As some of us remember with fondness (or not), the TV show Breaking Bad ran its course a little over a month ago. That day will forever be tied to my memory not only because of Walter White’s fate, but also because it was the day we cut cable. Uh, wait…so, it was the day before the day we cut cable, but still. Breaking Bad had been one the primary reasons we’d held cable, and we made a pact with ourselves to do away with it for good once the show was done. So with the finale in the bag, we made the call that Monday morning. The same afternoon we returned the cable box and its convoluted remote, and we bid a very welcome farewell to that portion of our Comcast bill. It felt soooo good when the rep told us the cost of our new internet-only bill.
Here we are a month later and life is quite alright. I don’t really miss it — the cable box, or the extra remote, or the occasionally terrible service — it’s all a very distant memory.
Except…I kinda do miss it…just a little.
We’ve been preparing for the severing for awhile now. We invested in a Roku, picked up a Chromecast, signed up for a streaming service, and bought an antenna in order to get local channels. It’s funny because though our TV viewing has diminished over the years, our time spent watching stuff via the Internet has increased. To many that’s not exactly surprising these days, but it’s a slow change that we’ve been integrating into our lives over the past several years.
What really strikes me about this change is that it made me realize just how long cable has been in my life. I don’t recall the exact year my family first got cable, but it was sometime in the mid 1980s, when HBO had this very, um…groovy(?) intro.
And yep, we had HBO and Cinemax from the get go, along with the Disney Channel, the Comedy Channel, MTV, and a whole host of other channels that now only barely exist in their original forms. The Disney Channel was my absolute favorite, though I was probably outside their target age range for the likes of Welcome to Pooh’s Corner and The Mickey Mouse Club. By far the best thing about the channel was that it regularly showed old (and new) Disney cartoons. Coming in a close second was the Comedy Channel. I loved watching their stand-up segments, but it was all over for me when it picked up Mystery Science Theater 3000.
But back then, cable was enticing and offered things worth watching. It wasn’t a parody of itself. Sure, it was still an overpriced luxury that, in many respects, separated the haves from the have-nots. And good portions of it were still drivel, but it wasn’t bloated with hundreds of “specialty” channels. Regardless, however, of the cable’s “cool factor,” the better stuff was still on the networks and public TV.
Weekend afternoon monster movies and kung-fu flicks? Network TV.
A vast array of cooking, art, nature, and science programs? PBS.
The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Diff’rent Strokes, Silver Spoons, Mr. Belvedere, etc. etc. etc. The networks.
Buck Rogers, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, The Muppet Show… Networks, networks, networks!
Yeah, okay…so maybe I was a little too interested in television for too many years. But it eventually waned. Even so, wherever I went, cable went also. For so many years, portions of my paychecks went towards an array of visual entertainments, some good, most just okay or worthless. Whenever I moved, the first question asked was “what about the cable?” What indeed? It simply moved too.
Saying goodbye to an unnecessary “staple” was a very welcome change. I can easily access the shows I like without having to scan over a bloated, electronic guide that highlights blatant displays of the worst humanity has to offer. It would have been nice to reach this point of clarity sooner in life, but live and learn (to live without cable).