TV or not TV? That is the question

December 18, 2011

Media & Culture

I haven’t watched television with any regularity for several months now, the longest period in my life without the tube playing a major aspect of my routine since, well, forever.

Here’s what happened. Back in July, in the midst of Texas’ hottest, driest summers in modern history, Houston had a rare thunderstorm one Friday evening. On that particular night, I had planned to settle in to watch some DVD episodes of The Wire, the excellent HBO series about life in inner-city Baltimore. I’d managed to miss it during its entire run because I’ve never had cable at my home. My friend Angie had lent me the entire five-season boxed set.

But when I arrived at my apartment, my landlord told me that lightning had struck the house, frying virtually every single piece of electronic equipment inside — including my DVD player and the digital antenna for my television. (The flatscreen TV, just over two years old, was spared.)

Both the DVD player and the antenna (with which I receive only local stations) are both relatively inexpensive. But the economy’s still sagging, and I decided not to spend the money to replace them just yet. And, as a side benefit, I could do a little experiment on what it’s like to live without TV as a near-daily experience.

And the truth is, aside from a couple of bumps, I’ve hardly missed it. For its entire 2004-2010 run, I was addicted to the show LOST, whose nefarious creators found a way to propel viewers from one episode to the next, one season to the next, like expert drug pushers. Long before the show ended, I swore I’d never let that happen again.

Thanks to a little meteorological intervention, I haven’t seen one of the networks’ latest offerings this season. I’ve missed a few old favorites such as The Office and 30 Rock, as well as some perennial PBS programs and my Sunday political talk show fix.

I’ve cheated a little. My friend Angie and her husband lent me an old DVD player to finish watching The Wire, and, nostalgic for a bygone era of newspapers that I barely knew, I’ve watched a couple of episodes of the old Lou Grant show on Hulu.

But, overall, I’ve enjoyed the quiet immensely. I go out to walk in my neighborhood more. On Sunday nights, I’ve been listening to “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” the great classic rock program from Steve Van Zandt of E Street Band and The Sopranos fame, which a friend turned me on to.

And I can tell you that one thing I absolutely have not missed is the ads. And that rings particularly true during the annual commercial-palooza known as the holiday season.

But then again, if you’re looking for a gift for me, a digital television antenna might be …. nah, just kidding.

Copyright © 2011 Ken Fountain. All rights reserved.

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About Ken Fountain

I'm a journalist and writer in Houston, Texas. My areas of specialty include law and courts, local government and energy and environmental issues. You can follow me on Twitter at and email me at kenfountain1 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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3 Comments on “TV or not TV? That is the question”

  1. Brandon Says:

    The revolution will not be televised. Though I’m pretty sure it is on the internet.


  2. rcmckee Says:

    I quit watching TV in … 1988, I guess it was. In a rare moment of uncontrolled anger I actually destroyed the set; when I started thinking of replacing it I realized that I couldn’t think of anything I’d actually learned or gained from watching the thing since college.

    So… I didn’t replace it.


  3. Stephen Connolly (@stephencon) Says:

    We cancelled our cable nearly three years ago. Our kids have Netflix on the Wii, I watch episodes of favorite shows on Hulu and the occasional soccer match on ESPN3. No ads, lots of podcasts and reading. Hardly miss broadcast TV.


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