My mother had a lot of weird turns of phrase (‘doomaflatchie’ was her word of choice for a thing whose name she could not recall) but one of the most memorable was “video wallpaper”, her term for leaving the television on when no one is watching. She used it to complain about a waste of electricity, but I have adopted it to describe when I turn on ‘How I Met Your Mother’ or ‘Scrubs’ as background noise during other tasks. (Most of my work for Major Spoilers has had a vague Zach Braff/Ashley Williams background radiation.) One’s choice of video wallpaper can be difficult, as you don’t want something engrossing enough to draw you from the tasks you’re trying to complete, but it must be pleasant enough for those moments where you’re aware of it. Syndicated shows like ‘Friends’, where most episodes follow the same pattern, are ideal, which leads us to today’s not paying attention query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) has found that ‘Steven Universe’ is very bad for these purposes, as I sit and watch every second of it, asking: What programs or music work best as background noise when you’re not paying attention?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. I’m hard of hearing (legally deaf), so I can’t really understand what is going on unless I’m paying attention to read captions. However, complete silence bothers me, so I like to have something on no matter what I’m doing (even when I go to sleep, the TV is on at reduced volume). What I have on changes all the time, depending on what is on, if it is a new TV season, etc.

    I used to have Adult Swim on at nights as I gamed, but then they stopped having decent shows and started airing a lot of crap, so I only leave it on on Saturday nights for the most part. I also used to keep The Hub on quite a bit both day and night when they aired old sitcoms (Mork and Mindy, Happy Days, etc) and had various DCAU cartoons as well as Transformers G1 and such in the afternoons. Then they stopped doing that (several months before the change to Discovery Family) so I drifted away.

    Currently, I leave FXX on most weekday afternoons and let The Simpsons amuse me when I turn away from the PC or my games, and I switch between TNT and BBC America on weekday mornings for “Supernatural” repeats on TNT and “Star Trek TNG” and “Doctor Who” on BBC America. I also put on On Demand and let the recent episodes of “Arrow”, “The Flash” a few times after I’ve watched them, as well as older series like “Buffy” or older episodes of “The Simpsons”.

    • Stark's Scraps on

      FXX has changed the way I fold laundry… well, it’s changed the schedule for folding laundry at least.

  2. TheWolverine on

    For programs I usually turn on Me-TV, it’s an over the air broadcast station that has a whole lot of older shows ranging from the early 50’s to the early to mid 90’s(Westerns on Saturday afternoon, Detective & Mystery on Sunday and other various comedies & semi-serious shows throughout the week. Plus every Saturday night is “Super Sci-Fi Saturday night” with the different hero & sci-fi shows ).

    For music I switch between oldies stations and various rock stations depending on what I need for certain days.

  3. usually CNBC or Bloomberg Business or one of the news channels.

    Otherwise, I’m too easily distracted and start watching anything else.

  4. I once wrote two college papers back-to-back with seven hours of Married… with Children playing in the background.

  5. I’ve been doing a lot of this lately, I can’t focus on my work unless there’s music in my ears in the background.
    Of late, I’ve been, oddly, enjoying French pop, and Irish punk rock. If I’m having a particularly bad day, I need EDM, and dubstep remixes. All of these are kept on as low a volume as possible. Oh, and 8bit remixes of some of my more favourite songs.

  6. Stark's Scraps on

    Our go-to background TV is American Dad. Sometimes I’ll play old Top Fives or Dana Gould Hours if I can’t tolerate Seth Macfarlane’s voice.

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