Elgan: Google TV gives us more; we need less

Google TV needs a Facebook-style Hide button. So does Search, Twitter, e-mail, Web ads and radio

Google demonstrated its revolutionary new Google TV initiative this week but also revealed something we already knew: TV is rubbish.

At its Google I/O conference this week, Google spokesmen bravely demoed the many Google TV options, with live TV running in the background. They struggled with their Bluetooth controllers because of Bluetooth interference from the audience (Google gave every attendee a Bluetooth-capable cell phone before the event began).

But the real comedy was provided by live TV. As Google representatives struggled to get their wireless controller to work, there was a horrible toilet paper commercial playing on the airport-runway-size giant screen. Then there was some pseudo news program discussing various trashy, tawdry and inappropriate subjects. You know. TV.

The live programming actually made these grizzled Googlers blush, apologize and joke nervously about choosing a different channel next time. To me, they accidentally demonstrated the prevailing reality of television: It's mostly stuff you do not want.

Google TV is breathtaking. But if the entire vision has a flaw, it's that it buys into yesterday's more-is-better ethos of American consumer culture. Google TV gives you all the options of regular TV, plus search, apps, social networking, Internet video and a lot more.

A few decades ago, we had three channels. If you wanted to watch TV, you'd turn on the set and choose this network, that one or the other one.

Then we got VCRs, cable and satellite. An explosion in channels and options overwhelmed us. Throw in DVD and Blu-ray players, TiVo and its ilk, Slingbox and other innovative ways to enjoy TV. In addition to several HBO channels, several MTV channels, a half-dozen cooking networks, endless sports channels and stations in many foreign languages, we have inane infomercials, endless reruns, embarrassing local programming and so much more. We can search, record and pause. It takes a half hour just to channel-surf your way though all the channels. By the time you find what you want to watch, it's over.

Not enough "stuff" to do with your TV? Now Google TV is giving us more, more, more.

What we really need is less.

Google pointed out in its Google TV demo that the average American spends five hours per day watching TV. Assuming only one of those hours is wasted on irrelevant commercials and channel-surfing garbage channels, here's a made-up-but-still-meaningful statistic for you: The average American wastes about three years in a lifetime on irrelevant junk TV. Three years!

Now that's a problem that needs solving. What we really need is the ability to block, kill, hide or otherwise make invisible the torrents of garbage that pour into our living rooms.

While that bad TV programming played in the background, I'm certain that Googlers would have received a standing ovation if they had pressed a "Hide Garbage Like This" button and made it vanish.

I come not to bury Google TV, but to praise it: Google TV is an Android-based development platform. So, developers, if you want to get rich: Be first to develop the Google TV Hide button.

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