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(Not) Cancelling TV Service

Scott Stevenson has cancelled his TV service. Through the years I've read a number of blog entries or emails from people who have given up their TV viewing. Many of these posts seem to come from some assumed moral high ground or sense of superiority the author grants himself for casting aside the treachery of modern television. It's as if choosing to abide by the wishes of a previously masked inner-Thoreau makes one person better than another. Scott's post doesn't appear to come from such a place of, but past experiences has built in me a general response whenever I see an "I Quit TV" post. That response is even stronger when the "superiority" sentiment does pop its obnoxious little head from the ground.

The truth is I watch a fair amount of television. The average American watches something like 27 hours of television per day1 - I watch nothing close to that, but I do watch nearly every day.

Some I watch because it's entertaining. Some I watch because it's educational. Some I watch because it makes me laugh or to otherwise feel. Some I watch because it scratches an interest itch.

These are the same reasons people read books.

While I admit that reading a book often engages your imagination more than dumbly staring at a television, that's not true of everyone or every TV show. Furthermore, reading a book is not something you can do with your wife (not comfortably, anyway), nor is it something you can do while writing, paying bills, or a variety of other activities.

I also find that I watch a lot less television in the summer. Those in the southern states have a lot more reason to watch less television than those of us who get several feet of snow each winter and whose world goes dark at 5pm.

Studio 60 Cast

I watch How I Met Your Mother because it's funny. I watch CSI:Miami because I used to live close by and it reminds me of things I did or saw while I was there. I watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip because it's one of the few intelligent shows on television these days - fast-paced, witty, engaging, and insightful. I watch Boston Legal because it's funny and it occasionally makes me think. Grey's Anatomy is escapist at its best and crap at its worst, but it occasionally has a medical issue that's interesting. Carey and I watch Survivor primarily so we can make fun of everyone on the show, and then watch Scrubs, My Name is Earl, and The Office because they make us laugh. I watch Numb3rs because the math is interesting, and Las Vegas because it's got Vanessa Marcil, just as Desperate Housewives has Eva Longoria. Finally, I watch Amazing Race because I get to see different parts of the world and, again, because Carey and I like to make fun of the contestants.

Mix in a few other shows (like some on The Golf Channel or an occasional football game) and I watch less than 15 hours of TV per week. Factor in the DVR and I'm pretty close to ten. Some people spend more time commuting in a week than I spend watching television.

In the end, the decision to watch television or not is a personal one, and it makes you no better or worse than someone who doesn't watch TV. It's not hard to imagine large numbers of people who don't watch TV but who also don't use the 30 hours they've saved doing anything productive or "better," too.

TV is what you make of it. While the percentage of "bad television" may be higher than that of "bad literature," there's still some good TV out there, as well as some TV that's simply good for escaping, relaxing, and winding down.

P.S. Without a DVR, I'd probably cancel my TV subscription too.

Footnotes

  1. Yes, that's hyperbole. The best number I could quickly find is more like 4+ hours per day or 30+ per week.

7 Responses to "(Not) Cancelling TV Service"

  1. The above are the shows I regularly watch. I also check out TLC, Discovery Channel, and other more educational shows regularly, though I don't usually have season passes for their episodes as they tend to follow a much "looser" schedule than regular network shows.

  2. When I first moved to MD I didn't have TV. In fact, I probably went for two years without TV. My roommate and I eventually did sign up for The Dish because we were tired of our family members complaining that we didn't have TV whenever they came down.

    We watch Discovery pretty much exclusively (MythBusters, How It's Made, American Chopper ...) with the occasional flip to History Channel or Speed (to watch F1, which I've found the races easier to grab via BT these days due to delayed showings). We used to watch TechTV but that stopped since it was extinguished and replaced with the crap programming of G4 (this is still a bit of a sore subject with me).

    A couple months ago a friend of ours moved away and he gave us his old Dish DVR. It's a dumbed down TiVo but it has the skip 30 and back 10 buttons. We are completely hooked on it too. If the DVR were to go away, we'd probably drop our subscription. Albeit, I'd probably setup a friend with a MythTV box with the agreement that I can use it to grab one or two of the aforementioned shows via it.

    One of the issues I strongly support is ala carte programming. The Dish actually used to offer it, though it was before we joined so we can't get it.

  3. I can't fathom TV without TiVo. I watch far, far less television now, and what I watch is what I want to watch.

    And, yeah, that superiority crap gets annoying after a while. Of course, there are things on TV more interesting than the people that give it up...

    One sidenote: Grey's Anatomy? Have you see House...? Much more interesting issues there, IMO. 🙂

  4. I had a Series2 Tivo for about three years. The hard drive finally died and I have been dragging my feet on replacing the drive (although my wife is starting to get antsy, and the nagging has begun). I've been Tivo-less for about a week and a half now and I gotta say, I think I'm better for it. I haven't watched practically any broadcast TV at all save for local morning news the entire time. It's all been Netflix movies or nothing at all. I am amazed at the feeling of more time in my day. I only spent an hour or so watching tv each weekeday, but that's an hour I have for other things now. I think I'm liking this no TV thing..... Scary.

  5. Almost the same as Aaron, it really took me moving to somewhere without a TV to crack my television habit. Before I went to a boarding school about 4 years ago, I watched TV a lot. Heck, while on the internet, I would have a TV on in the background (generally TechTV).

    Moving to a small rural town and a boarding school with a single TV in a common room really changed things. Didn't have internet, either, for at least a year. I never really warmed up again to TV, but the internet didn't take much. 😉

    While in college, I would find that I'd walk down hallways, and stop at someone's room if they had a TV on and it was pointed at their open doorway. Or if I was having a conversation with someone, and there was a TV on in the background, I'd watch the TV instead (I really have to focus to control that). It's creepy when you start to realize that sort of thing.

    Built a DVR, and although I don't always watch it, it is handy for watching TV that I'd normally miss and actually want to see...such as much of Adult Swim (Metalocalypse rules!), The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and House. I generally miss much of these shows, but they're nice to catch occasionally.

    I agree, though, TV watching is a personal choice. I don't appreciate people on either side of the spectrum parading around their choices as if the rest of us are somehow misguided.

  6. Adam Knight said on December 6, 2006:

    Grey's Anatomy? Have you see House...? Much more interesting issues there, IMO. 🙂

    The wife like's Grey's Anatomy. I tend to watch it with her just to spend time with her. Too much soap opera, not enough "medical issues" for my taste.

    Mike said on December 6, 2006:

    Moving to a small rural town and a boarding school with a single TV in a common room really changed things.

    I watched almost no TV in college. The TV was reserved for the N64 primarily. I probably watched less than ten hours of television (not counting the NFL and the occasional Penguins game) my entire five years of college. The Weather Channel was on our college TVs in probably 90% of the rooms with people not actively watching TV.

    I don't have much of a problem tuning out the TV if I'm looking to have a conversation or do other work. I can listen and understand what's going on without giving it even the majority of my concentration.

  7. we gave up tv when our first daughter was 6 month old--we didn't want her watching it. At first ti was hard, but now she's 9 1/2 and we don'[t miss it at all. In fact our lives are so full of reading, crafts, etc. after work and school (we both work full time) that cannot imagine how anyone has time to watch televison and still cook wholesome meals, help kids with homework, read and be read to by their children, talk and listen to them every day, exercise regularly, and have time for romance while still gettign a good nights sleep and workign five days a week.

    It's your own choice but I'll bet you gave up some of the above to squeeze in that tv. You might think that over. IF you get all that in, great. And ah, tell me how you investned the 30-hour day 😉


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