on tv

I’m not a big fan of tv shows, by and large. My parents had one of those little tiny tv’s, with only 3 channels (no cable), and an antenna. If you ran the microwave, the picture went all staticy and sad. This was in the 80’s & 90’s, when all my friends had big shiny tv’s and cable and tons of programs. Since the tv sucked and didn’t really work as a form of entertainment, I tended to read. Maybe I would have anyway, but I think the un-entertainment factor of my childhood tv helped that tendency along. Anyway, when I married my husband he came from a completely different tv culture. His family had (like apparently every normal family) the full complement of cable channels. They had the biggest tv I’d ever seen, and they ate family dinners around it. It was always running in the background, a flickering soft hum of white noise. It provided the music and underscore to his life. While we were dating, not a big deal. When we married . . . well, you know how it is. You marry and after a few months, all that love and luster isn’t so shiny, and annoyances start wearing through the glory of love. And for me, it was that flickering tv in the corner.
Eventually, John and I separated. It was not because of the tv — it was because of a whole load of other issues involving our in-law relationships and stuff. After 6 months of being apart, we started seeing each other again. And of course, we got along because we’re brilliant together. During one of our discussions about how to resolve our communication issues, John offered to get rid of the tv.
But, see, I knew that would be a jerkass thing to do. My view of tv was different than John’s, but that didn’t mean it was superior. So I suggested a compromise: We have a 3 bedroom house and only one kid. We don’t want more — when we bought the house, we were kinda thinking maybe in the future another, but eventually realized we’re happy with just one kid. So we have, essentially, a spare room. Now there were a few things we could do with it:
  1. Make it into a guest room.
  2. Make it into a storage room.
  3. Make it into a library/ office.
  4. Make it into a tv/ rec room.
Personally, I wanted a library/ office or guest room, but that seemed selfish. So I suggested tv/ rec room. And thus the tv was moved out of our living/ family/ visiting area and into an enclosed little room that John gets to decorate as he sees fit. And slowly my relationship with the tv began to change. I no longer resented it. The flickering light and constant noise no longer caused serious headaches and constant irritation, because they were cordoned off to a separate space. I could just get up and remove myself, without having to leave the family area entirely. We began watching more and more stuff on Netflix streaming or online, and eventually just hooked a computer up to the tv and canceled the stupid useless cable  tv bill. I found  myself voluntarily bringing dinner into the tv room so we could watch Dr. Who or Top Gear  instead of requiring John and Kidling to join me at the dinner table. I found myself for the first time in my life watching programs on my own — like Arrested Development or BBC’S Robin Hood. It was amazing. And I’ve come to realize there are certain factors to traditional — and yes, American — tv that cause me to dislike it so very, very much.
  1. I hate long commercial breaks (and channel surfing)Oh my god, so much. I have a very short attention span, and I absolutely hate when halfway through the 5th or 6th commercial, I suddenly realize I can’t entirely remember what show I was watching. I hate the channel-surfing long commercial breaks inspires. I hate that channel surfers will stop on other programs and start watching a new program 3/4 of the way through, completely forgetting about the other program they left and that unresolved story line that will now bother me for several hours.
  2. I hate networks that air shows out of orderI really hate this. Too many good — even great! — series have been crippled and taken down by this stupid tactic. On a related note, I hate when there’s a 2-parter to a series, and you have to wait a week or more for the second half. I also hate how regularly scheduled programming is never, ever regular and is constantly interrupted for stupid things like football season or the Oscars or the Grammy’s.
  3. I hate commercials on cable tvThis is more a matter of principle. I simply do not understand why consumers are charged upwards of $150 – $300/month for cable tv, yet subjected to constant advertising. WTF are they doing with all that money from consumers?
  4. I hate the reality tv and bad programming that pervades American tvYeah, I find more and more that I’m streaming BBC programs. I like the way they structure their series as “serials,” I like the whole mini-series thing, I like the history and science programs, and in general every BBC program I discover is more intelligently written, better acted, better filmed, and more thought-provoking than most American programs. Worse, those American programs that are clever and interesting suffer from two fates:
  • One, early cancellation (as in 1/2 way through the first or second season), so brilliant shows like Firefly or Wonderfalls disappear, but we have regular Jersey Shore and Survivor programmingor
  • Two (and this is worse) the beat-a-dead-horse syndrome. That’s when a truly excellent show comes out of the gate strong, stays strong for a year or two . . . then kind of goes downhill, but is still vaguely cool/ interesting, then gets a new infusion of life, then goes downhill, then gets a new-but-not-as-great infusion of life, then goes downhill, and so on. Until the tv executives are beating the dead, desiccated, zombie horse corpse of a program screaming, “Be funny! Work! Moar ratings!” and we end up with season 214 of Friends or The Simpsons or The Office. It almost makes you grateful that the good shows were cancelled before they were bastardized and cruelly raped of all their inherent intelligence and humor.

So that’s my rant-y thingy. More tomorrow, maybe?


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