Is it a change of life, or old age, or a new era? What is it? I used to be an avid television viewer and now I can’t tolerate the sight of the screen – even when it is off. I can recall the beginning of this change a couple of years ago, and I now know it’s not temporary.
There is something about the commercials being so loud and irritating that, when I turn off the TV and hear the quiet around me, I suddenly feel peaceful. I put on jazz or classical music and breathe a sigh of relief.
Aside from the commercials, what is it about TV that turned me off? I could have watched CNN speculate about the disappearance of that Malaysian airplane for two straight months, but I chose not to. News networks used to be there to inform viewers about what happened and why. Now their so-called experts guess, theorize and contradict each other. They do everything but properly inform.
The fact is they just don’t know why the plane fell out of the sky and the constant guessing and speculating is not worthy of television journalism. Call me old-fashioned, but I know Walter Cronkite would not have done it.
And then there are programs like Dancing with the Stars and America’s Got Talent. Somehow, those programs are all so different and yet so similar. They all have judges who try to be funny and hosts who try to be hip. They all try to build up to a point of interest and then, just when they may have your attention, they take a commercial break that seems like an eternity.
Then there’s the technology of television. By the late-‘70s, the remote control clicker was becoming commonplace. The original idea was to create new channels and to spare people from having to get up to change the channel. But it has turned into a gadget that kills concentration – not just for television, but for just about anything.
As soon as we’re bored, we click to look for something more interesting. Channel surfing makes me crazy, and I think it is harmful to the minds and powers of concentration of young and old alike. It is the intellectual curse of our time.
It is unfair to dismiss all television technology because, for people like me, there is a saving grace: my personal video recorder (PVR). My life now revolves around setting my PVR. Unlike the old video cassette recorders, a PVR is actually 95 per cent idiot-proof. I can set my PVR with confidence my programs will be there when I look for them.
So, if I don’t like television, what do I record? I record the national news every night and watch it in the morning with breakfast. I build up a library of documentaries and movies, which I will watch when I can, but I delete many things months later without having seen them.
As a sports fan, I record games and delay watching them for a couple of hours so I can see them commercial-free. That’s one thing my son, another huge sports fan, can’t understand.
“Unless it’s live,” he insists, “it’s not worth watching.”
That must be the generation gap. Of course, I don’t watch TV and surf the Internet simultaneously, so I can understand why, in his world, watching anything on delay is impossible.
Growing up in the ‘50s, television was everything. It was a lifeline to modern life and a connection to the world. But it was almost pathetically primitive with its black-and-white, often snowy and grainy picture. It’s funny to remember playing with the rabbit ears antenna on top of the TV to improve the picture as we watched the Ed Sullivan Show and Hockey Night in Canada.
Technologically, today’s television is as perfect as perfect can be. It’s hard to imagine it getting better, although they keep innovating, so, clearly, there is no cap on perfection.
If only there were more shows worth watching.