Monday, 03 January, 2005

Goodbye cable TV

The cable guy was out disconnecting our cable TV service as I left the house to meet some friends for breakfast this morning.  Debra and I decided that it made no sense to continue paying for a service that we don't use.  Neither of us has watched television in over a year.  No, we don't miss it.  There are plenty of other more interesting and entertaining things to do with our time:  read books, go for walks with Charlie, ride bicycles, watch a rented DVD, or fiddle with one of our many hobbies (hers revolving mostly around African Violets, mine with computers and ham radio).

Friends have told me that I'm missing out on a lot of good educational programming on the History Channel, Discovery, and PBS shows such as Nova.  With the exception of Nova, which periodically has a good show, I've found the "educational" programming to be written for people who have very short attention spans.  Topics are covered superficially at best.  Whenever things start to get really interesting a commercial break comes up and the show switches topics upon return.  The Internet is a much better educational device than is the television.

With few exceptions, the only thing I find entertaining about broadcast television is that people actually watch it.  There have been a few shows over the years that were well written and I actually looked forward to watching.  Pay television (HBO, Cinemax, etc.) were fun for a while, but I found myself spending entirely too much time watching those "free" movies.  After a few months I'd seen most of the regular movies, and the few new movies each month weren't worth the price of admission--scheduling my time around the movie schedule or putting in a tape to record it.

Friends also have told me that using a Tivo or other digital recording technology changes the entire television experience, making it much more enjoyable.  I suspect that's true.  If I had something that would keep track of what I like to watch and automatically record it for my later perusal, I might be inclined to spend more time with the TV.  But having looked at the schedule recently, I don't see that there's enough interesting stuff there to justify the $100 or more per month that cable plus Tivo would cost me.  From where I'm sitting, television looks like a vast wasteland filled with "reality" shows, Desperate Housewives, and advertisements trying to sell me things that I neither want nor need (including other TV shows).  Gag me with an eating utensil.

One result of not watching television is that I'm becoming even more of a social outcast than I was before.  It's surprising how much of daily office and friendly conversation revolves around television shows, be it "reality" TV, sitcoms, or sports.  When the subject of conversation turns to television, I just turn and walk away.  Even before I completely stopped watching TV, I didn't watch most of the popular shows, and the only sporting I follow at all is the Tour de France.  If that makes me an odd duck, that's okay.  At least I'm not sitting on the couch letting my brains leak out my ears.