I did something crazy yesterday. I blocked all the ways on my computer that I can watch television.
Today, I am regretting it deeply. Sitting here on a rainy afternoon, with a few hours at my disposal, I simply want to be entertained. Forget the fabric that awaits my creative touch, the hundreds of books that deserve reading, the friends I could talk to, the great outdoors that could use some communing, the plans that need more a little more dream-time, the simple pleasures of mending and putting household things to order. I’m itching to be swept away into a world where all I have to do is watch.
Now, before you write this post off as another rant against the evils of the idiot box, let me explain. (I once gave an essay presentation in a Shakespeare class that ended very badly, with me turning into an old lady disgusted with television. Not quite what I was aiming for, but entertaining nonetheless.) I think that television has entered higher realms of storytelling than ever before, and its production values, quality actors, and stellar writers are remaking it into an art form.
I just can’t watch it anymore.
I grew up without a steady diet of television – living part of my childhood in a place where the possibility of a bear coming into your house was exponentially greater than catching the latest episode of MacGyver.
Once we moved back to the city for good, Family Matters, The Littlest Hobo, The Racoons, and other kid-friendly, pre-Pixar programming became part of our routine. We watched all of this quality stuff as a family, arguing over plot points, and sharing the popcorn bowl. I still know the opening strains of all those 80s theme songs – Run With Us (The Racoons) is synth-tastic.
I think that’s when my addiction to television first began. The Littlest Hobo wasn’t enough. When I vacuumed the basement on a Saturday morning, I’d spend my time watching anything that was on – as my mom couldn’t hear the tv over the roar of the vacuum. (Neither could I, but we had close captioning). Golf on CBC, cosutmed wrestling matches, lions eating gazelles, infomercials, Spanish soap operas, I consumed it all.
As we grew into teenagers, my sister and I expanded our media menu to include such classics as Full House, Round the Twist, and Due South, but as far as our parents knew, we still treated the television as a community object, and watched things together, for a pre-determined amount of time.
Of course, my friends had television, and being a babysitter meant that after I’d tucked the kids into bed, I could watch whatever I wanted, usually with full cable.
My appetite for television grew, without boundaries. I would stay at a friend’s house and mindlessly flick through channels into the wee hours of the morning, developing a carrot-on-the-stick relationship: if I just make it through this mediocre/terrible show, something good has to come on, right?
By the time university came around, I knew that if I wanted to graduate, I’d have to stay away from the tube altogether. Thankfully, I lived with a wonderful family who eschewed television completely, and we got along just fine.
Until YouTube came along, and the advent of DVD boxed sets. I have to confess, I have wasted whole weekends catching up on every episode of Whose Line is it Anyways? and spent many days off letting the laundry wallow, the dishes encrust and the wide world go on without me, while I drift happily along in the oversaturated worlds of crime drama, hospital soap opera and reality show fantasy. What hope is there for a TV addict when not only are all the shows you want to watch on whenever you want them to be, but they’re free?
So I’m quitting. Subscribing to a little quiet-on-demand, and hoping that my imagination can overtake my boredom and procrastination once again.