kill your TV, but only partially

I’m not going to become one of those people. You know the type. They grab any opportunity to loudly proclaim they don’t watch television. “I haven’t owned a TV in YEARS,” they gush, their words slightly muffled by the fact that they’re fellating themselves. Not going to do that. But I do want to tell you about cutting the cord and killing our cable subscription a month ago. Because I think, much like killing the landline, it’s an inevitable and smart choice for a lot of people.

This decision was remarkably quick and easy. Our platinum level package on Uverse was expensive. We had all the movie channels, which we rarely watched, plus all kinds of on-demand programming. And everything in HD. You know the drill–you sign up at a greatly reduced rate, then six months later the rate is jacked up but you’re stuck in a contract for another six months so you can’t do anything about it and then three years go by and you’re used to paying the bill so it remains a given and almost unnoticed until suddenly you say, “We are wasting our money. Let’s not do that anymore.”

We aren’t totally without ocular entertainment now. We’ve just cut ourselves off from mindless, expensive choices. With our purchase of an Apple TV box ($99), we have access to movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu+ ($15/month total) and iTunes. But we have to make a conscious, intentional decision to watch something–there’s no channel surfing that “accidentally” lands on a fart-filled episode of Honey Boo Boo. Mindful television. And we’re watching random things we might never have with cable. Like Swashbuckler, for instance.

oh yeah

oh yeah

It’s a pirate movie made in the mid-70s starring my boyfriend Robert Shaw and a shirtless James Earl Jones. There’s a huge fight scene with a number of deaths–by sword, mostly–but not one drop of blood. People just fell to the ground, like in playtime, and you knew they were dead. So much better than the graphic violence of everything produced today. I mean, do we really need to believe that people are *actually* dying in order to enjoy what we’re watching? It’s all supposed to be make-believe. If someone falls to the ground after being “stabbed,” we get that, in the context of this show, they’re dead. Why do we have to see their head explode and pieces of their skull land on someone’s jacket? That’s just gross. And unnecessary.

I’m down to watching TV a handful of hours a week. And I do it with full attention instead of watching with half an eyeball while the other 1.5 eyes are looking at my computer screen. It’s refreshing to not celebrate or cultivate a short attention span and instead give my entire energy to working whatever part of the brain processes TV. It’s savoring one thing at a time instead of cramming as much stimulation as possible in at once.

Like, my brain has a little more room to stretch its legs and take a load off.

6 thoughts on “kill your TV, but only partially

  1. CryJack! I’ll try to be brief.

    I was listening to some show on NPR featuring this wildly errudite lady biologist talking about some kind of esoteric genetic malfunction that she has devoted her life to eradicating or creating; I don’t know. When they took calls from listeners this very earnest middle aged woman started babbling at the scientist, who was promoting her third book about the subject, quoting, I don’t know what, something she heard on Breaking Bad or Oprah (I can never tell) and wanted this doctor’s thoughts. I almost started crying. People are so fucking pathetic sometimes that it breaks my heart. This poor caller had this defect or thought she did but her entire source of knowledge was what she saw on TV.

    The lady biologist was very kind, telling the caller that she had no idea what the fuck she was talking about since she had never owned a TV and had also just spent the last twenty years buried in a research lab and when she wasn’t doing that she was typing up her findings in a form that would probably be almost understood by NPR listeners.

    The poor caller, I think she was from Texas, (no, really, I’m not embellishing) was taken aback, she started stammering and apologizing and she said “I’m sorry. I watch TV all the time. That’s probably why I’ve never written a book.”

    Being the super-empath that I am I felt bad for all concerned. I don’t own a TV either, but all my wives and girlfriends did so I can’t claim to be holier than thou. (Not YOU thou, just thou in general). But I never wrote a book either and it does in fact worry me that I may have missed some damn fine programming over the years.

    The thing about television is commercials. They are insulting. (Not Super Bowl commercials, they are something else. They rise.) But I could never stand commercials and the shows on TV were pretty bad. You can see them acting. And right about the time you dropped your disbelief, a commercial came on.

    When I was very young I hated my life. Plus both my parents were heavy smokers and in the winter in Indiana we would seal up the house and in the living room the smoke would be so thick that it was unbearable.

