We don’t have cable at our house, and we don’t watch broadcast television at all. The only reason we own a television is to watch DVDs – either those we own, or those we get from the library and/or Netflix. As an early Christmas present, dad offered to purchase for us a new HDTV.
While at the store discussing options, the sales clerk asked if we had an HDTV cable box. I revealed that we didn’t have cable. I’m not sure, but I think I heard the young fellow snort derisively to himself. I settled upon the on-sale model (a Panasonic 32”) that dad had suggested, and soon I was home and hooking it up in our entertainment center. For a family that only watches DVDs, we sure have a lot of cables behind our entertainment center. We have a receiver, into which all of our various devices connect, a sub-woofer, our MVix MX-760HD (which is connected to one of our Linksys WRT54G wireless routers, which is also connected to the Linksys NSLU2 that holds all our digital media), our Nintendo Wii, our DVD + VCR combo, and a portable karaoke machine.
The new television is beautiful, and we’ve really enjoyed watching movies on it since I connected it. In fact, we spent most of the day yesterday on the couch watching the first season of Heroes. As folks who don’t watch a lot of television programming, I find that we are simultaneously more discerning and more complacent viewers. We don’t watch whatever happens to be on, and we don’t coordinate our schedules in order to watch a specific show as it airs. Instead, we select what shows to watch based solely on our own interests (usually science fiction). Conversely, we’re total suckers for the serial cliff-hanger nature of what we do watch, and we more than willingly suspend disbelief of glaring problems with the stories.
For the first dozen or so episodes of Heroes, for example, I was intrigued by the concept, and eager to see how things developed. By episode 15 or 16, I was quickly becoming suspicious, and finding it harder and harder to accept the powers of the Heroes. For example, I find it highly implausible that one’s genetic code could allow them to defy the laws of gravity with human flight. Likewise, there’s no way that one’s genetic code could permit the direct manipulation of computers and other electronic devices (let alone time travel and teleportation!). And yet, still I’m hooked and eager to see how the season ends. I’m not sure if I’ll have the patience for four more seasons of the show, as things get more and more ludicrous. I had the same problem with the show 24: it started out a fun, high-tension show that devolved into absurdity and soap opera faux drama. I’m seeing some of this with Heroes, already, as plot twists are introduced with increasing regularity.
I wonder, though, if part of my complaint stems from the frequency with which I watch episodes. Instead of waiting a whole week for the next installment, and having ample time to mull over on my own the story rather than its weaknesses, I simply press a button on the remote control. Certainly this convenience is a real benefit for watching a show after it has aired; but such a compressed viewing schedule might highlight the show’s weaknesses without allowing me to properly digest the plot.
Another program that both Carina and I still enjoy is Battlestar Galactica. We’re catching up on the third season, and enjoy watching one or two episodes after the kids have gone to sleep. Here again, I wonder if watching the installments in such quick succession is contributing to my waning interest in the story: the immediate gratification of finding out what happens next dulls the tension that the show’s writers worked to establish in the pacing of the episodes.
I’m not particularly interested in other raved-about programs like Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and the like. I’m sure they’re good shows, but for various reasons they don’t catch my fancy. We’ll probably finish watching Battlestar, and we’ve discussed catching up on Heroes enough to actually watch a broadcast version in order to see what that’s like (since it’s on NBC, not cable). After that, we’ll most likely content ourselves with DVD movies, again.