    Shan: I have Chinese TV as well and I agree, commercials ARE painful ! It’s always about food, medecine or local chinese shops, with this high pitch voice… But hey, at least it’s good for my Chinese !:D

    I didn’t watch TV much when I was in Australia, but I remember the commercials drove me crazy as well.

  5. I don’t watch television persay…(spelled that wrong i’m sure)

    I watch dvd’s for my dvd review blog, and professional wrestling.

    it seems easy to watch tv…but i read too…

    growing up though, tv played my babysitter.

    it’s hard to throwaway years of solitude.

  6. david santos on

    Hello, Zhu!
    Thanks for you work, is very good.

    The history of Madeleine is to be terrible as of many the other children.

    Congratulations and have a good weekend

  7. I never watched tv before I got sick. But it is a good distraction, I must admit! And contrary to what I used to think, there is some very good programming, I especially love the nature channels 🙂

    No one likes commercials. But you know a show is bad when the commercials are the best part of that half hour!

  8. Zhu!!! Oh my goodness – How do you do it? Almost every word you wrote corresponds to exactly how I feel. Unfortunately English TV is moving ever more close towards the American style – I have fond memories of 3 TV channels (2 of which had no adverts) and certainly no remote control – it required an extremely long and arduous 4ft walk to switch channels (gosh! I must have been soooo fit then). Now I also have several hundred channels (ironically, there is less worth watching now than there was way back then). However, I must confess – when I was in the USA a few weeks ago, I was guilty of spending one whole evening watching the “local tornado watch”, edge of the seat stuff!!! LOL!!!!

    I love it!!!! Keep writing!!!!! ~ Graham 😀

  9. i love the idea of using cursing as punctuation….lmao! i seriously need to relocate to france. 😉 oh, and don’t you just love the 20 home shopping channels? wtf? who watches that crap?

  10. sir jorge : watching DVD is totally different to me. At least, I like to think I have a little bit of controle – which is not always true anymore with the compulsory commercials and previews before the movie.

    When I was a kid, I was always reading if I felt lonely – cultural differences I guess…

    david santos : you have an interesting blog as well… I just wished my portuguese was better !

    Sebastien : I watched TV quite a bit when I first came here too, out of curiosity and boredom I guess.

    There are good programs, but I find them hard to find, and usually not on “prime-time”.

    Hope you feel better now 😉

    Getty72 : hey Graham, you improved your blog layout quite a bit again !

    I don’t know UK TV that well, except for Eastenders. Yep, it’s that famous.

    US TV can be fascinating at first. I remembered my first live car chase, oh, I didn’t miss a bit ! 😀

    Webmiztris : the question should be : who BUY that crap ! Infomercials… another thing I never understood…

  11. hey zhu!
    thank for dropping by in my blog.
    i will be back soon for more reading…


    i will include you in my blog roll btw, if you dont mind 🙂

  12. Good points there Zhu! Personally, all I feel about TV at the moment is a sense of numbness. Everything feels the same on it, you know the few good tested TV program recipes being done to death over and over again. There is no point watching movies on it since chances are you ‘ ll have watched everything they show already either on DVD, internet or movie theatre. I like watching football (as in “proper football”, this is what they lamely call “soccer” in the US by the way, lol), basketball and other sports and some TV series now and then. I think the best contribution of TV in my life is that whenever I was alone sometimes that humming buzzing sound coming from it, the voices, the music, whatever, was a source of life in the room or perception of it anyway.

    I think when you stop being a child the “little silly box” called TV stops being a magical object spawning wondrous images and becomes a useless commodity of your daily life.One of the little silly constants that add a little bit of flavour to the whole but dont have anything to offer in their own right.

    By the way you just gave me an idea for a blog article Zhu, heh!

    Take care!

  13. You Gotta love US TV!! Actually you don’t have to, and I advise you don’t. It will just suck the life force out of you. With TV, it is a love hate relationship. Growing up with TV in your life, you hate it because there is nothing on, yet you love it because there is nothing on.

    btw, thanks for the comment. The addiction isn’t back. I am just going with the Hype of it all!! haha 🙂

    have a great day/night!!!

  14. Paper Fan Club on

    Zhu: another hilarious post! I grew up in a rural area, and we only had 4 Canadian channels — including CBC English and CBC French. I missed all the good Saturday morning cartoons and didn’t even see Saturday Night Live until I was 20 years old!!

  15. Hey Zhu…What a post!! I’m not a big fan of the “f” word, but for some reason I found it very entertaining “listening” to you say it.
    As a mother I try to limit TV for my kids. It’s just a bunch of crap most of the time and I think it’s better for them to play outside or do something with us. Can’t wait for your next post!!
    A Cowboy’s Wife

  16. pepe M. : welcome here ! I’ll be back on your blog as well, I always like new blogs to read 😉

    Hathery : nah, buzzing through commercials is pure sanity if you want my opinion. I used to be able to forward exactly where the commercials stops – I lost my touch now ! 😀

    Just realized I knew you with another blog 😉

    Deadpoolite : oh, so you like European soccer :$ Italian players crying when they’re hurt and all ?

    Just kidding… Eh, I’m half Canadian now, I have to make fun of every sport but hockey !

    I feel the same about TV… Seen everything, bored. It’s not a really creative media anymore…

  17. Ryan : we have Detroit TV here in Ottawa and yeah, I *love* it 😀

    It’s funny how many people here mentionned they grew up with TV. Was I the only one whose parents believed in reading, or is it because I’m French ???

    Paper Fan Club : hey, but your French must be good from this early influence ! Right ? RIGHT ??? 😀

    cowboytf : it must be hard to limit TV for kids. I bet they get influenced by their friends etc. Wow, parenting is a tough job !

    BTW, I love your new template !

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