Just Saying “No” To TV

It’s become a famous saying, since cable took over the television universe: “I’ve got 200 (or 300, or even 500) channels and there’s nothing on!”

watchingtv.gifIf you’re one of those people who’ll watch endless reruns of “Meerkat Manor” or Rachel Ray’s “$40 a Day” rather than pick up a book or pop in a DVD, you’ve probably said it yourself. At the other extreme are people who permanently say “no” to TV. They don’t own a set and don’t plan to buy one. According the the Census Bureau, that’s about 1.8 percent of the population. The rest of us could give them a TV and not miss it. Most households have two or three.

The go-to guy for comment on stories like this is, of course, SU’s Bob Thompson, who probably brings the University more publicity than anyone or anything else, with the possible exception of basketball. It’s amazing he’s got any time left to teach, between watching TV and stating his opinions for articles like this one by the Washington Post’s Korin Miller.

“To aggressively not have a TV is to take yourself out of the loop of American cultural conversation,” says Robert J. Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. He says people are often shocked, then reverential upon learning of someone’s TV-free lifestyle.

For inveterate TV viewers, network efforts to counter the cable channels have led to confusion about when new episodes of any show are on. There are rating period “stunts,” and there is now more than one “season” for popular series both on and off the major networks. “Must see” shows for many, like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” can be in reruns for months during what used to be their regular seasons (ABC seems to be the master at sowing the seeds of viewer confusion), and sought-after cable entertainments like “The Closer,” “Rescue Me” and “Monk” seem to come and go without warning or very much promotion.

Maybe the scheduling chaos is a sign of that we’re nearing that often-talked-about time when we’ll be able to watch what we want, whenever we want through an expansion of on-demand cable, or a melding of TV with the internet. Until then, keep close watch on those listings- or just head for the bookstore.

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One Response to Just Saying “No” To TV

  1. I grew UP on TV. My dad was a TV repairman. We had tons of TVs. When the VCR came out, we were one of the first to get one. TV was not only a form of entertainment to us (and I watched everything on during the 70s and 80s), it was our livelihood. But guess what?

    I have no TV. I forbid my kids to watch TV shows. We watch DVDs and videotapes, yes; usually documentaries or historical fiction. But no TV shows. Now, why? Well, I’ll quote your quote of Robert Thompson:

    “To aggressively not have a TV is to take yourself out of the loop of American cultural conversation.”

    That’s why. THANK GOD FOR TV CHOICE. I am pro-choice when it comes to TV!

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