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The 200 Channel Television Blues
By JAMES GROB
Ottumwa Post Columnist
There were just three channels -- four if you counted PBS -- but back in the day, everything on television was amazing, and even if it wasn't amazing, we were still amazed by it, because we didn't know any better.
And it was all free.
Now, I pay a couple hundred bucks for a couple hundred channels, and darn near everything I see on my big, wide, high-definition screen is lousy.
Now granted, it's not just a cable company anymore. It's a media company. It includes hundreds of television stations, and various levels of Internet service, and a phone line, and a cell phone plan, and very specific music stations, and some kind of "paid" radio hookup, and quite a few other things I don't exactly understand.
All it really means is that, should some pinhead somewhere out in the boondocks decide to cut one little wire, I lose everything.
It just happened in this area this past weekend. Somehow, one wire got cut somewhere, and for about 14 hours no one had any television, or phone, or Internet.
This is the risk of what they call "bundling." My Granny would have called it "putting all your eggs in one basket."
Maybe. I don't really know if she would have called it that. For all I know, Granny put all her eggs in one basket all the time, it's probably the best way to carry eggs. I mean, putting each individual egg into its own private one-egg basket would be a terribly inefficient way to move eggs from one place to another.
But enough about eggs. Back to television.
For those of you under 35 years old, there once was a time when your television signal came in through an "antenna." Depending upon your locale, if you were lucky, you would get three or four television channels through your antenna. Your TV had 12 or 13 channels, but most of them were blank.
There were people -- let's call them "rich people" -- who bought and rigged up super-huge antennas that could draw in channels from 100 or more miles away, and those lucky ducks might get five or six channels. They were sitting on top of the prime time television world.
And the shows were good. I know, there are a bunch of you out there who are going to claim "Breaking Bad" was as good as any show that's been on television, ever. But that bunch of you is wrong. "Breaking Bad" was a terrible TV show, the only reason you think it was a great show is because you're used to the thousands of TV shows that are on all the cable stations, and all of them are much more awful than "Breaking Bad."
By way of comparison, "Breaking Bad" is a much better TV show than that show with the Honey Boo-Boo or the one with the duck call guys or the one with the mean guys who run a pawn shop in Vegas. Yes, "Breaking Bad" is better than these shows.
But compared to shows like "Charlie's Angels" and "Hogan's Heroes" and "Hart To Hart" and "Soap" and "Columbo," "Breaking Bad" doesn't even come close.
So it's frustrating to pay a couple hundred bucks a month so that you can spend your time trying to find shows that don't suck. Back in the day, you could find a show that didn't suck almost every night, and it didn't cost a dime. That was then. This is now.
And now you get your choice of different media bundles. I get the one that gives me 200 channels, plus the super-extra-quicko Internet service (10 times faster than the super-quicko, 20 times faster than the extra-quicko, but not quite as fast as the yowsa-super-extra-quicko), plus 200 minutes of free long distance telephone that I never use, because I do all my phone talking on my cell phone. It also offers me affordable health care and low-low-low one percent financing on nautical vehicles, but I passed on those. I expect the time I save from the faster Internet to be spent watching some of those 200 channels, not going to the doctor or boating.
There is the DVR factor, or as some call it, the "Tivo" factor. I can record all my shows, and that way I don't have to rearrange my schedule around what time they put my shows on. Instead, I can replay those shows any time it is convenient for me -- usually at about 2 a.m., when I traditionally watch the first five minutes of my shows as I'm falling asleep.
I could bypass the cable and get a "dish." With a dish, what happens is some guy with a mustache comes to your house and drills holes in it, then he climbs up on a ladder and hooks up your receiver dish, then he realizes that he forgot some of the equipment he was supposed to bring, so he leaves -- presumably to get the forgotten equipment -- but he never comes back. And bugs, spiders, birds and the occasional possum all crawl into your house through the holes that the guy drilled.
Eventually, the dish company will send someone out to finish the job, but only because the guy with the mustache forgot the ladder and left it leaning against the side of your house. And it could take anywhere from three days to 17 years before that happens.
That's a lot of MASH reruns you'll miss.
It's enough to make you miss those days of three channels, when everything on TV was good because you didn't know any better.
Sometimes I wish I simply had the willpower to turn the television completely off for a few days, save some money and find myself a more productive hobby.
Like heavy drinking. Or robbing convenience stores.
But until the day I find that willpower, I'll just keep paying a couple hundred bucks a month to watch that show where the guy eats weird foods.
I have nothing to add.