Posted by: Kate | August 16, 2009

Channel Lineup

My husband – the sports-obsessed, weather-checking fiend I’ve lived with for 10 years now – is, for the first time EVER, seriously considering taking the long drop down to basic cable.

If it were me, alone, I wouldn’t have a TV at all… I enjoy a lot of shows, true, but can find ample other sources of entertainment, even though I can’t watch movies/shows online (they’re not captioned, I’m hard of hearing). Between my time online, knitting, reading, I’m easily enough entertained when I’m home.

If it were me with just the kids, I’d likely have a TV set with a DVD player attached, for the times when I really need them to tune out for a while.  A little Lion King, judiciously applied, can be the difference between amity and resentment, some days.

I didn’t own a television through college and grad school, until I moved in with Willem, and suddenly I was fully immersed back into the wonderful world of television. I resisted, at first, but slowly got sucked into various programs and genres, and by the time we were in our last house, I constantly had the DVR’ed list of shows-to-watch absolutely full. (Even worse, there were periods of time when I had that list almost empty, because I had watched everything on it.)

I didn’t mind it – much – except when the voice of my mother would appear in my head. She insists that she never watches TV, even though she owns a huge new flat screen set and DVR service, and she expresses a vague disdain for people who do watch. It took years for me to stop feeling defensive and guilty about my choice to (and what to) watch, and I still consider it a point of pride that I spent several years without TV, even though it’s not an accomplishment that actually deserves pride in the least.

Television had become a habit, bringing me in contact with things I found interesting or diverting, and I assumed it would remain as a constant part of our household routine. So, when we moved, one of my first calls was to the cable company.  In the interests of saving money, we went down a step or two from the 4,000 channel lineup we had before, so that we’re only getting a measly little 100 channels now. It didn’t automatically come with DVR, so we’ve got a service call scheduled for later this week to set that up.  If I am going to watch TV, I refuse to watch commercials and be tied to a specific schedule – “Oh, no, it’s almost 8:00, I have to get the kids in bed fast so I can watch my show!”

But last night, after watching our latest Netflix offering, I realized that in the three weeks the kids and I have lived here, I haven’t once turned on the television to watch anything on cable. I’ve watched a few movies, and have helped the kids set up a few shows, but otherwise it has been woefully neglected. I know that getting DVR rolling will change that some, but I’m not sure I really need that to be changed.

Still, I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t think Willem would be remotely (hah!) interested. Not that he’s a total couch potato; to the contrary, I rarely see him sit down in front of the tube for more than half an hour at a time. But he has some firm daily routines tied in with television, most specifically his morning ESPN/Weather Channel visits and then periodic visits through the day to just check the score. (Doesn’t really matter which score it is, I swear that if they made underwater basketweaving competitive and televised it, Willem would watch it. Especially if it was in the playoffs.) It just serves as a larger fixture in his consciousness than mine, though over the past few years I’ve probably spent considerably more time actually in front of the big black box, since I do watch entire, 42-minute-long shows instead of just checking anything.

So you can imagine my surprise when last night’s conversation somehow worked its way around to him saying, “Well, maybe we should just drop down to basic cable, you know, just the networks.” Apparently he can just check the score online and even watch complete events that way, likewise news and weather, and he feels that he’ll be busy enough with his new job and his dissertation over the next several months that he really won’t have time for extended TV watching.

No decisions have been made just yet, but I sent him the link to the various pricing options with our cable provider, and we’ll see. It’s all just amusing to me, because somehow I didn’t expect to reach a point in my life where I’d be interested in having fewer television choices. And, I warned him, I’m completely on board with whatever he decides now… but come spring, as I get bigger and bigger and then semipermanently attached to the couch to breastfeed, I’ll likely want to return to a broader cable lineup.

It’s a small thing, really, but just one more unexpected tidbit as we roll along…


  1. We have never been able to pay for cable and have no reception so we’ve been without tv for a few years now. Nowadays I can get almost anything through netflix or on the computer if I have to see it. My husband is much more likely to pull up a video on the computer–seeing only the section of the news that he wants. The kids will watch a video when they feel like it, but most of the time they don’t. When we had tv, the more we watched, the more we watched. The addictive qualities became very apparent.
    I miss the discovery channel though. And I don’t know what we’d do without netflix.
    But seeing the boys playing instead of lying in front of the tv is a joy every time. I wish someone had turned it off when I was little.

  2. We’ve been without TV for most of the four years I’ve lived with Mike. We can’t get antennae reception and didn’t want to shell out for cable, so we simply watched from our extensive collection of DVDs and were content.

    Last May we sprung for it, because we wanted to watch the Olympics, and had it through the fall. We then decided to get rid of it again, because my grades were falling, and we needed to cut some costs out of the household budget.

    I told Mike, though, that when the baby comes, I am going to probably want it again. I’m going to need some company during the day after my folks go home.

  3. We had satellite (a better option than cable) for years, with the basic 100 package. We added the DVR awhile ago, which has been nice in some ways, though there still isn’t always time to watch the shows that have been saved. But, when Josh had his hours cute in half in the Spring, we cut back our satellite package to just the networks. We get two or three PBS channels, which is what LouLa watches and then the five network channels. There are some shows that I’ve missed (The Closer), and there are some afternoons when there is nothing to do and nothing on, but those have been rare. We could probably afford going back to our previous package, but I don’t see the need to.

    *Disclaimer: We have Netflix and I will never give that up.

  4. We cut back to basic cable when Harry was two because we were paring our budget to save for upcoming adoption expenses. I miss the broader spectrum of shows sometimes, but really we find that between the internet and DVR we are able to more than fill our viewing schedule. Our bill each month? $9.99 Can’t beat that. Every time someone tells me about a great new show on a channel we don’t get I just focus on the numbers. I m even toying with no cable at all after we move, but we might have to wait until after LOST is done. Ahem.

  5. We are also going down to basic cable. The advertising is annoying, there isn’t all that much we want to watch, and it’s incredibly expensive.

  6. Every year in uni, I had to explain all over again to any new roomies how I did not care about cable and was not willing to pay for it and wouldn’t it just be a time-suck and affect our grades?

    We used to have a big C-Band dish (here) which was awesome in that I could pull-in the feeds being sent from the networks. Read: no commercials, shows days ahead of broadcast-date.

    Soon as I can comfortably and more safely maneuver the roof, I’ll install a new aerial configuration as we’re quite far from the transmitter towers and lose the digital signal. Then…that’s it. Yea, I miss PBS, and have seen and loved History and Discovery channels. A lot of those documentaries I love end up on Youtube anyway.

    I don’t think I’m any less informed with just over-the-air networks.

    Oh, and if you go to the network’s websites, some of their prime-time shows allow you to turn on CC. I always leave it on because sound for dialogue is always so uneven.

  7. I have a TV and used to be an addict but my 52cm tiddler is no competition for today’s enormous screens. Basically, I get snippets of free to air docos and a bit of comedy. These days, it’s all online. Although someone today told me that with ‘dongle’ and a laptop, you can convert your old analogue into digital and access the digital networks. *thanks to brother next door who just installed a new digital arial* Frankly, I don’t think it will make much diff to me. And I’ve never had cable. Just the usual six channels. How much can a koala bare?

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