On opening the New York Times on Monday, January 23rd, 2012, there it was. In glorious black and white, the reason why I can no longer justify paying $70 a month for what passes as what is available on the tube. Top shows for the past week, sports-'Jersey Shore', "reality shows" like 'Pawn Stars' and 'American Pickers' and' Storage Wars' (whose reality is this?) and secondhand-run of a CBS program.
Amazing what we pay for that rubbish. Looking at the top 10 broadcast shows wasn't much better, but at least I wouldn't have to pay $70 a month for the privilege of not watching it.
I am confused. Americans claim to want choice in everything. Whether it is who runs the country or what's for dinner--we claim to want to choose for ourselves. Yet we settle for whatever is put before us when it comes to what's on the television. We have, what seems to anyone who’s ever had to choose a new TV, thousands of televisions to choose from--but only a handful of programming packages to watch on that brand new TV as anyone who has every bemoaned of their 200 channels—“There’s nothing ON!!” Yes, we can time-shift what we like with a TIVO or DVR--but we are still stuck with choices that are spoon fed to us by faceless corporations who couldn’t care less what you want.
So I've had it. Farewell and goodbye to others choosing for me, I said to myself as I dialed to cancel my satellite subscription. As a pro-choice woman, I will not settle for an overpaid man in a suit choosing what I am allowed to choose from. After years, YEARS of as a cable subscriber-my first cable experience being a big old, clunky push button box with wires that I'd trip over walking about-you've lost this customer. As for satellite television, just old wine in new bottles.
How things have changed. Like that weight that sneaks up on one over the years, we didn't notice that once cable was a better choice. In Aberdeen, SD in the late 1970s cable didn’t mean hundreds of channels—it meant getting a few channels without the issues of over- the-air television, ghosting and weather related problems when channels faded out.
I once had a joyous experience with cable, though it seems like eons ago. In the late 1980s in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in one Third World I was able to watch the short-lived uprising in another Third World, in Tiananmen Square. Cable was very relevant then with the live-news feed a real reality show, not this current pseudo-scripted version of today that is called reality.
But cutting that umbilical cord to satellite after all these years—was scary. It was also exciting following the lead of my Brooklyn-based son who said that he got over-the-air TV via an inexpensive antenna, why couldn’t I? Replacing the satellite antenna with a Radio Shack antenna (thanks to their advice we got the right one too), my husband magically got over-the-air digital television.
In addition to the antenna where I tend to watch the same old fun reruns I'd watched on satellite when cooking, we watch DVD, stream various things and listen to TuneIn Radio, an app that lets me listen to day-old ‘Rachel Maddow’ and ‘This American Life’ (and is a lot easier than podcasting). Living in a city like Chicago also offers a plethora of things to do--even for free or low cost, concerts at The Art Institute of Chicago (free to members), and free events at the Chicago Cultural Center and Chicago Public Library.
Not last might be a book, reading one of the myriad volumes offered by the Chicago Public Library--that can be requested online to be picked up when in. Given the human brain is bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside; a wonderful book is like a movie in your head.
And if things are too quiet and I am done with the great book, there is the old standby--talking with a friend or family member I haven't heard from in a while. Back in the days when I loved cable, a long-distance phone call cost the earth-today long distance is positively dirt cheap.
So don't be caught flipping on the television today without knowing what you are turning it on for. There is a reason it is sometimes called the boob tube--and it isn't a flattering reason as any boob knows.