One day this week, I’m going to go home, pick up one of the 14,000 remote controls around our house and turn on the TV. And I’m not sure what will happen next.
We’re getting rid of cable this week.
We’re doing it for practical reasons: money and ennui. In addition to our Internet connection, our local cable
monopoly company provides us digital cable for two TVs as well as basic cable for the TV upstairs in our bonus room that we almost never use and the TV in our titular guest room that no one turns on except for Daniel because he likes to press the buttons on the TV. Now that I think about it, he hasn’t done it in a while, so he may be bored with it as well. We also have two DVRs. It turns out that all of that phenomenal access to cable costs a decent amount of change, and we could put that money to better use like savings.
This is where ennui comes in. TV mostly sucks for us. There is seldom anything on when we want to watch TV, and we haven’t watched network TV since Lost ended. We program our DVRs to record the few shows that do interest us, so we do get value out of them, but when you add it all up, is it really worth all the money we’re paying for me to watch Snapped or Deadly Women marathons (Jimmy would say no and breathe a sigh of relief)? Or episode after episode of the reality shows on Food Network because I realized I actually don’t like any of the cooking shows? Or for Jimmy to watch the two episodes of Top Gear he’s watched this year? While I’m on my soap box, I could use an entertainment environment free of Honey Boo Boo or whatever, Pawn Stars, Amish Stars, Happy Hookers (you know it’s in TLC’s plans), the Real Housewives of Some City I Could Give Two Shits About.
So, Time Warner, we are quitting you and your crappy service.
We’ve been discussing this move for months. At first we thought maybe we’d flip Time Warner the finger and move to Dish Network or something, but the more we thought about it, the more we decided that move would only prolong the agony (plus put a hideous little dish on our house). Over the weekend, we decided to rip off the band-aid with one quick pull. We’re going cold turkey.
When I say we are getting rid of cable, does that mean we are going to be one of those insufferable households that declares it doesn’t own TVs or hasn’t watched TV in 10 years? Certainly not. We have a lot invested in those TVs! We’re going to see what we can get via Netflix, Amazon Prime Streaming and Hulu. On-demand viewing suits our viewing style much more right now. We’re also going to buy seasons of shows and documentaries we want to watch. Maybe instead of Chopped, I can pop in a DVD of Through the Wormhole while I’m cooking. Much more educational, right?
I admit that I feel a little panicky at the thought of not being able to use TV for noise instantly any longer. This move will force us to be much more deliberate about what we watch. I’m also nervous about mastering the various new systems we will be using. Truthfully, though, this move to a cable-free life is a little weird for me.
I didn’t have cable growing up because we lived in the boonies. I got used to the three network channels and the occasional one or two others we could receive. The only way you could access the wonderful world of cable in my neck of the woods was to buy one of those expensive, huge satellites SETI uses to locate aliens (fun fact: they also double as extremely effective lightning rods). My friends and family in town had cable, and when I’d visit my grandmother, I’d inhale MTV and TBS like a drug. Music videos! Episodes of Mama’s Family leading to episodes of Little House on the Prairie were my summer mornings. Even though I felt like my life was oh-so-deprived without cable, when I think back, the only channel my friends with cable talked about was MTV and Beavis and Butthead. There was still little original programming on non-network channels.
When I moved to Raleigh for college in 1995, I was thrilled to discover we had cable in the dorms. It seemed so modern. In addition to MTV and the music videos I recorded (how pathetic was I?), I discovered Law & Order reruns on A&E and my love affair with McCoy, Ms. Kincaid, Brisco et al. began. One of the first things we hooked up in our apartments and houses was cable and when we the option for digital cable appeared, we upgraded. We watched The Sopranos. We watched Sex and the City. I think in some way, I associated cable TV with big city life and being a cosmopolitan, upwardly-mobile adult. The problem was, though, that over time, even though we had more channels, there wasn’t much more quality programming to watch or that we had time to watch.
Cable TV, maybe I’ve finally outgrown you. It’s time and appropriate for us to take back control over what we watch, what programming we allow into our home. We’re tired of feeling forced to buy 48 channels we don’t need or want for the one we will watch. We’re tired of being forced to subscribe to HBO or Showtime to see good programming like Homeland or Game of Thrones. To paraphrase from Pretty Women, it’s time for us to say who and when.
See you, cable. Your time has passed.