Friday, September 25, 2009

Am I a TV Freak?

I remember the excitement of getting cable for the first time. . I remember getting up early Saturday mornings to watch cartoons with my brother. As a kid I also remember begging to stay up that little extra bit to watch a television show. Maybe it was the A-Team, Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, or Airwolf. Or maybe it was The Love Boat or Fantasy Island, which I seem to remember came on later.

It sounds like a lot, but we certainly didn’t watch tv every night. Once, when I was a kid, the television set was 'broken'. We didn't watch any tv for over a year. Turned out the picture knob was cranked all the way to dark. I don't recall missing it too much. Various other times, for various other reasons, I didn't watch a heck of a lot of tv, including a big chunk of my teenage years.

I had a media studies class in high school. I saw my first and only episodes of The Cosby Show, Murphy Brown, and Rosanne in that class. The seemed to be pretty popular shows at the time. When I headed into the world on my own, I watched even less tv. I didn't even have a set. Various roommates did, but cable was usually deemed a luxury rather than a necessity. I frequently went months or even a year at a time without watching any television at all.

Even when Leaf and I shacked up in Maynooth we didn't watch TV. We had a set but mostly used it to watch movies. The 3 movies 3 days 3 dollars kind. We had an antenna that let us get 2.5 fuzzy stations depending on the weather and I watched an occasional hockey game. After three years like that, we got satellite for the first time. Just in time for World Cup 2006 (cough, cough), when I came down with a thirty-day fever and watched 58 of 64 matches. We've cancelled it a few times since then, including for almost a year after we moved to our new place (much to the dismay of various teenage foster kids!).

We mostly stick with the $20 a month 'basic' that the satellite company doesn't seem to promote much. They claim we get 40 stations, but I don’t think ten different feeds of CBC should count as ten different stations when ninety-nine percent of the time the exact same shows are on. CPAC and the Shopping Channel are not real channels either. Ignoring those and a big handful of other duplicate feeds or unwatchable stations (Gospel TV or CMT) I figure we really get 15 channels. We have tried a 'bronze' package a few times. Although I can't imagine the research dollars that went into ensuring that each of the 'bundles' I can pick has only one station I would actually watch.

Recent article says Americans have tv on more than 8 hours a day, Canadians almost four hours. Per day! I watched Bones the other day with Leaf. That put me at a little over four hours of tv in the last three months. (Along with two football games. Note football meaning the game where you kick a ball with your foot, not that stupid sport where you carry a giant leather egg shaped object with your hand.) Spending time with other people makes me realize that makes me a tv freak. We have one tv set. Well, two actually, but only one gets any tv stations. Neither is a flat screen, or HD, or connected to a sound system. The one we watch is actually getting pretty sucky due to its planned obsolescence, but can't see the point of spending a thousand dollars on a freaking television.

Other people we know watch more tv. They have giant flat screens in the living room, little flat screens in the kitchen and the den and the office and the basement and the bedroom and a million stations on satellite. They talk to people about their favourite television shows. When they get together to spend time with family and friends the television is on. It’s on during meals and during conversations (which are often about episodes or storylines or 'famous' people I've never heard of from their favourite televisions shows). I am especially flummoxed by "Have you seen that commercial where...". Sometimes I want to say "Hey, did you see that commercial where they tried to brainwash you into buying that thing you don’t need and can’t afford but still makes you fat?"

I'm not sure if I don't watch tv because my brain is wired differently than everyone else, or my brain is wired differently than everyone else because I don't watch tv. If I choose to believe the various statistics that can be found online, I've seen 350,000 fewer acts of violence than your average person. I've also seen almost a million fewer commercials. That makes me pretty different from 'average', or as I prefer to say, 'lowest common denominator'. Television certainly doesn't appeal to me the way it seems to the masses. I found a list of the 100 most popular TV shows of all time. I have never, not once, not ever, seen a single solitary episode of 83 shows on the list. There are only 5 or 6 there that I've seen more than a handful of episodes.

What is the up side of not watching tv? I haven’t been bombarded with brainwashing for the last 20 years. Thus I’m not a consumer - we have zero dollars of consumer debt. My attention span is longer than 30 seconds. I get more exercise. I have hours and hours of extra time for my other addictions. I’m smarter. I’m not obese. I don’t turn off my brain four hours a day. Most important, I don’t sound like a F’ing idiot talking about faux famous people, stupid tv shows, and moronic commercials all of the time. By the way, apparently today is the last day of TV turnoff week. I know you missed it… try it for the next week instead.

Post Script 1: Reality TV? I saw exhibit at AGO years ago that had some photos of people in the American south. Morbidly obese people sitting on a couch in front of a television drinking beer and eating junk food. In a trailer park. I’d like to see a tv show that shows that reality.

Post Script 2: Photo is Emma's old television. Television as art. I wanted to keep it, knock out the tube, and put an aquarium inside instead. I think Marussia ended up with it instead though...


  1. Sure did! It died in Vancouver - so sad cause an aquarium would have been awesome!

    I have to say - that I do like a well written TV drama - but I download them - shhhhh - so then I can watch them on my own time, with no commercials, and I don't have to schedule a TV night.

    And do I feel guilty? No. Do I feel like I am wasting my life away - No again. The upside for me is that it's free and sometimes, after I finish putting the 3rd kid to bed - I just want to veg out and watch a show with characters that I love and plots that I can't wait to figure out.

    as for the exercise thing - I actually use the eliptical trainer while I watch the shows I've downloaded - hells to the yesballs!

  2. You still make me laugh my ass off, Nolan. I also have not sat through a full episode of 83 of the shows on the list. I do have some favourites, though, which Mike and I save up on the PVR, and have a "TV night" once a week. It's even cheaper than renting movies. :)