Monday, January 14, 2013

A Rant: Television, I Hardly Miss You.

I haven't done a TV post in ages primarily because I don't watch television anymore. Cable fees are an abomination - need I say more? And since most series episodes are available online, it's not really the end of the world. 

Yeah, life was easier with cable, but I manage.

Yet even with all the online availability, I still find myself NOT watching much TV. I don't like having to search for episodes at network websites - maybe that's my lazy (or stubborn) side. 

But the truth is, there's not much on television worth the effort of looking or maybe it's just that if it's not there I don't miss it. Know what I mean? (Although I will go to the PBS website for Downton Abbey episodes - they are available on the day after - at least they were last season. But even those I sometimes forget to watch and somehow I don't feel especially bereft.)

I guess I'm not comfortable with television that's not on a schedule. (Remember I grew up with television in its (actual) infancy - scheduling was all important back then. We were trained, like Pavlov's dogs, to wait for episodes of our favorite shows broadcast each week on rigidly prescribed days. It wasn't all loosey-goosey like it is today. So my excuse is: I can't break the habit. I was indoctrinated at an impressionable age - by experts.

I can't tell you how many times I've gone to Netflix with every good intention of watching a bunch of TV episodes I've missed, but somehow it never works for me. There's just something about watching shows in a bunch that almost immediately points out their faults - big time. And I just don't have the patience for limiting myself to one show a week, maybe setting up some sort of make-believe schedule. I was not meant to be a television programmer even if all the tools are there for me to play with. Life's too short.

I've tried and tried to watch recommended shows online - really, I HAVE tried - but more often than not, I give up after the first fifteen minutes. I'm sorry but ALL THESE SHOWS LOOK ALIKE (especially noticeable when watching in a bunch) and feature what appear to be the same actors - or at least actors who look and sound exactly alike. 

And all these shows appear to have the same premise: an older guy at the head of a bunch of cocky, younger and very good looking three or four politically correct youngsters who all speak as if they're still in high school. (Ye gads does that rankle.) Would you trust the fate of the world to a bunch of callow striplings fresh off the pages of the latest Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue?

And when it comes to cable shows, I'm just not the sort who enjoys watching life as sewage. No thanks to criminals cavorting, puckish psychopaths, teenage vampires, grim bald people dealing drugs (or people with hair, for that matter) or strange people having sex because they can't think of anything else to do. I mean: ugh.

I know I'm not the audience for these shows (far from it), but honestly, I need to vent.

Occasionally I do find some measure of merit in certain shows I might have poo-pooed the first time around - I did enjoy the last episode of SHERLOCK with Benedict Cumberbatch mano a mano with Moriarity. Very affecting. Can't wait to see how they're bringing Holmes back. 

I did enjoy re-watching episodes of THE WEST WING a week or so ago. So there are exceptions, but honestly I can't say I miss television much except for the baseball season and football. (I've found a place online where I can stream CNN or MSNBC live so if anything newsworthy happens, I can watch it unfold.)

This weekend I watched football to the point of exhaustion, on my computer - the NFL has a great twenty dollar package with which you can watch full replays of every playoff game including the Super Bowl online just a hours after the actual game is over - all I had to do was refrain from checking scores and Voila! The games this weekend were fabulous, so that helped. I'm signing up again for next playoff season. I may even sign up to watch major league baseball online this upcoming season. It's still much MUCH cheaper than cable. (Currently I'm just signed up for audio.)

So there are many alternatives and maybe that's why I can honestly say I don't miss television much anymore. 

P.S. I did try to watch ELEMENTARY, the 'up to date' Sherlock Holmes show on CBS with a female Dr. Watson. Lined up a couple of episodes. Watched for about twenty minutes. That was all I could take. All that angst. All that hand-wringing. It made me cringe.


  1. the Sherlock on cbs is AWFUL!!!! tri
    ed to watch it and just couldn't!! judy

  2. I know what you mean, Yvette. I don't remember the last time I sat down and watched television. (And I speak as somebody who made a living for more than thirty years in television news.) I don't find anything "entertaining" about the entertainment. I find too much of the news is now just promotion for the entertainment (and most of the rest is superficial garbage). Enough, before I get started on a lengthy rant - enough to say, I agree with you completely.

  3. I have my feet half in television and half out. I know that I no longer am a slave to cable because I can get seasons on Amazon for my Kindle HD and it is nearly as good an experience as the big screen. Cable is outrageously expensive and if I could find a way to ban it from my home and still get the mother of the year award, I would.

