Since we haven’t had a holiday in almost a week, today is Pont de l’Ascension and the lab is closed. It’s cold and dreary out (we’ve beenback to winter coats for the last two weeks here), so I’m trying to finish up my DAMOP presentation at home today. Well, the Camembert to baguette ratio at home is approaching infinity, so I might try to find an open boulangerie.

When I’m home I generally try to keep the TV on in a paltry attempt to improve my French aural comprehension.   Between the French jibber-jabber and the French subtitles I can sometimes even follow along.  It helps that they show dubbed over American shows, which means that sometimes it’s an episode of Macgyver that I saw at age seven when home sick or something.   They love Richard Dean Anderson here, it’s all Macgyver and Stargate all the time.

My stereotype of European television is that you had your choice of either channel to watch.  Instead, there’s actually a selection of almost thirty digital channels here in Paris over-the-air, split between original French programming and semi-dated dubbed American shows.  Scrubs, Les Simpson, Les Experts: Miami and Les Experts: Las Vegas all get regular airings.   The French programming includes a lot of period dramas, reality tv, and there’s one hour-long show thats just video clips from the Internet of people getting hit in the crotch.

Shows also start and end at somewhat bizarre intervals.  Not just that whole “NBC shows fifty-five minute episodes of The Office and 30 Rock because they can’t find a decent fourth series to round out Thursday nights,” but almost nothing starts on the hour or half-hour.   I think this is due to the restricted amount of TV advertising, which shortens air times, for which France gets a gold star.

In the US, commercials have slowly taken over to be eighteen minutes out of an hour of TV.  That’s right, thirty percent of TV is ads.  In France, ads are reduced to nine minutes out of the hour on average, and no commercials after 8pm on the public channels (This is changing, for the better, in 2012.  No commercials on public channels at all!)  Nudity and foul language also seems to be OK after eight or nine at night.  Since I’m not usually home until after eight, my impression of French television is that of commercial-free sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll all the time.

Funny anecdote about commercials:  Last year I watched a lot of TdF coverage on Versus.  They basically run TdF coverage sixteen hours a day for three weeks straight.  Due to the time zone difference, you can watch live coverage in the mornings before work, or see the edited results in the evening.  Versus did a split coverage lineup last year, where the two intelligent commentators do the live show, and the hilarious commentator  does the evening coverage.  Consequently, I’d try to watch both some of the morning and then watch the late evening.  All in all, I spent a lot of those three weeks watching Versus, and therefore a lot of commercials.

Well, who buys commercial time during TdF?  To answer that question, you have to ask another question: What market segment watches the TdF?  Men.  White men.  Old white men.  Old white men with disposable income.  Consequently, *all* of the advertising time is bought up by Flomax, Levitra, and Extenze.

It turns out, that if you see a Flomax commercial every single commercial break for three weeks straight, you start to worry you have a plumbing problem.  If you sit around with your housemate drinking And Tonics while watching Tour coverage and then you wake up once in the middle of the night to take a leak, you’re completely convinced you require immediate medical attention.   I’m probably now the only 28 year old who’s ever had a discussion with the UVA Health Center about BPH.

It turns out France isn’t broadcasting the Giro d’Italy, so I gave Eurosport five Euro for a month of web streaming.  Interestingly, there’s a lot more commercial time on premium television than on all of the OTA television.  Most likely, this is at least partially to keep the actual breaks in games roughly consistent between countries.  It also cuts down the amount of dead booth time they have to air.  I was at a party with a bunch of Americans last week, one of whom mentioned that this occurred during the French feed of the Super Bowl.  Supposedly they show the Superbowl a few days after the fact (Superbowl Wednesday?), and rather than cut to the Half-Time Show, they just leave the announcers mic feeds running for twenty minutes.

The ads on Eurosport are certainly different, they’re all really cycling specific.  Rather than drugs to help my ding-dong, they just keep showing the same creepy commercial of Contador in a white tux waving Sidi shoes at me.  You can watch it over at, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Ok, off to find a baguette!