Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The usual channels

I know it is fashionable to have as many channels as possible on your television, but I've finally reached the point where I have too many. My Verizon FIOS package provides me with hundreds of channels, including umpteen HD options and premium movie channels. To top it off, they also offer hundreds of on demand options that have my head spinning. Its a virtual (or digital) television all you can view buffet.

But the problem with buffets is that you want to sample everything for fear that you won't get your money's worth. Then you end up throwing up.

Okay, maybe not the prettiest analogy, but bottom line is that I have so many channels I don't end up watching anything. It's a paradox of sorts. Add to this that I like to surf the Web on my laptop while watching television during the one or two free hours I have after putting my children to sleep and you can guarantee that I'm not getting any quality viewing time in.

It was much simplier when I was a kid. We only had two channels growing up. Eventually they added a Public Broadcast Station, but as far as I was concerned, it was as entertaining as watching a test pattern on the tube. For anyone born after 1968, a test pattern was something television stations would run just before and just after the time they went on the air. And yes, believe it or not, there used to be a time when television didn't broad cast after midnight. They used to play the Star Spangled Banner and then switch to the test pattern.

I know I am sounding like a broken record, but it is sad to me that most of my popular culture references don't make sense to anyone under the age of 40. BTW, a record is what music used to be recorded on.

But I digress.

But back to my channel overload dilemma. I think it is pitiful that, despite having 500 or so viewing choses at any given moment, I can never find anything interesting to watch. And other than on demand programs, I can never seem to tune into any program that hasn't already started. I have this OCD thing about having to watch movies and television programs from the beginning. Back in the days when I used to go to movie theaters (before I had children), I hyperventilated at the thought of walking into a movie after it had begun. It ruined the whole willing suspension of disbelief thing I treasured about going to a movie in the first place. It's hard to lose yourself in a movie if you are begin watching it ten minutes into the thing and are lost as to what is going on.

Premium channels never seem to run movies on the hour. I swear they have some kind of built in mechanism that guarantees no matter when you tune into them the movie has already been playing for half an hour. Oh, DVRs help, but then you have to figure out the online channel guides and scroll through all the options to record the things and not accidently reset your entire system. Plus, once they are recorded, you've added yet another option to an already unmanageable selection of choices.

I have to say, the one thing I like about all of the new technologies surrounding television is the ability to pause live television. It is like something out of the Twilight Zone (see my above reference about popular cultural references specific to my age group). The ability to pause live programming has definitely altered my bathroom habits. I know longer have to choose between missing a crucial part of a program and bursting my bladder.

TMI, I know.

On Demand and DVRs have taken away some of the ritual excitement of watching your favorite programs any more. When I was a kid, I loved measuring life in what was on television on any given evening. The highlight of a Sunday was watching Disney's Wonderful World of Color following by Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. Saturday night television was ruined by the Lawrence Welk Show, but redeemed by Gun Smoke.

I am indeed a child of television.

Oh well, this concludes today's blogcast.


R. said...

Oh man. That test pattern is old-school. The test pattern I grew up with consisted of color bars with the beeeeeeeeee noise.

I remember using the volume knob on the television to make "music" of sorts. You could do all kinds of rhythmic things - plus if you turned it up really loud you could get it to distort and make some funky sounding harmonics.

Of course I got my ass chewed out for making so much noise at 4:30 AM on a Saturday.

My parents should have cut me some slack however. What else is a kid going to do while waiting for cartoons to come on at 6:00 AM?

JP/deb said...

Being in that 'over-40' group, I can appreciate the cultural references. Though I haven't thought about the test pattern in years!

It seems that quantity has outweighed quality - although, many of the HBO and Showtime series bring a wealth of talented writing and acting.

Time said...

R. We had B&W televisions for as long as I could remember. I didn't realize the Wizard of Oz had a scene where it went from black and white to full color until just recently.


I agree that HBO and Showtime offer up some great series. I love Entourage and Dexter. How can you go wrong with a romantic comedy/drama about a serial killer? And lately I've discovered another great program on semi-mainstream television -- Men of a certain age. But then again maybe I like it because I am a man of a certain age.