  4. This whole 'entertainment' thing has passed us by, Les. And in a way I'm thankful for it. I'm glad there are alternatives even if I don't always take advantage of them.

    We definitely agree, Les. News as entertainment - Cronkite is spinning in his grave.

  5. Know what you mean, Belle. Cable was ritual in my house while my daughter was growing up, but it wasn't as expensive then. Far from it. Plus then there weren't all the alternatives we have today.

    You're still mother of the year, in my book. Cable or not. :)

  6. Nice to have you back Yvette. I missed your posts.

    The television scene in India is pathetic and I don't even have a T.V. at home. Sometimes one misses it but I'd rather curl up with a book than watch over-made-up women scheming against one another.

  7. I agree. I cannot find one TV show to watch now. Every show does seem the same -- whether the detective shows, the young urbanites hanging out, or whatever.

    I can't find one interesting program to watch.

    I am watching PBS more often, and getting dvd's of movies and former TV shows out of the library.

  8. Yvette: We haven't had cable (or "real" TV here for eons. Everything watched at this house is pre-recorded. And, honestly, I do very little of that. Like you, I grew up on a schedule. Watching those shows once a week was a ritual. I've tried a couple of times to get some of my favorite TV shows from Netflix, etc and watch them in a bunch--as you mention, it doesn't work so well. I loved Quincy when I was growing up. But watching several discs full of episodes right in a row just pointed out to me how formulaic they were. Not something you noticed when you had to wait a whole week to watch.

    Sorry, I haven't stopped in latley--LOVE your cover photo!

  9. Dear Yvette,

    I haven't had a TV for years (literally) and have not missed it. Occasionally I'll ask to join friends for something topical, like a Presidential debate, but that might happen just once or twice a year. Otherwise, I catch up on the computer, often watching a speech or event on YouTube.

    The trade-off is wonderful — I blog, see movies, read more, paint, and work on projects that don't require commercial breaks.

  10. "...who all speak as if they're still in high school. (Ye gads does that rankle.) Would you trust the fate of the world to a bunch of callow striplings fresh off the pages of the latest Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue? Not hardly."

    I'm with you. I don't watch much TV either anymore. It's just too stupid most of the time, and I'm too busy.

  11. Hello Yvette:
    As indeed you may already be aware, we have not had a television for at least thirty years and have not missed it at all in all of that time. Just occasionally we are aware of some films shown on television which we should be interested to watch, but then they are mostly available on DVD.

    AS for the widespread interest in Downton Abbey, a costume 'soap', this is something we fail to understand.

  12. Not apropos of this post, just to say, "And Be a Villain," the first in the Zeck trilogy is just delicious and hilarious.

    Even Nero Wolfe's equilibrium is ruffled by this criminal. So much fun I'm laughing out loud.

    And Wolfe's terror at a woman losing her temper! Sublime.

  13. As a TV guy, I watch most of my television on the computer or DVD. The only series I watch on TV is CBS' "Person of Interest," a wonderful series not available online.

    But its ok, Yvette, you are allowed to have a life without TV. In the BC era (before cable), TV and books were about the only entertainment we could enjoy without leaving our home. Today you don't have to settle for whatever TV shows.

  14. Yvette,

    I'm with you. I stopped watching TV back in the 90s. I use the TV set now solely to watch DVDs of films and TV shows, although the TV shows do pose a problem as you pointed out: watching a bunch of episodes at one time makes it easy to spot the flaws.

    I am a frequent user at Netflix and the local library. And I still send back a bunch after watching less than 30 minutes of the film. I find also that I have trouble watching a whole season of TV shows now--major problems are that so many are repetitive and uninteresting.

  15. Yvette, I hardly watch television either, partly because there's nothing interesting to watch and partly because I am reading and blogging more now.

  16. Yvette, I posted the same comment twice and had to delete one. Blame it on the robotic influence!

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. I would get rid of the cable TV part of my Comcast package but my wife absolutely must watch the news every single night between 5pm and 7pm. So I watch the local weather guy (though I can get that on line) and then leave to read. I do watch football on the telly, but I'm sure I could live without it. Beside the sameness you point out, there are the bloody commercials, which now seem to have reached about 50% of the broadcast time. Bah.

