Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Television Intervention

We have a strange television situation in my house. I can't stand paying any superfluous money to our local monopoly cable provider (the name of which rhymes with..... um.... bombast), so we decided a couple of years ago to only pay for the most basic cable service (just to get a signal), and to subscribe to Netflix instead. We thereby both Stick it to the Man and also get to watch what we really want to watch, instead of hundreds of channels of drivel. Aren't we clever (and cheap frugal)?

(It's probably worthwhile to point out that I grew up with no television in the house AT ALL, and Michael grew up eating frozen dinners on trays in front of the TV most nights. And, of course, I am now the one who needs an hour or more of TV before bedtime in order to fall asleep, while Michael stoically struggles to read the latest Thomas Pynchon opus with reruns of "Scrubs" as background noise. Dudes, marriage is all about compromise.)

The It's-Not-TV-It's-Netflix thing worked pretty well, for a while. We watched "Sex and the City" and "24" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Six Feet Under" and "The Sopranos." After the kids went to bed, we watched an episode (or two) or a movie (or a portion thereof) and then hit the hay. It was very civilized, I got to bed sort-of mostly on time, and best of all, there were no commercials.

Then we got a new TV.

About 18 months ago, we succumbed to the high-definition flat-screen hype and got a relatively modest set for the master bedroom (the only room in the house with a TV). It's pretty and shiny and you can see the razor-sharp picture without squinting. I may have made out with it a little.

Then Michael got hold of the remote control and the owner's manual and he pushed a few buttons and ALL OF A SUDDEN, there were a gazillion times twenty channels showing up. And some of them were playing cool movies, like "Sense and Sensibility" and "King Kong"! We kept channel-surfing into movies-in-progress, surfing away, and then trying to come back and find said movies and not being able to. It was very very weird, and I suggested that we'd fallen into a "Twilight Zone" episode akin to the classic episode of "Friends" where the guys are suddenly getting free porn on their TV, and refuse to turn it off for fear of offending the TV Porn Gods and losing their free porn.

You know where this is going, right?

After making this comment, I went downstairs for a glass of water, came back up, and found our TV set to porn (bad porn) and Michael cackling gleefully. Thus convinced we had entered an alternate TV dimension, we kept channel surfing and trying (and failing) to get a handle on which channels were showing the good movies (and not the bad porn). Because

Fake Boobs: Iz not the sexay.

It wasn't until a few days later when we surfed into a showing of the awful Nicholas Cage movie "World Trade Center" that the light bulb clicked on. The movie skips around a bit and there are (mercifully) story lines without Nicholas Cage, and we entered at one of those points. When the story segued back to the Nicholas Cage story line, ALL OF A SUDDEN the movie began to fast forward. On our TV screen. Without any intervention from us.

Not only did we have serious TV gremlins, they had taste! I instantly forgave them for the bad porn -- gremlins who blip over Nicholas Cage are welcome in my TV set any old time.

It took only a few minutes for us to realize what was really happening (because we are smart like that): our fancy-pants new TV was picking up the signals from all of our neighbors' On Demand selections. Whatever they are watching, we can watch. From bad porn to Jane Austen to Nicholas Cage movies, man, it's all in there. You just have to be willing to channel surf and catch it in a timely manner. (And also try not to dwell too much on WHICH neighbors are watching WHAT, 'cause, Dudes. Really. Bad. Porn.)

As you might have guessed, this is a double-edged sword. Because the grass might always be greener on another channel, and someone down the street might be watching the episode of "The Tudors" that I missed, my channel surfing has gotten OUT OF HAND, as I'm sure Michael would agree. The Netflix account lies languishing and neglected, good only for episodes of "24" that Michael watches while riding the stationary bike. An intervention is clearly needed. "Top Chef" ends this week, and then I'm going to fall off the cliff For Realz.

With the exception of a few semi-decent movies on the Universal HD Channel (more about which tomorrow), my TV watching is clearly in need of an intervention. I end up staying up much too late, chasing that ever-elusive show or movie fragment that will provide sufficient distraction for my brain to turn itself off so I can go to sleep. For the love of all that's holy, make me some Netflix suggestions in the comments. One-hour episodics would be best. Big fat smoochy thanks in advance.


Domestic Goddess said...

Sorry, never done Netflix. But I love me some digital Comcast on demand and the silver package, because you get Encore channels...c'mon, don't stick it to the man. COME TO THE DARK SIDE! WE ARE BORG, WE WILL ASSIMILATE! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!

RuthWells said...

LA LA LA LA I can't hear you!!

Johnny Virgil said...

how is that even technically possible?? Whoa.

Z. Mulls said...

Domestic Goddess has on demand?

At least we now know where all that bad pr0n is coming from....

O said...

Hilarious. We have discovered on late-night dog walks which of your neighbors with HDTVs are watching the p0rn since we can see it too through their windows! If it's hilariously bad the lucky dog gets walked twice (since someone has to stay in the house with those kids) when the first walker comes home and says, "DUUUDE. You have got to see what XXX house is showing tonight!"
And Netflix rules. Even the cheap 2-movies-a-month thing that is more than we can keep up with.

Vinkus07 said...

Netflix Suggestions:
One hour Episodes:
West Wing. Michael turned me onto Sports Night . . . I don't know if you already know West Wing, but it's another series by Aaron Sorkin - the longest surviving, actually . . . I think it went for seven seasons. And, what we find wonderful is that rather than having only four episodes, the discs are double sided & you get 8.
I can't officially recommend Buffy - there a really mixed reactions to it. If you've never seen it, it's worth watching the pilot, but you'll know by the end of the first episode whether you're interested.
Quantum Leap is fun . . .

Heart & Souls - Robert Downey Jr.
Sleuth - they only have the new one with Michael Caine as the older gentleman. Not as good as the original, but worth it JUST for the cinamatography.
The Court Jester - Danny Kaye
Real Genius - Val Kilmer (LOTS of fun, not the best plot in the world)

Magpie said...

Very funny.

I have no suggestions - I watch no TV. I'd rather a read a book.

The husband and the child are another story...

RuthWells said...

O, I am now *dying* to know which of our neighbors you've noticed wathing teh p0rn -- could very well be the same people whose signal we're catching...

Vinkus, thanks for the ideas. Of course we were huge West Wing fans (at least until Sorkin left).

Magpie, I am at heart more of a reader than a TV person (useless English Lit degree, anyone?), but if I start reading anything new at bedtime, it keeps me up for HOURS. It's an issue.

Anonymous said...

Reading at bedtime keeps me up all night,too, but I hear people read boring books to lull them to sleep. Never worked for me.

If you know which neighbors were watching porn, you could consider blackmail. Hee.

You might like Turner Classic Movies. If you don't want to get subscribe, check the website for movies and order from Netflix. Or do the same for Sundance or the Independent Film Channel, until you find things to your taste.


P.S. English Lit degrees are never useless. Never, never....

Nancy the Romancechick said...

I'm just going to do my bit for the cause - FIREFLY, baby! Best show ever!!

We did a free month of Blockbuster online and got hooked on Lost from that.

Interesting that you can pick up your neighbors' signals. My husband and daughter can "hack" into anyone's wifi. They CAN; they don't. Well, Hubby did once at the high school when he was waiting to pick her up for something, but he didn't change grades or anything. Just used it for his work. I used to get on our neighbors wifi accidentally at night.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

I am like you. I refuse, refuse to give Comcast anything more than $20 a month.

And free wifi. AG is looking around with a smirk on her face...