Escaping TV routines

I have a HDTV and watch TV with an antenna (no cable), so of course I was happy when the switchover to DTV began.

The only thing is, there is so little good on TV left to watch.

Yes, there is PBS on (and don’t doubt that I watch as much of it as I can). Also, at night I watch the monologue for Jay Leno, and that is good. Occasionally, when there is a major news story or a presidential speech or awards ceremony, I will watch that too.

(Observation: I like Charlie Rose, but I can’t stand the fact that his shows never make it easy to find out who he’s interviewing. They absolutely refuse to put subtitles underneath the guest except at the start and finish of the show. Absolutely maddening!)

But the commercials are insufferable. 8 minutes out of a typical 30 minute TV show are commercials.  Really insufferable. I can’t ignore them anymore (and I don’t have TIVO—although I guess I could hook that up). The problem is, every 3-5 minutes there is another swathe of commercials to wade  through.  Imagine if 73% of your life was dedicated to commercials. If you could recapture that time, that could add years to your life.

I love sitcoms and occasionally some reality shows and dramas. But my preferred way to watch them is on my computer (after downloading them via bit torrent). I’m a scofflaw? I dare any TV studio executive to sit through 3 hours of shows without turning the mute button on. It would drive a person crazy.

Despite the fact that my city has about 8-10 channels with actual programming, there are times during the TV schedule when every single channel seems to be featuring a commercial. How is that possible? Yet the networks have access to lots of cancelled TV shows (whose only sin apparently is not being able to attract a minimum audience threshold. When I said there were 8-10 channels, actually there is the potential to have at least 50 more channels.

Why can’t we have an all music channel (containing songs which record labels hope we will purchase)?

Why can’t we have “Only One Minute of Commercials per Hour” stations which replay old TV shows?

Why can’t we have CSPAN on the public airwaves?

Why can’t PBS buy several more channels to broadcast old educational shows?

Why can’t there be a channel for Youtube amateurs?

Why can’t our remote controls let us watch streaming channels from the Internet site  of our choice?

If you say that I am being unrealistic or that someone needs to pay the bills on these transmitters, how do the heck do those fringe TV networks find the money to bankroll their lunatic religious messages? At least they don’t have commercials!

One could say: that’s what happens when you don’t buy cable or satellite TV. But have you looked at cable recently? It’s just as bad as normal TV – with the same percentage of commercial interruptions – only it has more channels to choose from; how could anyone regard  that as better?

(Personally, I find it tedious to navigate through Comcast TV stations with my remote control).

A few years ago I bought a DVD/media center that allowed the TV to access Windows shares on my computer. I could watch lots of shows if I put them in a folder. It was clunky, and there were issues with codecs, but it usually worked. Then it broke.

Next month I will be trying Netflix’s video on demand service along with a Roku media box. The Roku costs $99, and it allows me to watch streamed Netflix videos on my TV.  Already Netflix has 12,000 titles to choose from (and that includes complete TV series like Friday Night Lights). All this for $10 per month. I’ve tried Netflix’s video on demand, and I generally haven’t experienced latency or picture quality issues, and reviewers say only positive things.

Better than the fact that I can choose the movie and TV show to download when I want it, I don’t have any commercials! Horray! Horray!

Even though the Roku-Netflix solution will make me much better off, still I will miss the routines of the primetime schedule. I am used to scheduling kitchen chores and meals to coincide with the shows I watch. Instead, I download and listen to podcasts about current events, the arts and technology. Tomorrow, instead of watching a Sunday talk show, I will be listening to a 55 minute lecture on climate change by a leading governmental scientist. That’s good, but I have to plan for it. More brain cells wasted on deciding what to watch/listen to tomorrow. Back in earlier times (way back in the last century), we had simpler lives and simpler TV routines; TV shows just came on, and the commercial interruptions were not so bad as to cause us to start flipping or turning the TV off together. Now we have a whole half century of TV programs that could make it on the air, and still we see awful reruns and oodles of commercials.

In other news, here is the current prices for used boxed sets on Amazon or

  • Cheers 200$ used
  • Friends, $90 used
  • all in the family $170
  • i love lucy $100 used
  • king of queens $100
  • get smart complete series $69
  • honeymooners 39 episodes $20
  • that seventies show $130
  • Seinfeld  $105
  • Sex and the City $90
  • Will and Grace $140
  • Frasier $180
  • The Wire $100
  • Mash $100
  • Angel $65
  • Buffy $120
  • West Wing $110
  • Adams Family $43
  • My So-called Life $30
  • Six Foot Under $70
  • Will and Grace $140
  • Twilight Zone $127
  • Prisoner $40
  • Sanford and Son $33
  • Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin $28
  • Sports Night $30
  • As Time Goes by (BBC)  $75
  • Monty Python Complete $50

See also this list of the top series collections.







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