It’s cliche to say “I don’t watch TV”. Of course, it’s true for some people. But for most folks making this snooty declaration, it’s more hyperbole than truth. They fess up to occasionally watching “intelligent documentaries” and “important news” but they sneer at the very mention of “reality TV”.
More power to ’em, I guess. I have a wholly different aversion to TV. I just can’t stand the sound of it.
It’s that over-compressed, drill-your-ears wall of presence that just irritates the crap out of me. I just can’t hack it. As a result, I watch very little television. I’ll go months without seeing any TV at all.
Want irony? For many years I was an electronic technician whose specialty was projection TV. I know more about TV broadcast and display technology than anyone else you know. Really. For many years my workday was in a huge room surrounded by the glowing eyes of multiple televisions staring down at me, burning in their new components and proving to me they wouldn’t fail after their owner came to pick them up.
I know TV. But even when I was a tech, I could hardly stand the sound of them. My TV’s all ran silent. I’d play the radio to keep myself occupied. I recall fondly the many moments when the music on the radio played counterpoint to the bilge on the screens.
Like most Americans, I grew up with TV. When I was a little kid, we had an old black and white Zenith. We lived in the NYC area, so we had seven channels that delivered The Munsters, Speed Racer, Get Smart and the Beverly Hillbillies.
As the 1970’s flowered, we got a new TV and enjoyed the Brady Bunch and the Mod Squad in living color. Then, when I entered high school, my TV viewing started to peter out. I was much more interested in beer, pot and teen girls than TV. I wasn’t home much, and home was the only place I’d watch TV.
Throughout my 20’s, I had a love/hate relationship with the thing. Staying up late to get stoned and watch Nightflight or SNL was a treat, but being surrounded by the glowing eyes every day at work was a total drag. My TV-phobia had begun.
By the late 1980’s TV had reached new levels of brainlessness. Popular music wasn’t much to rave about, either. Culturally, I had shut down. I was living in California, where the sun always shines, so it wasn’t hard to find other things to do.
My indoor recreation involved boinking various women and hanging out with my pal Dale, who turned me on to the joys of getting blazingly high and watching VHS kung fu flicks and horror movies – the cheesier the better.
Was this fare “smarter” than TV? Maybe. Maybe not. But it was nowhere near as irritating as TV and far, far more entertaining.
In the early 1990’s, I moved to Bellingham. My new roommates had no TV, which suited me fine. Most of my new friends didn’t own TV’s either. I felt I had truly found the place where I belonged. But yea, the draw of the idiot box is strong.
My gig as lead tech for an electronic outfit afforded me plenty of second-hand gear, including fancy speakers, top-end audio components and – of course – as many free TV sets as I wanted.
My then-girlfriend liked TV, and being the adoring boyfriend I brought home TV sets of ever-increasing screen size and capability. We’d watch TV together. Our favorite was E.R. We’d hum along to the theme song and dance around the living room. It was fun.
When we went our separate ways, the TV went with her.
Since then, my TV viewing has dwindled to a tiny trickle. Don’t get me wrong: I still own a TV. A big, fancy HD screen. But I don’t watch TV on it. I watch DVD’s and Netflix streams.
I just can’t fucking stand TV. And my hatred goes beyond just rolling my eyes at “reality” TV or grinding my teeth at yet another GM Canyonero commercial. The very fucking sound of television burrows into my spine like a meningitis tap. I get the same reaction from TV that most people get from fingernails scratching on a chalkboard. I fucking hate it.
Now, it’s not good to hate TV that much. Americans watch more TV than any other culture on Earth – by a huge margin. Thus, nearly everyone you know watches more TV than just about anyone else on Earth. If you are fully ignorant of TV, you must be a religious nut or a hippie. I’m neither, but I live in a community and I need to be conversant with my community.
So, how can I maintain cultural ties with my community when I don’t watch TV? By reading about TV! I have never seen Jon and Kate Have 8. But from all the hilariously evil and awful comments on fark.com, I know that Kate is a harridan, Jon is an idiot and they squirted out 8 kids for some stupid reason. There you go! Instant membership to the peer group, and I didn’t even have to show anyone my belly or let them sniff my butt.
Fortunately, media convergence continues apace. I love South Park, and every episode is available online. A friend recommended Mad Men, so I rented one of the DVD’s and I sometimes watch recent episodes on Chinese websites. It’s a really good drama, even with Chinese characters scrolling across the bottom.
Maybe one day I’ll watch TV again. But for now, no. It’s the goddamn sound of it. That screeching, compressed, noisy, irritating, idiotic buzz that just drives me up the fucking wall. No TV. Not in my house. Instead, I’ll bitch about it online, rent movies, listen to music and read books.
After all, while most of America learned new details about Jon and Kate, I learned how the Ottoman empire very nearly toppled the Austrian empire in 1683. Would Jon and Kate be as compelling speaking Turkish? I think not.