Tuesday, May 17, 2016


We got rid of cable TV. I'm sharing this here so you all might start a prayer chain or incense-fueled thought-circle to get me through the worst of the withdrawal. And, yes,  Of COURSE we have Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime, along with a smart TV and Roku. But, those are just technological Methadone to get me off the hard stuff. People, I'm hurting. Do you have any idea what it's like to wake up in the morning, flick on the television all prepped for a good, long channel surf, only to be grounded in the sand by the ridiculous 12 stations of antenna TV? I want my MTV!

Remember when we first got cable in our homes? I was already in my early 20's and living in my own apartment. My roommate and I could not afford the extra expense, so we'd pop in on people in our building who thought the splurge was worth it so they could get HBO, Showtime, and The Movie Channel. On those stations, we could watch the same dozen or so movies over and over! I saw On Golden Pond so many times that I took to speaking with a quivery voice and calling all my friends old coots. When I'd go to my parents' to do my laundry and score free food, I'd settle in and watch hours of MTV.  Besides the hypnotic effect of the videos, the VJ's began to feel like friends. I, myself, had a crush on Alan Hunter. I'm sure you can see why:

When my husband and I moved into our first apartment, we decided to give Cablevision a try. Not only could we watch all of Ted Turner's various networks, we also got a TV station from Chicago, plus one from New York City! Sophisticates R Us!  On Saturday nights, we could stay up late and watch USA Network's "Up All Night," a show hosted by Gilbert Godfried. It basically consisted of a Grade D movies with strange little videos interjected during the breaks. There was no Youtube back then, so these clips were a new medium that had us in stitches. It probably helped that we were downing a bottle of wine or two while we watched. For the full effect, behold the singing cows:

In those days,  cable was a glorious thing. You could watch Tammy Faye Bakker's face melt on PTL, then switch channels to witness white supremist Tom Metger's go purple with rage on his show "Race and Reason." The Weather Channel turned Mother Nature into a superstar, and CNN became the first 24/7 news network.  Ted Turner took credit for all the films produced at the MGM studios while trying to make the entire nation fans of the Atlanta Braves. Young children home from school with a cold no longer had to limit their TV viewing to old reruns of Andy of Mayberry and their mother's soap operas. They could watch hours of Nickelodeon along with a whole variety of TV shows in syndication. In fact, you might watch a television show on Monday, and find that same episode in syndication the following Wednesday. Life was good!

Then, MTV produced a TV show called "The Real World," and this changed everything. "The Real World" placed a group of young strangers into a house and filmed their interactions over the course of a few months. There were conflicts, romances, illnesses, and heart-breaking confessions. Probably the most compelling situation was that of Pedro Zamora, a cast member of Season 3 which was filmed in 1994. He was one of the first openly gay men to be presented in the media. He was also HIV positive. He was open with the cast about his disease, and viewers got to witness unscripted, honest responses that were startling and eye-opening. As filming progressed, so did the effects of his illness. The show completed filming in June and began airing in July. Pedro died in November. A new genre of television had been birthed - Reality TV.
"This is not real life. This is just fantasy."
Soon, at any given time of day, we could find, with a click of the remote, some folks partying at the Jersey Shore, wine-drenched housewives ripping the wigs off of each other, and the Kardashian offspring shaming the family name. We got to meet a family of little people, a batch of wives married to the same polygamist, women trying on wedding gowns, and spoiled young couples shopping for their first home. Depending on your mood, you could visit a pawn shop, a chef's kitchen, a fishing boat, and a bar on the verge of being closed. Instead of actually going out and working in the yard, you could watch people do it on TV! Life started to get a little boring.

To keep it more interesting, the 24/7 news networks became the place to go. Why bother with aerobics if you can get your heart rate up just by watching Fox News?  The news networks understood our craving for reality TV, so, instead of actual reporting, we got misleading headlines and hours of pontificating. There's a network for everyone, so you can sit in a comfy chair for hours shouting, "Look how smart I am! They are expressing my exact same opinions right here on the NEWS!" It's very good for the self-esteem.

I think it was about the time my husband and I found ourselves lazily sitting through a program that featured a nun (Mother Angelica) leading a group of other nuns in an eery chant of the Rosary that we looked at each other and said, "Why are we paying for this?" I suppose you could call it divine inspiration. I call it fiscal responsibility. We cancelled our cable the next day and have not looked back!
"There's free cable and wi-fi in the after life. You've got all of eternity to watch Property Brothers."
The truth is, I have looked back. I miss my junk TV.  Fortunately, most of it is available on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. I might be a day late watching the final season of Lost or the Gilmore Girls, but, at least, I'm not a dollar short. Fare thee well, cable TV. May your final years pass relatively pain-free. I'll never forget you, but I've got to wind this up so I can go binge Grace and Frankie on Netflix.


  1. Love the title.

    Can't do without my Big Ten station during football season.

    And now thanks to you I see binge-watching the singing cows in my future!

  2. Welcome to the world of cable-free discretionary spending.