TV-Free, Sort Of

When my husband was in grade school, he remembers his teacher casually mentioning once that she didn't own a television set.

"I was shocked," he says. "I thought, so, what do you DO all day?"

Now he takes more than a little pride in mentioning the fact that we also don't own a television.  When we got married, my parents generously gave us their old one, but we never used it except for movies.  I refused to pay for cable, something I saw as a downward spiral ending in hundreds of dollars a month, so we only got a few channels.  My sister used to watch the Ravens games, which she said were blurry but at an acceptable level.  We may have turned the news on once or twice during a hurricane.

When we purchased a new computer, we discovered the screen was almost as big as the television we owned, so we gave away the television.  We continue to watch movies.  But television has crept back in, thanks to the Internet, where almost every show can be found for free, via legal means or otherwise.

I'm not sure how I feel about it.  For awhile, we only watched LOST, which I still maintain is the best show I've seen in a long time (and maybe ever.)  We'd go over to our friends' house (or, more recently, my parents' house, after converting them one summer) and watch, discuss, rail at the lack of answers and the plethora of questions.  I liked the fact that watching television became a planned social event, not just something to do to pass the time.

But then I started watching a few shows out of curiosity, mostly to keep up with my students.  Is Grey's Anatomy really that wretched?  (It's worse.  You have no idea.)  Is Desperate Housewives that vapid?  (Likewise.)  Is Scrubs that funny?  (No, but according to many of my friends, I haven't given it enough of a chance.)  Is the Office?  (A resounding YES!)  For some reason, I've become totally hooked on The Mentalist; it's not a groundbreaking show, but it's funny and dramatic and I'm interested in the psychological aspects of the protagonist's investigative technique.

What I'm starting to realize, though, is that I'm getting more tolerant.  I'll sit through stuff I never would have before.  Last summer we watched several seasons of Weeds, which was funny at times but really not very high-quality and certainly didn't affirm the kind of values we have.  This year Rob's been watching Flash Forward, and I notice that I usually end up paying more attention to the crossword puzzle or my pile of vocabulary quizzes than to the screen.  I don't want that.

So yes, we don't have a television.  And yes, I brought the subject up myself, but not so I could brag about it.  Because I think in the end, it doesn't matter.  More and more people will be following the Biltons' lead and ditching TV for . . . TV.  In a different form.  I thank thee, Father, that I am not like other men.