    In my room I could crack open the window beside my bed and turn on my lamp and breathe deep from the crystalline freezing air and on my shelf were Huck and Tom and Long John and the entire Hardy Boys and yes, I do confess, some Poe and Heinlien and Verne and all the rest. No commercials in books and books never let me down. The first time I read “A Wrinkle In Time” I was changed and somehow after that Gilligan and such just seemed…well, it was time I could spend reading.

    Now, these days, there is the Internet, a kind of evil hybrid of books and television and I spend plenty of time there. I don’t know how I feel about that exactly but we are not on that subject, just now. We are talking about that lady who unexpectedly found herself talking to the smartest person she will ever encounter, maybe, and she was embarrassed because of TV. She was struck, perhaps for the first time, with the realization that she was a TV person. I could hear it in her voice. I could feel her abject shame as she teetered on the edge of the abyss she suddenly found yawning before her, the cavernous dark reaches of all that time wasted; all that time; lost, lost forever.

    Me? I still hate my life. It seems to be a necessary condition for my line of reality. Or my line of bullshit, whichever comes first. In fact, it just occurred to me that maybe that was the genetic defect that lady biologist was working on, the fear and loathing gene. Yeah, that’s it. It has to be. It only makes sense. It only makes sense except right as she started her fourth book, just as all her years of research are about to bear fruit and I will be saved and finally bask in the sunshine of a glorious and joyous old age this incredibly talented lady biologist tunes into an episode of Breaking Bad to see what that Texas woman who called in was babbling about…

    tj

  2. Poor TV lady. But that’s what she gets for calling into NPR in the first place. Bless her heart. (Texan, or perhaps Southern, phrase that sounds sweet but is actually condescending.)

    Ahhh, Breaking Bad. People whose opinions I respect love that fucking show. So I plan to watch it, one of these days. Much like you, I can easily wile away the hours and the nights on the internet, but I have a harder time making that commitment to the tube. Maybe because the internet is just pieces.

    That being said, I’ve always got three books going at once. Reading feels more active and engaging than just watching. Like, you’ve got to do a little work to get there. TV and movies can be that way too, but only select things. Most of it, like the previously mentioned Honey Boo Boo, not only takes no work, it actually steals brain cells from you and leaves you at a deficit in the end.

    And the deal today is–you don’t have to own a TV to get TV. Everything is available online. So if you find yourself making too much progress on one of your writing projects, there are plenty of distractions just a click away…

  3. I love television. I always have and I think I always will. Television is currently in its golden age, if you will. And I think that it is fair to judge it on the same level that you would judge a movie. Do you think watching a movie is a waste of time? I’m sure it depends on which movie, Casablanca or Sweet Home Alabama, that would prompt you to say whether it’s a waste. Watching shit like Diving with Celebrities or Dancing with Your Mom is bad television and deserves to be cut from the country’s collective conscious, but the direction of scripted television is at its high point, and it’s only getting better. Television is only 60 years old, which in terms of art is not very long. I think it’s just starting to find its footing and it’s awesome.

    There’s my 2 pennies.

    • This wasn’t an indictment of TV as much as it was a denial of cable. We have Netflix and Hulu+, on which we watch TV and movies. We’ve just distilled it down to the good stuff and kicked a seriously large bill to the curb. And I agree that there are great, well-written shows on right now. All those playwrights who can’t make a living in the theatre are doing good work.

  4. i love your comment on the person who smugly announces that they don’t own a TV. Fellating themselves…..HA! Is this before or after they announce that they are vegan and give you that look as you bite into your bacon cheeseburger!
    I like TV, mainly because I am a sports fan. Although I am like TJ, the commercials are really destroying my fan enthusiasm. For the NCAA men’s basketball tournament they allowed so many time-outs during the games for ad selling time it, just about ruins the game. At the minimum it changes how the games are played and coached due to excessive time-outs.
    Anyway, off subject. I agree with you that the price to bring TV entertainment into your home can be excessive and an expense that has to be managed in a budget.
    It makes me laugh, somebody must be watching those crap shows……although if you ask, everybody denies ever watching……..it reminds me of the people that I talk to that just returned from their Vegas vacation. They all seem to tell me that they did OK, broke even!
    They must build those big-ass buildings because they just want people to have fun and break even!!!
    Good post! Jim

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Jim. I’ll admit that I watched some of those crap shows before we dumped the cable. Mostly just in the background, but still not good for the soul. I’m glad to have it gone.

    And, man, do I love a bacon cheeseburger…

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