Thursday, December 18, 2008


Himself and I have decided, as a Hanukkah present to each other, to replace our television. This is not a great indulgence as the one we are using, while it works fine, was used when I bought it for $50 in 1994, and has only one input (and that for a coaxial cable). I'm not sure if everyone will realize how primitive it is for a television to have only one input. It doesn't even have RGB cables! The only reason we can even hook it to our DVD player is that it's a joint DVD/VCR player, and as a result still has coaxial in AND out ports. So it's about time to upgrade.

Although my basic default position on television has been an inherited knee-jerk snobbery, the truth is that the more time I spend in academia, the greater my appreciation for the value of mindless entertainment, as witness my treasured subscription to Entertainment Weekly (thanks, mindyfromohio!). Television commercials still make me want to scream, especially with their repetitiveness, and the majority of what's on is not of any particular interest to me; but the latter is, I think, only to be expected in a world of hundreds of channels. Especially as an academic, who is trained to have narrowly critical interests, I'm not surprised nor especially put off by the range of things I am not interested in seeing. I am sometimes fascinated by it: did you know there's a Polish-language broadcast on local-access cable here? Samoan, Tagalog, even Portuguese I get, but Polish?

But there's enough good stuff, from Anthony Bourdain (I'm a huge fan) to Antiques Roadshow (professional interest), that I do want to see things now and again. And then we Netflix such a range of things too. So we've invested in a DVR and, once the after-Christmas sales come up, we're going to get a smallish LCD TV monitor. The combination will allow us to play DVDs, stream video from the Netflix site, and record the shows that we do want to see so we don't miss them due to our evening obligations (like Compline choir, and student art openings).

At some point, however, I am clearly going to have to hook it up to the laptop and play some World of Warcraft - just to see the awesome.


thm said...

Watching a lot of television when traveling recently, I was struck by how repetitive the commercials are on some of the lower-profile channels: it's the same three or four ads every single ad break. And if you're caught in a "start the next episode without bothering to break for a commercial or run the credits of the previous episode" marathon of CSI or something, it can get downright maddening.

I'm also struck by proliferation of low-budget mediocre documentaries on the History and Military channels.

Kurt Anderson wrote an interesting piece a few years back (which I first encountered as a commentary on Studio 360) arguing that the best contemporary television is commercial-free and viewer supported: HBO.

SEB said...

thm! thanks for stopping by! Merry Christmas to you and the missus and Matthew!

I believe it about HBO: if I had a greater tolerance for verite cinema, I would watch a lot more of it. As it is, I get enough reality in my life already.