Tired of the same old stuff on TV? Overstimulated by the news? Over 100 channels and still no TV you really want to watch? Time to disconnect from traditional services and get the TV you really want.
Let’s face it, television is everywhere. We’re so used to it that we expect it and when it isn’t there, some of us notice the silence. It’s scary to think about that silence too much.
TV’s grip on Americans
TV commands our attention. Did you know that there are people who cannot NOT look at a screen? Well, once in an electronics lab we were learning to operate an oscilloscope. It had a round screen with a grid pattern on it, and a simple tracer drawing a line over and over across the screen. One of the guys in the class glued to that screen and wouldn’t snap out of it till the instructor turned it off! TV is the same way. People tend to stop and watch it where it is.
And so, even though the content sometimes fails to hold our attention, we are so habituated that it feels uncomfortable if the service that brings it in fails.
Over the past 30 or so years, I’ve heard so many people say that TV is “my only entertainment.” Folks say they can’t live without it. Some complain if they don’t hear a TV going somewhere in the house. Some, like an acquaintance of mine, pay over $140 a month for satellite TV. She doesn’t even get premium movie channels or extra sports.
TV’s slow decline at our place
I will admit that when we first moved here we had a big dish and a lot of channels. After a while, though, we found we could get by watching just a few stations over the air. That lasted till the change to digital transmission. Then we were too remote from the transmitters to receive signals any more. We went down to PBS and then that, too, changed. No more TV.
Due to our location, we also had dial-up Internet until about 6 years ago. Then we went on satellite Internet, which restricted our data allotment. That meant we could stream maybe 4 movies a month. Dear husband stayed up late into the wee hours, when data was unlimited, and used the “free” time to download entertainment. Our Internet is now radio-linked to fiber optics but we still download free stuff.
Quality vs. quantity
Tonight we saw a feature-length Russian film entitled “Attraction.” It was a science-fiction movie with Chinese and really challenging English subtitles that must have been translated from the Chinese (with some unintentionally hilarious results). The spaceship in it was the most fabulous craft I’ve seen in a long time and the special effects second to none.
China has also come out with some beautiful movies. There was one in particular about a snake demon that falls in love with a demon hunter. It featured haunting music, amazing special effects, and some fine acting, so that you could almost forget you were using subtitles.
We tend to watch B movies as well. We enjoy sharks, giant alligators, mutant polar bears, and Godzilla and his friends. Zombies are fun, too. We have watched Japanese, German, Romanian, French and British zombies in addition to the American ones. Possibly the funniest one featured a bunch of college kids who didn’t know they were zombies. They just thought everyone else had sped up.
Classics such as “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” John Wayne Westerns, and even whole series of TV shows are available online. We have watched some “real” movies, too, of the type that get Oscars. It’s nice to see them at home, where the floors aren’t sticky and there is no Peanut Gallery full of rambunctiousness.
What we don’t get
Of course, we get all this and less. We don’t get the news, so we don’t have the emotional load of the videos to cloud our understanding of the stories. We read the news on the Internet and in newspapers, and find that we can think about what we have read.
We don’t get sports. Oh well.
We don’t see cooking, talk, remodeling, psychological intervention shows, snake oil campaigns, or game shows. Imagine a complete lack of “Wheel of Fortune.” We haz it.
No reality shows of any kind, except those portrayed in movies, if we watch them. We tend not to. And most of all, no commercials!
Think of it. No advertisements for medications that can kill you five ways from Sunday but promise you a romp in the wildflowers to replace your fill-in-the-blank affliction. No attack ads during political campaigns. No beer ads, no more car ads, no ads for class action lawsuits. No more silly outdoor bathtubs with saxophones playing suggestively in the background.
And we don’t get bills.
Time for other stuff
Not having TV leaves us a lot of time to do things we need and/or want to do without distraction.
Currently we watch one or sometimes two movies in an evening. Unless I need to read subtitles, I knit while watching. The rest of the evening we can catch up on the news, read a book, or do something interesting. After movies some evenings I work on the blog. On weekends I do crafts such as spinning wool into yarn, or we may go shopping, visiting or attend events in the area.
There’s also time to dig into some intriguing news stories, get informed on the issues, and make up our own minds. Come election day, we have our own ideas of what to do, not just sound bites to work from.
How to have some TV cheap
Admittedly, if you love your satellite TV, you can possibly get them to cut $50 off per month for a year by threatening to cut out the service entirely. But next year it goes right back up.
If you are going to pay for a service, get good broadband. Then you can get a plug-in for your TV, such as a Roku or FireStick. They work with digital TVs quite nicely, so you can get favorite shows and movies for not much money. There is even a way to get local stations for news and weather.
People I know have plugged in these sticks, subscribed to a couple of online services, and found they had more than enough to watch, all for less than basic cable. Best of all, they don’t have to buy a lot of programming they don’t want.
So there you have it. You can cut costs and still get the programming you want, as much as you want and pretty much when you want it by telling the TV service goodbye.
What kinds of TV programming would you keep and what would you ditch if you could?
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