Life Without TV

colorbarsIt was back in late 2001 and I was chatting with a couple at a party. They were smirking at me because I said worked in TV. He and his wife were architects or rocket scientists or something. “Oh, we don’t watch TV.”

I’ve heard this before. People who don’t watch TV love to tell you about it —in fact, they’ll find a way to work it into the first five minutes of any conversation. It’s like the intellectual red badge of courage.

The topic turned to 9/11. The smart couple complained about TV news showing the towers collapsing again and again and again. I was curious. “I thought you don’t watch TV? How did you happen to see that over and over again?”

“Well, we keep a TV in the spare room. We only wheel it out if there’s something really big happening. Like on 9/11.”

But you don’t watch anything else? “Well, you know we’ll watch the Super Bowl. And sometimes we’ll rent movies. We don’t want our kid glued in front of it.”

Oh really? Time to throw out some bait. “You know, some TV is actually good for kids. Not all of it certainly, but some of it.”

The wife chimed in. “Oh, yes! Mostly it’s trash. That’s why we only let our daughter watch educational videos.”

For people who don’t watch TV it sounded like they watched a lot of TV.

In our house we decided a long time ago that there would only be one TV. This helps us keep tabs on what’s on and forces us all into one room. It’s not so easy now that you can watch stuff on your computer, the phone, the iPod.

As you can imagine there’s always a lot of negotiation. But now that football’s almost over you guys can watch whatever you like.

11 thoughts on “Life Without TV

  1. My parents, both teachers, set a rule when I was growing up with 3 other siblings, that we could only watch TV on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! As an 8 year old, this equaled the end of the world for me. My sister and I thought we were really clever and we’d show mom……we started listening to Little House on the Praire on the radio instead! About this time, we also obtained our first VCR and before long, we were taping all the shows from Monday-Thursday and watched them all weekend. I have to wonder if we ended up watching more TV in the end. Did I survive? certainly. Do I read more as an adult because of it? perhaps.

  2. > In our house we decided a long time ago that there would only be one TV.

    That’s an excellent policy. And if it breaks down a bit when kids get older (personal devices, as you say), well that was gonna happen even without techno-social change. Dunno what Daughter #1 watches at college and it’s not actually my business.

    TV snobs — including me — are funny. Everybody watches more than they say, in terms of how much time there’s a powered-on TV around.

    But there’s another snobbery factor that I cling to: do you watch shows, or do you watch TV — and then hunt for shows? I hope my girls got the idea that an adult of course applies the same discrimination to TV viewing as she does to music or friends or politics or any other way to spend time. I wonder if having more choices for consuming video chunks won’t make restraint and taste easier to exercise. Provided you have some in the first place.

    What’s annoying about your cocktail-party TV snobs is the degree of their snobbery. They want to wear the big badge: We don’t watch. Right. Probably don’t fart, either.


  3. We have one TV in our home as well. It’s 10 years old, doesn’t have cable, doesn’t have a digital converter box and the buttons are starting to fail.

    Most people think we’re odd ducks for having one TV with no cable – especially because we’re pretty young (in our early 30’s). We don’t feel deprived and we watch the few shows that interest us online. We just couldn’t justify the $50 for cable when we watch so little of it.

    Our boys watch a couple videos here and there and once a week we watch a family movie streamed to our computer via NetFlix. Mostly we use our TV for a date night to watch a movie that we wanted to see in the theater but were unable to.

    I think most people watch some form of video content whether it be on the television or on the computer. Sounds to me that the snooty couple you met was full of it and you called them out on it.

  4. There was a little breakdown in family unity last night as we duked it out over Anthony Bourdain, The Bachelor, and the Military Channel. Wasn’t pretty.

  5. TV snobs are stupid. There is so much to learn by watching TV. PBS –(can we say children’s educational TV?), the History Channel, The Learning Channel, Discovery, etc. I would say that very intellectual people watch TV.

  6. I hate people like this. Too good for TV? What? Like they’re so much better than the rest of us. Hope they get hit by a bus.

  7. Sure, intellectual people watch TV, but TV is not necessary. You can learn without watching Discovery. How much does the average person really need to know about an 80 lb tumor anyway?

    I go on a TV binge once in a while. I’m on the wagon right now and I only watch 2 shows per week. My husband watches about the same. Wish I could say the same about my child. But when I have time, I can waste hours watching Project Runway reruns, VH1 shows and other mindless entertainment.

    I don’t watch TV news. I’m a TV news snob, I guess. I get more details in less time by reading a newspaper or online news. I don’t want the important stuff condensed to 60 second segments (or less), and I really dislike the sensationalism of TV news.

  8. > Sure, intellectual people watch TV, but TV is not necessary. You can learn without watching Discovery. How much does the average person really need to know about an 80 lb tumor anyway?

    I weigh eighty pounds. It’s cool with me if y’all don’t watch this Discovery Channel program, but I’m strangely drawn to it.


  9. Watching tv introduces you to things you might never think about. Many times I go to the library and take out books on those new subjects.

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