Commercials Make it Better

Commercial breaks make TV viewing more enjoyable, says a story in today’s Science Times in the New York Times. It cites research from a University of California at San Diego professor, who calls the conclusion “simultaneously implausible and empirically coherent.” It has something to do with stopping and restarting a pleasurable experience. The opposite being if you interrupt a boring task like vacuuming — interrupting it makes it seem more tedious.

The story also observes that we have gotten used to taking these breaks in the TV action to do other things — go to the kitchen, make a phone call — and that even when replaying shows on the DVR, people often will pause at the break before zipping through the ads. (Some people, I hear, even watch the ads.)

I would add to this the three- or four-act structure that hourlong dramas have written in to lead up to the breaks. Time often elapses between cliffhanger and resumption, and it just works better with an actual pause.