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Sex makes you forget about... Wait, huh?

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002


Quick, who sponsors Baywatch?

That's what I thought.

I can't remember either, but I'm fairly sure the show wasn't presented as a public service.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and reported on by the Washington Post, researchers at Iowa State University found that people watching shows with heavy sexual content are less likely to remember the commercials.

Maybe that explains why most of the good stuff is on pay television channels. It might also explain why commercials get sexier every day.

Actually, I long ago developed the mental ability to block out commercials, using the time to review things I have to do the next day and to wonder if I really have the energy to walk all the way to the refrigerator for another beer.

Our own television expert, Eric Deggans, wonders if it might just be that bland programming is less likely to interfere with commercials because it makes the commercials more interesting than the show.

Let's face it, nobody is panting eagerly, waiting to get back to the action in Miracle Pets or Candid Camera, two shows cited as not interfering with viewers' ability to remember commercials.

And I tend to agree. I can't remember who sponsored episodes of West Wing, a fascinating show with only minimal sexual content.

I tried to do research in other publications, but I kept getting distracted by the Victoria's Secret and Viagra ads.

Actually there might be important information here for government.

If sexy programming makes commercials less memorable, maybe sexy commercials would make governmental broadcasts less easily remembered.

"I told you how I was going to fix DCF," Jeb Bush can say, "right in between the spots for really tight-fitting women's jeans and the one with the bronze-skinned guy drinking a soda and letting it run down his chest . . . don't you remember?"

In areas where they broadcast County Commission and City Council meetings, or on virtually all of CSPAN, a few Pamela Anderson spots and an occasional George Clooney pitch might take our minds off of such things as rising taxes, greedy real estate speculators, the death knell of the Fourth Amendment and old people choosing between buying food and medicine while politicians babble on about how they have the answers about how to fix things.

We are working hard, it seems, at privatizing everything from athletic stadiums to child welfare to jail operations, why not sell a little time . . . come on guys, you can do it under the guise of lowering taxes. Remember the lottery?

In Pasco County, which has more strippers than Citrus County has manatees and Hernando County has sinkholes, law enforcement agencies say they have found a link to a Web site that advertises high-priced prostitutes.

Not only would having that Web site sponsor governmental broadcasts be a revenue source and distract people from noticing what government is up to, but the concept of having prostitutes sponsor politicians would appeal to those of us who have a sense of irony and would be peddling printed programs so viewers could tell them apart.

But, back to the original premise, I think the implication that sexy content has any effect on my ability to remember thongs . . . er . . . things is insulting.

I always have bought Playboy magazine for the advertisements. I used to say it was the stories, but there's nothing like a good Dewars Scotch ad to really make me fixate on a page.

Topless bars have, occasionally, affected my ability to remember where I was when asked on returning home, or what time I was supposed to be back from lunch on workdays, and it is true that I have no idea whether there are any other businesses at the Interstate 75 exit where Cafe Risque is situated.

But that's because I focus on content and only important things that I hear about -- and because I'm really sad about Britney breaking up with that Justin what's-his-name guy.

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