Sunday, September 4, 2011

Life Without Cable

It's been a summer without cable television. I'm making that distinction because even without the 24/7 feed from your local provider, your television can still function (hello DVD player). So maybe it's been a summer without television that has commercials. Whatever. You get my point. There's part of me that would like to claim that we've taken this road for idealistic, moral reasons that involve health, wellness, and a departure from commercialism. And I suppose that might comprise a teeny tiny part of our choice. But really, in the end, it was about cutting costs. Either way - no TV.

I think I can honestly say that my family missed it more than I did (in the beginning). Did I miss it at all? Well, sure. I'm a huge foodie and can spend hours going back and forth between programming on The Food Network and Bravo watching chefs, wannabe chefs, and cheftestants doing their thing. I also like to occasionally visit the twenty-four hour news cycle - just to catch up. And yes, I've succumbed to the thralls of some reality programming over the past decade. Survivor - of course. Bethenny Frankel's shows - whatever - you know you've watched at least one. And (gulp) the Real Housewives franchise. Okay, that one? I don't miss so much. I have enough drama from real housewives in my real life without getting caught up in the lunacy of the various housewives-of-another-city and their ridiculousness. No. I don't miss that one at all.

So what does one do when there's no TV to be had in the house? If you're my husband, you immediately decide to re-watch several years worth of your favorite series (Buffy the Vampire Slayer - which was then bumped by Battle Star Gallactica). If you're my daughter, you immediately jump on to streaming Netflix to watch every episode of Penguins of Madagascar and Scooby Doo. If you're me, you immediately turn on the jazz station and run around the house yelling at everyone to turn off the damn TVs. So, maybe not quite like that, but it was a transition for us all.

Yes, my husband made it through to about season five of Buffy (I watched occasionally - love that show), and finished Battle Star (I watched that one a lot - it's amazing). My daughter did get our money's worth out of Netflix streaming videos. Which is good since we're not paying those jacked up prices for full service anymore. But as a whole, I think we did move away from "screen time" even more than I anticipated and in better ways that I might have guessed.

We have read so much more this summer. And not just for book club. Although I can tell you that without the distraction of the Real Housewives, I actually completed our August book - A Confederacy of Dunces. Side note: I think I feel the same way about the characters in that book as I do about the cast of Real Housewives of New Jersey: appalling, loathsome, annoying, and not one redeemable character in the lot. We've rediscovered Michael Connelly and are reading through all his books. I read almost every book in two libraries on canning and knitting and have been quite productive with both endeavors this summer. We've taken more family outings (to the library and other places), we biked, we went to the farmer's market, and I've had a once-a-week date with a good friend that has grown that friendship tremendously. All of this because of no TV? It's possible - and probable - that we would have done many of these things anyway - even with TV chattering in the background. But I like to think that the lack of constant "empty programming" and the lack of advertizing bombardment has made a real impact on us. My daughter no longer quotes commercials, much to my delight, and I think we're more deliberate about what we do decide to spend time watching.

Either way, being without cable TV is not the end of modern living, or the end of entertainment, or the end of anything, really. Except maybe the end of empty, constant noise in the background of our lives. I think it's worth trying - even if you don't need to save the money. You might discover something absolutely delightful about life without it.