Death of Television

I came across a blog post about cancelling cable television service today. Then it dawned on me. I had a lot to say about not watching TV. I’ve been a proud non-TV watcher for over five years, but I’ve not once written in my blog about it. I’m bored at work, so here we go!

It all started freshman year of college late in the year 2000. My roommate and I split cable TV 50/50. It was twenty dollars a month each. It wasn’t too bad considering the Time Warner service was pretty good. For the first few months it was awesome. I gladly paid the bill for this wondorous luxury I was unable to live without during the prior portion of my existence. But as months went on I began to loathe paying the bill. My roommate used it to watch European soccer matches, I used it rarely. Why should I pay half when he gets 90% of the use? I watched more VHS tapes on the TV than I watched cable. Also, all the lounges around campus had cable TV. It was quickly becoming a poor investment.

Sophomore year I moved out of the dorms to an on-campus apartment with my current roommate, and podcast co-host, Rym. We decided not to get cable television. The school provided the local channels over coax for free. Our computers, game consoles, VCR and DVD player provided enough entertainment that TV was not a worthwhile investment.

Over the course of 4 years of living in that condition we lost all interest in television. It surprises me to this day how gradual and painless a process it was. In the beginning I didn’t even realize I was missing something. I would watch TV whenever I went home to my parents house, but I was so occupied wither other things at college that TV was not missed. The Internet also provided so much entertainment that it was always more fun to sit at my computer than it would be to sit in front of the TV. Who could ask for more than a withdrawal without symptoms?

At one point RIT began giving us basic cable for free. I used it on 9/11 after a friend informed me about the disaster via instant message. We used the TV again when Lupin III was originally on Adult Swim. That ended very abruptly when they started with reruns and changed the schedule. Soon after that we rearranged the furniture and the TV ended up on the side of the room opposite the cable jack. We considered running a cable a few times, but we eventually gave up and were better off because of it.

By this time we realized we weren’t watching television anymore. We finally had become conciously aware of how much better our lives were due to lack of TV. We were no longer slaves to the schedule of the broadcasters. We no longer cared about stupid bullshit shows that meant nothing. We read the news we cared about on the Internet. We entertained ourselves in the method of our choosing at the time of our choosing without any advertisements in the way. We began to take notice and cringe when we saw telvisions in public places. It became annoying when other people would watch TV instead of having a discussion. For the first time even the Super Bowl passed without notice.

Our TV watching habits had turned a complete 180. We were TV watchers, then TV ignorers and now TV haters. We often joked about plans to save the world by destroying all the TV sattelites. Often we would quote the Simpson’s episode where the cable goes out. If you remember the scene where all the children go outside, rub their eyes and the neighborhood becomes a paradise. That’s what we envisioned, and it’s what we still envision to a certain degree.

Since that time life has been grand, except for the existence of Cablevision. At RIT we were provided with access to two OC3s worth of juicy bandwidth which was paid for by the school. In other words, we paid for insanely fast Internet in our tuitions. Over the years we became spoiled, and we began to loathe having to use a more pedestrian Internet service. Eventually the time came and we moved out to Beacon, NY. Cablevision is the most reasonable ISP available in this area.

Getting Cablevision to sell us Optimum Online without Optimum TV was not much of a problem. But after a painless installation they began to harass us. I often got calls from them trying to sell me television service. Once a guy even came to our house and asked where our sattelite dish was. He checked the box outside and saw that we had not removed the TV filtering device. Cablevision just can’t imagine how anyone can go without TV. They really think that we are stealing cable. It wasn’t until the end of last year they ceased harassing us.

Of course, there are some things I miss about TV, but not many. I miss watching a few cartoons that are not available on DVD. I can’t remember the last time I saw Dexter’s Lab. I also miss some live sporting events, mostly ice hockey and Formula 1. The Internet just doesn’t provide a reasonable way to watch ice hockey in HD or a way to watch Formula 1 races before the results are posted everywhere. When that day comes it will be joyous.

I would be willing to pay ten, or even fifteen dollars a month for access to five television channels: Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, MSG and SpeedTV. I would use MythTV to record all the shows I wanted to watch and remove all the commercials. Until then I’ll just continue to get F1 races via Bittorrent and forget the rest. I’ve got more important things to do than sit in front of the idiot box. Really important things like writing blog entries about not sitting in front of the idiot box.

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