Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Turning off the Tube

I have turned off my television and I don’t miss it.

I am not an anti-TV snob. I used to love to watch television shows about crime and the supernatural. I even found a show that provided both. In all, I watched five or six hours of TV a week. (The number fluctuated depending on how horrific the storyline was on Law & Order: SVU. My friend Alicia was very used to my once- or twice-a-season declaration that I would never watch that show again. The acting was fantastic and the stories were compelling, but the tales often were more than I could handle watching.)

Rarely did I watch my shows “live.” Usually I would tape the shows and watch them at my leisure.

The networks themselves launched their own demise. Once the networks moved Medium and Without a Trace, then the original Law & Order, from their long-held time slots, I had a hard time finding them. They conflicted with other shows and I had to choose. My friends and I would tape shows for each other depending on who was available to tape what.

(This was before the easy availability of TiVO or or cable DVR, and our cable boxes prevented us from watching one show and taping another.)

Then I read a Washington Post article about the upcoming television season that pointed out the obvious: so many shows I watched had crimes happening to children and women. Women and children were the victims of horrific crimes like rape and murder, beatings, gunshot wounds, kidnapping, slavery and more.

So I stopped watching crime shows. CSI, Without a Trace and SVU were off my list. I couldn’t abandon the original Law & Order because I loved Jerry Orbach like my favorite uncle. Lenny might have fallen off the wagon and arranged to have a mook killed to avenge his daughter’s death, but I loved him.

(I stopped watching LOST for an entirely different reason: television seasons became shorter and too many shows in a row were re-runs. Once I lose the story thread of a complex story, I’m not inclined to work harder than the network to keep my interest.)

That left me down to two shows: Medium and Law & Order. The characters and story lines were interesting and so different. I loved how Allison’s family life affected the story lines of Medium and loved how the personal lives of Lenny and Greene (and the rest) rarely affected the Law & Order story lines. I stopped watching ER because of all of the inter-office dating of characters; trust me, people don’t hop in and out of bed with co-workers like that in any place I’ve worked. (I’ve checked with my friends, and it’s not like that in their work worlds, either.)

Then my VCR broke. A friend gave me one of his, but it didn’t have a remote and it was very difficult to program. (Okay, it was very difficult for me to program — Alicia had no problem setting it for me.)

Finally, I realized I wasn’t changing the tapes. I would forget to put a new tape in every couple of weeks, so Alicia and I would lose shows.

Then I got busy and stopped making time for television viewing. I began traveling more and consuming mass quantities of books. Friends who watched certain shows would share the storyline with me — and I found that was enough for me.

After about a year, I asked to borrow the season finale of Medium and discovered I couldn’t watch it. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood, maybe I was out of the habit, maybe I hadn’t yet built up my calluses to violence, but after 10 minutes I had to stop watching. The brutality of the murders of young women was too gruesome for me.

Oh, I love my television. I use it to watch movies and I’ve been known to catch an episode of Law & Order when I come across it. I find do-it-yourself home improvement programs interesting and the cable company offers a wide selection of music listening stations. However, I can keep the television turned off for weeks at a time and not miss it. And with television programming awash with reality television I don’t care to watch, it’s not a bad thing.

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