As of today, I’m the proud owner of a big, silver box that takes up space I don’t have, an extra remote I can’t figure out, a $50/month extra charge that I can’t afford, and for some inexplicable reason, a landline phone line. You guessed it: I’m New York City’s newest Time Warner Cable subscriber.
I moved into my apartment in October, and lasted almost ten months before breaking down and getting cable. Now that I’ve had it for a few minutes, I can’t believe I was ever without it.
As I write this, I’m watching Bones. Now I’m watching NBC Nightly News. Now I’m watching TMZ (TMZ has a show?). You know why? Because I CAN, that’s why. In less than the time it took me to write the phrase “NBC Nightly News,” I could watch any of like 600 different things.
Now I’m watching Spongebob. This show’s not nearly as funny sober. But it’s totally as creepy.
For the last ten months, anything I wanted to watch I watched on purpose. I could watch almost anything, but it took real effort. Is it on Netflix? No. What about Sidereel? Yeah, but it’s on some weird Japanese site and Megavideo, both of which are going to take six hours to load and only let me watch for 20 minutes at a time. Okay, open three or four of those and pause them, let them buffer. Are there torrents? Yeah, but only all eleven seasons, and Starbucks might not like me downloading 17.3GB. Or camping out for three weeks while it downloads.
Now King of Queens is on. Kevin James is a funny man, and this show makes it clear that fat + funny = hot wife. Who says you can’t learn from TV?
Even when something was on Netflix, I had to use my computer to add it to my queue because the search on my WD TV Live Hub sucks, stop whatever I was torrenting because it was killing my Internet connection, and scroll one by one through all of South Park’s 207 episodes to find the one I wanted to watch. I always got to watch what I wanted, but it was just so much effort.
The longest step involved in me watching TV tonight was finding the bottle opener and popping the cap off my Yuengling. Then it’s lean back, hand-on-belly time, and one button later I’m watching TV.
Right now, it’s Seinfield. Is this show ever not on? Though Kramer did just suggest wearing silk underwear, so that’s lesson #2 for the evening.
The biggest advantage of TV, the unexpected wonder of my first night of cable, is that I don’t have to decide what I want to watch. I turn on the TV, and I have a few hundred options in front of me. I haven’t heard of most of them, and I’ve seen a few others already, so I make a quick mental list of what’s on that I might like. I don’t have to wade through my giant list of shows to watch, and upon choosing what fits my tastes for this evening go through all the steps required to watch it. I choose among available options, and when it’s over I choose another thing. There’s something soothing in not having the whole world and history of television available.
There’s an awful lot of crap on TV. There’s also a lot of good stuff, stuff that I watched one episode of and forgot; stuff that someone recommended to me but I never wrote down and thus never had a chance of remembering; stuff that I watched years ago and want to watch again, but only for a half-hour before the Yankee game starts. If I was wrong in my decision, if I want a comedy instead of an hour-long drama, I don’t have steps to repeat. I just switch. Just tonight, I’ve remembered that I need to start watching Archer again, that The Simpsons has seriously degraded over the last few seasons, and that The Goonies TOTALLY holds up.
SportsCenter’s on! And the NFL lockout is either over, or it isn’t, and everyone’s very optimistic but they’re all very pessimistic. Oh, pontification.
Speaking of sports, when you get down to it, the biggest reason I broke down and got cable was sports. I love sports, and I’ve developed a new appreciation for a) good sportswriting and b) highlights over the last few months, but nothing replaces watching the game; the game, after all, is mostly the moments outside of the big moments. Luckily, living in Brooklyn means there are always bars around showing games, but that’s bad for my wallet–and my beer belly. Cable’s at worst tied, and it scores big points for the beer being cheaper and not requiring shoes or shirts.
Swamp People’s on! Some guy with a camo hat and an accent that makes him say everything at a third of the speed I’d like just shot a gator from 50 yards away. Like I said, sports.
Much is made of the lean-back versus the lean-forward experience. You’re either actively involved, choosing and interacting, or you’re sitting back, letting something wash over you. TV, at its best and most mind-numbing, is a lean-back experience, designed to help you wind down after a day of work or zone out when you’re stressed. I missed that, and I’ll stoked to have it back.
Except commercials. Commercials suck.