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Why I No Longer Watch Television

Categories: Opinion

The first television set I remember in my family was black and white.  I was 12 before we had our first color set.

The first television program I remember was Jesse James.  It was canceled because he was the bad guy and he kept getting away.

Over the decades, I've watched my share of television, and had my share of favorite programs, including Mission: Impossible, Call to Glory, Hill Street Blues, The X-Files, and Seinfeld.

But gradually, I watched less and less television, and now I watch virtually none.  Yes, I still turn it on and scan through the channels, and I even occasionally find something valuable.  But for the most part, I've had it, and here's why.

Quality

When I think of quality in television programming, I think of Perry Mason, not The Simpsons; I think of Johnny Carson, not Jay Leno; I think of Ed Sullivan, not Howard Stern.  I'm sure there must be some quality programs today, but I don't know what they are.

Clutter

It started innocently enough when the networks wanted to make sure you knew which network your TV was tuned to, in case your TV's channel indicator didn't work.  So they started posting the network logo in the corner of the screen.  Apparently, that didn't bother most people.  To me, it was annoying.

Bloomberg TV came along and decided it wasn't enough for us to watch the news; we need to read it at the same time.  So they placed every bit of news-related information they could get their hands on into every little orafice of visual real estate they could find.

Clutter has expanded to the credits, too.  In the old days, the credits rolled at the beginning of the show, and at the end.  Today, you can still see credits rolling 20 minutes into the program.

Finally, there are alerts.  There are times when viewers need to be warned immediately of an impending disaster, such as a tsunami or tornado warning.  But when it's going to drizzle in Las Vegas, we don't need the details scrolling across the top of the screen with a synthetic voice reading along with it.  If it absolutely must be displayed, a simple message such as " It's going to rain in Nevada.  For details, check your forecast." would suffice.

Language

Our government has once again failed.  This time it's the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who's responsible for bleeping out the foul language that may occasionally slip through, and the Supreme Court.  I'm a Libertarian and a huge fan of the First Amendment, but I strongly believe broadcast TV should be kept squeeky clean.  If you want adult material, tune into HBO.

The Simpsons comes to mind.  Bart lovers claim this is an adult program, so it's okay to use foul language.  I disagree.  If it's being broadcast (as opposed to cable), it is not appropriate.

I remember when my mother literally washed my mouth out with soap for calling my friend a fool.  I learned then that it's not necessarily the words used, but it's also the manner in which their used.

In American television, some foul words can be uttered as one part of speech, but not as another.  Unfortunately, most Americans don't know an adjective from an adverb, and when they hear a bad word used one way, they conclude it's okay to use it in other ways.

It's not!  Okay?!

"In recent years, all of the words on [so-called comedian George] Carlin's list [of "seven words you can never say on television"] have come into commonplace usage in many made-for-cable series and film productions, such as Deadwood, The Sopranos, Weeds, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, ...Dead Like Me, South Park, and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia to name a few examples.

Seven Dirty Words, wikipedia.org

Technology

I was quite happy with the analog television system, and frankly, I just don't see the benefits of digital television.  With analog, I might get a weak signal, but I could still watch it.  It just looked like a winter scene with all the snow.  But with digital, it's all or nothing.  If the signal's weak, you get no viewable picture.

Another quirk that always annoyed me was that television station channel numbers didn't always correspond to cable television channel numbers.  In other words, it might be necessary to turn your television to channel five in order to watch television channel two.  It would have been very easy for television manufacturers to provide consumers with a way to assign each channel number themselves.  If my cable company put channel 7 on their channel 102, why can't I set my TV so that the channel number indicated on the TV is 7?  Or am I asking too much?

What's worse is the new digital channel assignments.  What was wrong with channels 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7...?  Now, we have 3-1, 3-2, 3-3, 5-1, 5-2, 47-1, 47-2, 47-3, 47-4, 47-5, 47-6...  Whose brilliant idea was this?  And for what purpose?

Conclusion

It's easy for me to turn the TV off.  In fact, we don't even own a TV in our household!  My biggest concern was the material my immigrant wife and daughter would be viewing, and how television would affect their learning the English language.  Fortunately, that problem was easily resolved - they don't think American TV's worth watching either!


User Comments:
Justin - May 24, 2013 01:08:57 — The only reason I still own a TV is because I'm proud of my dvd/vhs collection of horror and monster films. As far as TV programming is concerned it's deader than the dinosaurs. Ever since the digital takeover, I have not tuned in to any channel since. It appears they expect you to (pay more) get ...more
Jonas - May 24, 2013 01:29:55 — I don't know if watching the Twilight Zone can make you smarter, but I am convinced that smarter people prefer watching the Twilight Zone. Thanks for writing, Justin!
Markus - Feb 17, 2014 01:58:29 — One of the most destructive mediums in television broadcasting are those inane small claims court programs. "Judge" Judy is the most vulgar of her insipid ilk. The problem is, the show's core viewing audience (I'm assuming) aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, and they actually believ ...more
Jonas - Feb 17, 2014 03:02:42 — Couldn't agree with you more, Markus.  Thanks for the input!

"If you can't say something nice, let's hear it!"   — Joan Rivers

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