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  • Uebelhor

Signing off from television

July 08, 2009
Well, I've pulled the plug. TV has now gone digital, and I haven't.

When it was announced that analog television — something that has worked perfectly since the beginning of television — was no longer good enough, my wife and I decided the main problem wasn't with analog signal; it was content. There's just very little on the tube anymore that is worth watching.

Analog TV was scheduled to come to an end a couple of months ago, but Congress extended the deadline to June 12, to give people more time to get ready for it. But, instead, we used the extra time to wean ourselves off the daily ritual of plopping down on the couch, letting our minds go numb and ignoring each other. Looking back, I now realize how much of my life has been wasted watching bang-bang shoot 'em ups, car chases, hospital dramas and lawyer shows where everyone is perfect and beautiful, all in the name of catching the bad guys. Same old plot, same old story: Good guy gets bad guy, then good guy gets beautiful woman as his just reward. Man, we've been watching that scenario since the "Superman" and "Gunsmoke" series back in the 1950s.

We love to watch the bad guys get nailed. Even bad guys watch TV, and I'll bet even they enjoy watching bad guys being chased by good guys, shot, beaten up, bitten by dogs, prosecuted and put in jail. Now, there's even a show about them breaking out of jail and getting beat up again.

Even though we are entertained by the same ol' story, night after night, no one seems to question how shallow our minds are. But, if we read the same book every night about the good guys getting the bad guys, over and over, people would think we were nuts.

It seems as if we are obsessed with guns, violence, car crashes, gory scenes of death and destruction, and watching someone else having sex. Makes you look back at "Little House on the Prairie" as the last decent show produced, at least one that you wouldn't mind your children watching.

But for me, it's the commercials that were the straw that broke the camel's back. Commercials have always been used to promote vices and habits that were detrimental to us, like cigarettes, alcohol and, yes, sexual exploitation. For the most part, I've been able to resist the temptations flaunted before me on the screen. I don't smoke, I don't drink and, well, two out of three ain't bad, is it?

But as we — the so-called baby boomers — get on in years, it is obvious that a large percentage of the commercials have changed but are still aimed at us.

So, instead of hearing the song "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" that we used to hear constantly on TV when we were growing up, we now hear the song "Viva Viagra." They just won't leave us alone. Those of us who haven't smoked ourselves to death with Winstons are now expected to use Just for Men to make us look 30, take Viagra to make us act 20 and order a batch of Flomax to make us urinate less.

But if I look 30, act like I'm 20 and urinate less, won't that make the Depends commercials null and void? Come on, guys, you can't have it both ways.

On one of the nightly news programs recently, I kept track of the commercials and the time actually spent on news. Over 80 percent of the commercials were for drugs of some type. After a few of those, I'm almost sure I'm suffering from something! The remaining commercials were for automobiles, fast-food restaurants and, of course, the network patting themselves on the back. So naturally, it makes you wonder just how much real and factual news we're going to get from a news source that makes its money from the people they are supposed to be reporting on.

And from a 30-minute news broadcast (or an entertainment show disguised as a news program), we only receive about five minutes of news, and much of that can be made up of "experts" and consultants, hired by the networks, and, of course, "coming up, we'll tell you about the latest news on Brittany Spears. Or "coming up, we'll tell you about what's coming up."

Anyway, to make a long story short — well, maybe it's a little late for that — I have found I don't really miss the tube. I spend a lot more time sitting in my porch swing after dinner. I spend a lot more time communicating with my wife and discovered that she's actually a pretty nice person, regardless of what I've written in the past. And I've rediscovered the enjoyment of reading and playing music, of sailing my boat, of working on projects that I've put off for years, taking long walks and spending time in the outdoors.

Life can actually be more rewarding than sitting in front of a TV, watching someone else have one. We've all but forgotten how to do that.

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Barbara Shaw
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