three days and counting.
on saturday, i made a phone call to my cable provider, asking them to disconnect my service. the chop comes on wednesday.
why? because, to paraphrase the boss: “57 bazillion channels and there’s nothing on.”
this decision did not come easily.
i’m a boomer; part of a proud, gluttonous generation that has never NOT known television. a child of the sixties, i watched with my mom in disbelief as reports of the JFK assassination crackled out from our grainy little black and white t.v.
the whole family huddled around that same box when the beatles made their first appearance on the ed sullivan show, and whenever the wizard of oz made its annual appearance (it wasn’t until a decade later, when our parents finally replaced the rabbit-eared B&W with an electrohome colour model, that we discovered the yellow brick road actually turned yellow, and the ruby slippers really were ruby).
walt disney, a charlie brown christmas, the brady bunch, mannix, mission impossible, the wild, wild west, get smart, gilligan’s island, the beverly hillbillies, red skelton, i love lucy, the monkees … i grew up on a steady diet of television. (obviously not all of it “quality” programming.) our mom had no time for afternoon soaps, but she would call us in to watch if there was a guest on a talk show she thought we should see — like janis joplin guesting on dick cavett. (i didn’t appreciate it at the time, but i realize now that most moms back in the day were trying to limit their kids’ exposure to artists like janis joplin, not encouraging it. so, thanks, ma.) she also made sure we witnessed neil armstrong’s giant step for mankind, and the maple leafs’ exploits every saturday on hockey night in canada. the mod squad was allowed, much to my older brother’s chagrin, on a school night provided i got my homework done first. and she didn’t make us watch tommy hunter or hymn sing, for which we are eternally grateful.
hitting adolescence in the early ’70s, i spent countless hours in front of the tube as the hot-button social and political issues of the day — racism, sexism, vietnam, watergate, women’s rights, gay rights — were played out more and more on the small screen. the times, they were a-changin’, and this was not merely reflected on the nightly news, but dealt with on popular sitcoms like all in the family, the mary tyler moore show, m*a*s*h.
fast-forward to right now … and those same shows, along with other less-worthy time-wasters, are still in syndication all over the airwaves, squeezed in amongst re-runs of newer shows like seinfeld, friends, the simpsons, sex and the city, etc.
which brings me back to why i’m pulling the plug: i can no longer ignore the fact that most of the shows i end up surrendering a chunk of my brain to when plunked in front of the tube at the end of the day are not new, current network offerings with any social and/or political relevance or even a smidgen of life-enhancing entertainment value, but repeats, ad nauseum, of repeats of repeats (see seinfeld, friends, etc., above). i mean, the dance moves of elaine benes almost cause me to — dare i say it? — ROTFL & pee myself, but 18 times a day? all things in moderation. please. and there’s the rub, because TV has never been about moderation, has it? it’s all about saturation. and i’ve hit my saturation point.
outside of 30 rock and law & order (svu & ci), there’s nothing on that interests me any more. i gave up on ER two seasons ago because the cast members kept getting younger, more shallow and less likable. i absolutely refuse to watch alleged “reality” shows, which bear no resemblance to any real life on my planet; shows where, in fact, the objective seems to be to subject “ordinary” (REAL!) people to judgment, scorn, humiliation and ridicule; ordinary people who are willing to eat bugs or proclaim to the world that they’re stupid (at least stupider than a fifth grader; stupid enough to eat bugs) so they can have the 15 minutes of fame they believe they’re entitled to. and there’s now the converse: the pathetic “reality” of former child celebs trying to reclaim the 15 minutes of fame they pissed away 25 years ago and feel they’re still entitled to (the two coreys, scott baio is 45 and single … arghghgh)
there’s also a phenomenal preponderance of shows based around experts helping you remodel — remodel your house, your garden, your diet, your wardrobe, your kids, your marriage, your dog, your financial portfolio, your sex life, your colon. my, my, my. aren’t we a sad lot, in need of rescuing on so many levels.
well, sorry, oprah and ellen and all you hysterically real & genuinely flawed folks in search of prime-time redemption, but i’ve had it with your lyposuction and your colonoscopy and your “final answer” and your “giggity, giggity” vulgarities invading my living room. life is too short to spend it sitting in front of a soul-sucking, madison avenue-driven squawkbox.
i will miss jack mccoy and olivia benson and bobby goren, and boy, will i miss tina fey … i’ll even miss the occasional old hippy concert special on PBS (notice how everything always comes back to the sixties?), but that’s about all.
from now on, i’ll get my daily news fix from reputable internet sources, not from some idiot local anchor who thinks he’s a stand-up comic, thank you very much; and the $60 a month i’ll save on cable costs will pay for a couple of decent bottles of red wine, or a nice dinner out, and the occasional DVD i’m resigned to purchasing when i really need a fix.
three days and counting. til then … please pass the remote.