Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cutting the Cord

I’m not a big watcher of what is called Prime Time television.  These are the shows produced by the big networks (ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC) and usually air from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. around the country (though in Arizona it has always been 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.)  But for some reason, this year, I’ve been recording and watching more of these shows, and frankly, I have begun to wonder both why I do it, and why I still pay for cable TV.

Most of these shows are available for free using an antenna.  I grew up in a rural town, so I know that is not always the case, but now in the city, I can get all the channels just fine OTA (Over The Air as they say).  That goes for most of our local sports teams and a small amount of sports on weekends (even though that’s my busy time of the week).

Many of these shows are now available over the Internet as well through services like Hulu, or from the networks’ web sites.  Even Netflix is getting into the act with offering many NBC (and affiliated cable networks) shows for Internet streaming the day after broadcast.

But two other things have caught my attention of late, especially with these Prime Time shows.  First is the lowering or abandoning of all moral standards in these shows, and second is the heavy-fisted preaching of modern themes in these shows.

In what used to be called the Family Hour – the first hour of Prime Time – that was safe for viewing by all members of the family, I can't believe the number of sexual innuendo and references.  Maybe because I haven’t been watching these shows regularly for a while, it makes it even more jarring to me since I wasn’t slowly made numb to it by the increase over the past few years.  (Look up, on your own, a reference to slowly boiling a frog.) 

TV has also always pushed for modern themes.  The original Star Trek pushed the boundaries during its initial airing by having the first scripted interracial kiss on television.  (Kirk and Uhura in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”)  But over the last couple of decades it seems to have really accelerated, or at least I’m a lot more aware of it.  Maybe this is behind the rise in popularity of the reality based shows, the viewers choose them so they don’t feel chastised if they hold views contrary to those of the writers and producers.  It is just getting more difficult for me to separate out any kind of entertainment from the barrage of preaching about how I’m supposed to think and act.  (Look up, on your own, Brownies with a Difference.)

Modern technologies are making it possible for me to drop cable TV completely.  I can use iTunes or Amazon to purchase or rent the shows I want to watch.  I can use antenna to still watch the local news or sports.  Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Roku and others have competing technologies to let me watch, record or stream television shows.  Even modern smart phones like the iPhone and Android phones will let me watch more and more video.  Maybe it is time I sat down, really looked at the math of the money I’m spending on television and video, and found alternate ways to watch things that entertain me and won’t bludgeon me with innuendo and condescending modern attitudes.  It will be more difficult at first, and probably a technological nightmare to organize it all.  But I’m not sure I can take much more of the way it has always worked before.