Brian McGrory

There’s no way to avoid political ads on TV

For your own good, for the good of everyone around you, grab all the television sets you own, lug them to the garage, and heave them in the trash.

Do it now. Do it before it’s too late. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old Magnavox or a brand new Samsung, a 20-inch black and white or a 60-inch high-def. Get rid of it.

Why? You’ve been reading these benign-­sounding stories about Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren waging the most expensive Senate race in America? Warren sets a record by raising $8.7 million in one quarter. Brown has $15.5 million in the bank as of Tuesday.


It all sounds nice in the abstract. But there’s a problem with all this. That money has to buy something, and that something is television time.

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Put another way, from early September through the first week of November, ­Labor Day to Election Day, there will be an unprecedented onslaught of political advertising on Boston TV that will send the good people of Massachusetts screaming from their houses, pleading and crying to unfeeling forces for it to end. The entire state may go Amish, horses and buggies clogging Copley Square, anything to get away from TV.

Do you have any idea how many TV ads $40 million or $50 million can buy? Neither do I. Nobody really does. But too many, a frightening amount, enough to fill virtually every hour of each autumn day and night with deep-voiced narrators leveling ominous accusations as grainy images of dastardly candidates fill the screen.

It’ll leave you begging for one more ­Yoplait ad instead. Coors Silver Bullet commercials will look like Academy Award winning productions compared to what you’re about to see, one after another after another. The amazing thing is, federal candidates have the ability to bump any other ad to run their own, at the lowest available rate.

The Senate campaign ads, taken alone, will be bad enough, a veritable marathon of Professor, you miserable wench, and Senator, you brainless buffoon. But this year, we’ll also have Mitt Romney and ­Barack Obama, the two best-financed candidates in the history of politics, hammering each other on Boston television stations to reach voters in New Hampshire, one of the few swing states in the country. As if that’s not enough, add in the super PACs trying to elect them.


Then throw in Representative John Tierney, who will be grabbing space to persuade voters that even though his wife committed crimes by helping her brothers run an illegal internet gambling operation, the really bad guy in all this is his opponent, Richard Tisei, who is — brace yourselves — conservative.

Tisei will, of course, run ads implying that Tierney belongs in the Big House, not the US House. Joe Kennedy III will air commercials in which he is a ringer for his grandfather. Representative William Keating, who makes gray look like a tropical color, will buy space to remind voters he’s alive. And then there will be inscrutable spots for a ballot question involving something about repairs to your car.

And if the so-called “People’s Pledge,” barring special interests from the Senate race, is broken, be prepared for untold millions more in the most ferociously negative advertising imaginable. Regardless, you’ll head off to bed every night believing every candidate in Massachusetts was recruited at MCI Cedar Junction. Even television executives, the last happy people, privately know it all makes for awful TV.

You think I’m exaggerating? Let’s go to Patti McCarron, one of the most respected ad buyers in Boston. She’s represented politicians and business interests at the highest levels, and when she was asked this week what she expects on TV this fall, she was alarmingly succinct.

“A nightmare,” she replied. “We’re all going to want to stick needles in our eyes.”


We’re not going to have to. The politicians will be doing it for us.

McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at