No more cable TV, no more

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If you wanna have fun come home with me
You can stay all night and play with my TV
TV Is The Thing This Year

- Dinah Washington

TV Tramps paperback

Having my cable modem and television service suspended made me take a closer look at how much cable TV was costing me each month.

When I left home I left television behind. I took a small set with me. First time I turned it on the little box started smoking. The set's death was OK by me, there were more exciting prospects: boys and big city life.

Back in Savannah television had mostly become something I hid from. Like most Americans - steadily more of humankind? - the TV flickered to life when my parents got home. The sounds of canned laughter and dramatic confrontations filtered through the door of the room in which I was trying to read. Mostly my momma's doing, daddy often retired early to read his Bible and pray. I guess my ability to fix my attention was feeble. The faint noise made it hard to read closely. I was in the first flush of discovering high culture and diverted the time once spent with Superman and Spiderman to Susan Sontag and Shakespeare. (Though I think I sometimes write like a pedant this serious bent didn't persist.)

Some nights I'd lose the war and go watch whatever momma was looking at. Years later it hit me that she often chose shows with hunks that she liked like Chad Everett and Jack Lord. Not that I fault her, my parents sex life had ended I think.

Like most Americans my brain is a ratbag of families not born of biology, inane jingles celebrating the virtues of processed meats and long dead or retired newscasters. I don't begrudge it and can be as passionate as anyone trying to remember who played the uncle on what.

Sometimes in the early years away from home I'd live in a house that had a TV. But I didn't really know habitual television watchers. Either they were too earnest or had keener recreations. When I did watch TV it was usually something like Thunderbirds because when I was a little kid I'd loved Sylvia and Gerry Anderson's Supercar and Fireball Zodiac XL-5. Or old monster movies. OK, I might watch The Partridge Family because I wanted to sodomize David Cassidy. (Similarly, much later I'd watch Ricky Martin videos.)

Eventually I'd buy a cheap TV to watch reruns of Tom Baker's rendition of Doctor Who. Baker's ironical, superior Doctor and the capacity and freedom given by the Tardis embodied so many of my fantasies. Mostly that set remained decently dark and silent.

Last time I saw my momma she gave me her old color TV set, a huge old thing by today's standards. My first color TV (televisions were much more expensive back then). I was sharing a house with my business partner, Gordon, back then. We got cable. Mostly we watched old horror and science fiction movies. A childhood passion revived.

That TV died and we bought a decent $800 set, eventually a VCR. Mostly I thought of the TV as an adjunct to the VCR. We bought, rented and traded store stock for obscure and often awful exploitation and B movies. Every now and then one of us would find a TV show we liked but mostly the TV stayed off.

Over the decades cable TV went from being a way to supply TV to farmers who lived far from TV stations to this vast array of options. When Charles and I setup housekeeping together we kept adding tiers of service. Much of what you get is, well, let's just say I had to need of the Golf, Pet, or Cooking channels.

I think it was Queer as folk that got us adding yet more, couldn't see the new season without paying for Showtime. Or Sex & the City without HBO. Incrementally our monthly bill went up and up. We had easily a hundred of more channels. And you can't always be there to watch the latest episode of Carnival or Six Feet Under so you need the On Demand service so you can call it up when you want to.

Examining the cable bill I discovered we were paying $80 a month for TV. When Charles isn't around I might watch an hour a day. And you can't trim it down to jus the few things you'd like. To be able to see Curb Your Enthusiasm when the mood hits I need the digital set top box. The box is $50 of the bill. Without the box mostly you can watch the broadcast channels. Last time I checked a local station they were interviewing a Raleigh man who had constructed a 6' ball of travel brochures.

Sadly I found myself often hiding from TV again. When Charles goes into a funk (often) he's been known to turn into a vegetable and watch television all day long. I've found I can't sit there and do it with him. If I watch TV before early evening I'll fall into a sort of stupefaction. My brain cells seem to gel and I just want to eat crap and lie there.

So I've cast TV out of the house.

I've been feeling resentful that the TV has kept me from reading more or listening to music. Looking back at your life as an issue of TV Guide is a dismal prospect. And we can rent more DVDs.

From childhood: Early 60s TV

Less fondly: The sordid defilement of television addiction

As entries go this is one of the worst I've written recently but I have an itch to get it out.


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» Asian wife swapping soccer moms from Amorous Propensities : sex is funny, sex is sad
Wife swapping is a term that I thought died out ages ago. The article says there’s an American Wife Swap, which only proves that when I had my cable TV service shut off yesterday I was wiser than I guessed. Might wife-swapping be the new... [Read More]


I sold my TV two years ago, and I’m a happier man for it.

I’d be happy to still have the cable TV if: a) it cost no more than $20 a month to get the few things I’d like to see. b) I could trust Charles to not watch the damned set for hours.

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