The Intruder Revisited

I have come to a conclusion about the nature of Cable TV, having had it in my life again for about two months (and after an absence of 18 years or so).

That is this: Cable does not so much have what I want to watch as much as stuff that I will watch. It’s settling for Ginger Ale when there’s no Champagne to be had.

Hmm, there’s Dave with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Might as well watch it because I don’t have the DVD yet.

Naturally, this makes the Waste-Of-Time-Ometer jump into the red. Why not do something you want to be doing rather than settling for something else?

I almost butted heads with someone once at a writer’s convention over this issue. I was the featured Science Fiction Author, and on the last day they had a panel where people could ask questions of the Featured Authors. One married couple asked me where I found time to write. I said that I gave up things that weren’t as important to me as writing and used that time to write. “For example, I don’t watch a whole lot of television.” The man got all snooty. “Well,” he said, “I watch lots of television and still have plenty of time to write.” I bit my tongue. What I wanted to say was, “I see. And how many novels have YOU published?” It seemed the better part of valor then, but looking back, it was once of the few times in my life where I had the perfect response for the moment, and I held back. I wish I’d said it, even at risk of sounding as snooty as my interrogator. I think it would have made the point.

So back to Cable. Why doesn’t it have its hooks in me, which is what I feared when we got it?

Maybe it’s is my fault for not being more of a TV addict. I mean, I’ve been trying to watch House, but I was trying to do that before we got cable. But as I said, I haven’t been much of a television addict since I started pursuing writing seriously.

Perhaps I’m too choosy. The two specials that I wanted to see – one about companies that sell sanitized versions of Hollywood films, the other about disasters in the Soviet space program – were both lightweight and lacking in content when you consider the potential in their subject matter.

A third option is that I’ve got this odd practical streak that runs through me, and I for the most part refuse to watch something on cable that I can watch anytime by pulling out my DVD. I can’t understand why certain members of my family would watch an episode of Monty Python or Fawlty Towers on BBC America when they could pull out their favorite episode from the bookcase and watch it. I can see why they wanted to watch the second Harry Potter film on ABC Family, what with all the added footage and all. But Sleepless In Seattle?. The Turner channels run this one so much that I might as well sell my copy of it.

On the other hand, our daughter was able to watch National Lampoon’s Animal House the other night without enduring all of the gratuitous gratuitousness in that film – and she was able to see how much it has contributed to our culture (“Assume the position’; ‘Thank you, sir, may I have another!’; ‘Just blanks, right?’)

The fourth option is that, while Cable appears to offer limitless choice, it’s an illusion. The more channels that are out there, the more diluted the programming has become – this is why you get phrases like “Three chances to see it!” have become staples in Cable channel promos. Miss Dave or Sleepless In Seattle on one Turner network and it’ll turn up on another. Want to see an episode of Into The West? Just wait. It’ll appear, and on more than just the advertised three evenings when it’s scheduled. So if you missed something, be patient. It’ll be back – with a vengeance*.

(The only thing I missed was the stinker James Bond parody Casino Royale – which I wanted to see because the last time I saw it I was a Webelos scout. I apparently missed the final airing at the end of its duty cycle. But it’ll be back. Films like that never leave the universe of Cable. They keep resurfacing – just like Gilligan’s Island.)

(But heaven help you if you wake in the middle of the night and turn to Cable for solace – in the wee hours it turns into infomercial land.)

So for me the jury is still out on this whole Cable thing. And it can stay out.

Or maybe I’m just out to lunch.

Listening: It’s either Ivy or Hooverphonic. I can’t tell at the moment. (via iPod Shuffle)

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