Robots are everywhere on TV these days-from commercials promoting laundry detergent, to shows about how cars and other modern marvels are built. The question is: How much influence do robots have over what we watch on TV?

Recently, I called my cable company to expand my TV channel package. I was inquiring about a Robot Network I’d read about somewhere on the Internet. The conversation went as follows…
21C: “Hello this is the 21C cable company, how may I help you?”

Me: “I’d like to find out more information about the Robot Network and what it costs to add it to my current package.”

21C: “As a standard HD customer, you are automatically connected to the Robot Network.”

Me: “Oh that’s great, what channel do I turn to watch it?”

21C: “It’s not one channel, per se. It encompasses many channels at many different times.”

Me: “I don’t understand-isn’t it like the NFL or MLB network or HBO, with a designated number?”

21C: “No, the Robot Network oversees all the various broadcasts involving robots that appear on every channel at any time.”

Me: “Can you explain that further for me? I’m still not fully understanding.”

21C: “Sure, here’s a rundown of what’s being broadcast in your area in the next 2 hours, just to give you a sample.”

[At this point I grabbed a pencil and paper].

21C: “At 6:22 on channel 3324 there’s a commercial where the robot helps select the correct laundry detergent. At 6:31, on channel 3454 there’s a commercial where the robot does the grocery shopping followed by the mini-robot that does the vacuuming. At 6:49 there’s…”

Me: “Hold on,” I interrupted her. “Are you saying the Robot Network is just a bunch of recent commercials that show how robots help do chores? I love those commercials, but I know robots can do much more than just basic chores.”

21C: “Oh no, there’s also the TechnoHero channel, which showcases us, er, robots assembling things, such as autos. You’ll find a program tonight at 7:50 on channel 3489. Then there’s all the edited science fiction films and TV series on channel 3902 that only show robots in action-no people.”

Me: “Sounds great. Is there anyway to just get a list of the programs showcasing robots that perform assembly? I’m an editor for a trade magazine that focuses on assembly and that would be of most benefit to me.”

21C: “The network must encompass all commercials and programs.”

Me: “But I don’t need to know about when commercials run. I see them all the time as I watch various TV programs.”

21C: “The network must encompass all commercials and programs,” she again said in reply, somewhat quicker.

Again I repeated my desire to not know about robot commercials.

Her reply came back quicker still, like a song that starts playing at 45 rpm and accelerates to 78 rpm. Over and over she said, “The network must encompass all commercials and programs.”

Her words became illegible, and I wasn’t able to interrupt her to say, “Thanks anyway for your time.”

After I hung up the phone, I took another look at my cable bill.

The customer service number listed there somehow didn’t match the number shown on my “last call made” listing.

Who did I just talk to, I wondered? Perhaps an administrator of the Robot Network? Maybe even a relative of one of the robots I wrote about in a recent article?

Don’t be ridiculous, I thought. Of course that was a person you spoke with. There is no Robot Network, and no way it could encompass everything.

Just to be safe, I reread my article to make sure I’d written nothing negative about robots.

After all, winter in Chicagoland without TV can be very long.

[Graphic courtesy of and]