  19. Hi Neer, sorry we've missed each other. :) Ah, television - I forget that some countries don't have the same history of the 'tube' as we have here.

  20. Kathy I feel the same way. Everytime I think, 'oh wait, maybe this will be the exception' - it isn't. Give me DVDS of my favorite movies and the online streaming of baseball and football and I'm happy.

  21. Thanks, Bev. Glad you like my new look. I like to shake things up two or three times a year just to keep things lively. :)

    I think we're the 'new wave' Bev. Possibly we've outgrown television.

  22. We're on the same wavelength too, Mark. Is it possible that television today is only for the young?

    I don't feel so all alone now knowing that there are others who live quite nicely WITHOUT television. :)

  23. Jacqueline, I'm so glad you're back. Yeah, TV doesn't really recommend itself lately. We're not missing much.

  24. Hi Jane and Lance, it's time to start a 'no television and yet we survive' club. Ha! Most everyone I know has a TV and couldn't imagine any other way to live. But I'm actually glad that circumstances have altered my viewing habits.

    I didn't think I'd adapt, but I have.

    As for Downton Abbey, I think the first two seasons were well done, but...

  25. Kathy, yes, it's a doozy. I love all three Zeck books. Hard to imagine Wolfe being leery of anyone. I just re-read OVER MY DEAD BODY and MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD for the umpteenth time. What fabulous books!

  26. Thank you, Michael. I'm glad to have your blessing. :) TV is what you make of it, I suppose. But I'm doing fine without.

  27. Fred we are in complete agreement. Watching shows in a bunch is the quickest way to become disillusioned. Not that I did with THE WEST WING, but that show is the exception to a whole bunch of rules.

  28. Prashant, reading and blogging trumps TV any time. :) Plus you can watch old films online. So what's not to like? Not much. Especially if like most of us, you can't find anything worth your time on regular TV.

  29. Richard, I had the nightly news habit too. I admit that when I first cancelled cable, I missed the NBC Nightly News desperately. I really did.

    But then I got used to it.

  30. Well, this blog rekindled my (ahem) decades ago love of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, actually revived and elevated it.

    Now the problem is to resist the urge to sit and read one Wolfeman after another, drink tea and eat high-carb snacks and tune out the world. How tempting!

  31. Interesting and provocative post, Yvette! I am a diehard TV fan (especially British TV) so while I concede many of your points, feel I should speak up in its defense.

    I agree with you that most of what passes for "entertainment" on TV these days is an utter waste of time. And I definitely see your point about being tired of angst angst angst. But I wouldn't want to do without shows like LEWIS, the Jeremy Brett SHERLOCK HOLMES, CRACKER, RED DWARF, THE WILD, WILD WEST, ALL CREATURES GREAT & SMALL, DOCTOR WHO, THE PRISONER, etc. and etc. Now, most of these are older shows (which make up the lion's share of my TV viewing), so that probably doesn't fit exactly what you're talking about. But there are still some good ones out there being made today (I'm partial to JUSTIFIED and LONGMIRE, myself).

    What works best for me is to download the shows that I'm interested in (thus avoiding commercials) and watch if/when I feel like it. Like you, I was raised on "appointment" TV scheduling. But I much prefer this new way of self-scheduling.

    Just my 2 cents..thanks for bringing up a fun topic!

  32. You can never go wrong reading about Wolfe and Archie. I'm tuning out the world the next couple of weeks with a bunch of Georgette Heyer books I just brought home from the library.

    You can't go wrong reading Heyer
    either. :)

  33. Jeff, you're doing what I basically do with Netflix, except you're programming things yourself. Most everyone I know with a television does the same thing. They program most of what they watch.

    I haven't seen LONGMIRE or JUSTIFIED but I've heard good things. When they show up on Netflix (which won't be long) I'll take a look.

    Most of the other shows you mentioned are currently available to me on Netflix for when I have the time and inclination. That's the hard part: the inclination.

    Thanks for joining in on our discussion. We welcome all points of view here. :)

  34. Let me recommend some wonderful series from Great Britain you can watch on Netflix: Luther, Wallender,Doc Martin, Vera...just to name a few. All of them except Doc Martin are police/crime dramas and are EXCELLENT. The acting is outstanding.

  35. Thanks, Glitter. I did see a few of the Wallender episodes and enjoyed them despite the grimness. :)

    The others I haven't seen - yet. But this is the year. :)


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