November 11, 2015

Why I won't sell out

S
o what are we to make of this post? "10 Reasons We Sold Our Television," the writer says, and for some people, I'm sure this is the correct decision, though I do have to wonder how much television they were watching in the first place. For others, including me, it would be a lifestyle downgrade. It is absolutely true that no one size fits all when it comes to things like this; nevertheless, this is just another part of the badmouthing of television that has gone on since the medium was invented, and continues to this day.


Sometimes people have developed a true hatred for television and think everyone should feel that way (and these are the people who most seem to delight in telling anyone and everyone about it), while others simply think this is a better lifestyle for them. I suspect our writer here falls into this second category, as she spends no time castigating people who do watch the tube.

I've taken on this subject before, and probably will again, but since she's been so good as to give us ten reasons why she and her husband have sworn off TV, I'll chip in with commentary on her points, as to why we haven't.  Keeping in the spirit of things, I've made them as lighthearted as the situation demands, but I'm making several serious assertions at the same time.

Herewith her list, and my rebuttal:

1. We Actually Live in Our Living Room. So do we. That's where the television is. Last I checked, you can still snuggle, have a conversation, and watch TV with friends. We've made some real memories that way as well, such as the final match of the 2012 Premier League season.

2. Hollywood and Television Networks Are Overbearing Houseguests. Not to mention offensive, irritating and frequently obscene. But this isn't the fault of television as much as it is your choice of what to watch. The point of classic television, whether seen on DVD or via one of the streaming services, is that you can watch what you want, when you want. No law says you have to have it on all the time. If you're selective in your viewing choices and still find it overbearing, you need to watch less. Not necessarily none.

3. No Cable Bill. This is a good point. Were it not for the live sports coverage I can't get on OTA television (European soccer, F1 racing, etc.), we would have cut the cable long ago. As it is, I believe that a la carte streaming is the future of all sports programming, and sooner rather than later. While you will incur a monthly fee for the services, you won't be paying for programming you don't want.

4. Our Couches Look More Cozy Arranged around a Coffee Table. So does ours. That's why we arranged the room that way. It would be the same whether or not we had a television.

5. We Spend Thursday Nights with Our Own Friends, Not Meredith Grey's Friends. Have you never heard of Mystery Science Theater 3000? When we did have friends, we used to spend uproarious evenings watching movies and commenting on the proceedings a la Joel and the Bots. As long as you're not watching the kind of a show where you don't want to miss a word, this is as much fun as wine tastings and game nights.

6. 'If Music Be the Food of Love...' We tried filling the space on the wall where the flat screen was with a piano, too, until the grommets pulled out and took half the drywall with it.

7. We Relax More. And it's true that television sometimes (oftentimes?) can be nerve-wracking, which is when you turn it off or turn on some music. In general, we don't veg out with TV; we watch something we want to watch, which in religious-speak would be "active participation." But sometimes you've had the kind of a day when SpongeBob SquarePants is the perfect antidote. As with everything (including wine tasting), moderation is the key.

8. We Get More Work Done. My wife falls into this category more than I do, and perhaps I've got ADHD or something, but I frequently work on other things while I'm watching TV (though not, I admit, when there's a program I really want to see). So far I've managed two blogs and written a book, so I think I'm doing all right, but there's no question that sometimes you need peace and quiet.

9. I'm Actively Recovering. The author is absolutely right in that serial shows demand your attention week after week. That's one of the many reasons why I scoff at the serialization of modern television. It's one of the things you don't have to worry about with classic television. That being said, I'm not sure anyone ever complained that Roots or I, Claudius required a weekly commitment.

10. We Can Still Watch Epic Movies. And old television shows, and anything else you want, between YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Acorn and the rest. And by the way, you don't have to watch them on your laptop, if you keep your flat screen and use Google Chromecast to project it up there. Trust me, White Christmas and Ben-Hur look much better that way. And that piano you have filling the space where your flat screen once was? I have to tell you, it looks pretty stupid up there on the wall.

A final note, if I may. It is a momentous decision to give up television; I know, because for a couple of years we gave it up as part of our Lenten sacrifice. No TV except for Sunday. It wasn't terribly hard, because television has never been a be-all and end-all for us; we've always had other things to do. And yet if television is not always high art, it remains (for me) one of life's simpler pleasures, which means that after the discipline of foregoing it for 40 days, it's that much sweeter when it returns. I watch less TV now than I did then, and almost all of it (aside from news and sports) is done on DVD and streaming video. I believe that going without for those two Lents had something to do with it.

And when you think about it, isn't that what a Lenten sacrifice is for, offering up the sacrifice of something that is not objectively evil, not only to benefit others but for your own self-improvement as well? If you don't have television, you can't give it up. As Captain Kirk famously said, "Too much of anything, Lieutenant, even love, isn't necessarily a good thing." Balance and moderation, as it is with everything in life, is the key.

1 comment:

  1. There always seems to be a sanctimonious undertone to the type of article you reference. "Look how much more evolved we are than you." I wish the author and her family well. In the meantime, I look forward to watching "Arrow" tonight, and a couple of episodes of "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet" on DVD.

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