So yeah--we don't have a TV. I get various reactions when I tell people that, but the most common is a mixture of misunderstanding and disbelief that renders the interlocutor unable to process--or even hear--the information:
Joe Blow: Oh my God! Did you see it last night?
JB: Dancing with the Child Star Rehab Dropouts! C'mon!
Me: We don't have a TV.
JB: You don't get the Humiliation Channel?
Me: Well, no. 'Cause we don't have a TV.
JB: Yeah. I don't really watch much TV either.
Although people who know my wife and me might tell you otherwise, we don't go around trumpeting our virtuous TV-free lifestyle. But sometimes it must be addressed to explain why we missed important programming like the Oscars or the Super Football Sports Game. But mostly, when TV becomes the subject of conversation, I just think about pie until a new topic comes up. If I announced that I prefer not to rot my brain with meaningless dreck every time someone brought up a TV show in conversation, I would sound even more sanctimonious than I do right now. And I would not have many people to talk to. And it wouldn't be exactly true. I have been known to watch hours of Arrested Development online, or get sucked into marathons of single shows (Chappelle's Show, The Deadliest Catch, and--God help me--Rock of Love) when I'm stuck in a hotel room in some boring place. Like Maui. That's one of the reasons I fear TV: I kind of have a problem with it.
When I was a tiny kid, we sometimes had a little TV set in the house, but it wasn't that much of an attraction because it was the olden days and there were only two shows on the air. Then we lived overseas for many years, and I just couldn't get into watching The Smurfs (Die Schleumpfe) in German (they're disturbing enough in English), or Soviet programs like The Young Pioneers in Tashkent or America the Imperialist Ghetto.
But when we returned to the U.S. of A., I sat down on the couch to watch my first episode of The Love Boat, and I didn't get back up for eleven years. I learned how to drive from The Dukes of Hazzard, and how to love from Fantasy Island.
My TV consumption dropped off quite a bit by the time I finally got around to going to college, but I still dabbled, and occasionally binged. It was not until my thirties that I finally went cold turkey. My wife (fiance at the time) and I were unable to make a decision about what kind of cable service we wanted, so we decided we would try to go without. We still had a hulking low-tech set in the middle of our 300 square foot cottage, but we couldn't even receive the local channels on it. It became a silent, dusty totem in our living room, looming over our awkward dinner conversations until we adjusted to the tranquility. That was ten years ago.
Other parents often tell me about the great educational shows that could expand our kids' minds and allow us to do the dishes, if only we would break down and buy a TV. For now though, our eight-month-old twins are pretty easily amused by the physical world around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (Dr. Mom's go-to reference) says no TV before age two , but they also say that Sesame Street improves readiness for school. (Indeed--Dr. Mom learned English from Big Bird). So we may get a TV--or more likely access this programming online--when the time comes; but I don't want my kids running around nagging me to buy Happy Meals. Is there any reason, in this age of DVRs and streaming video, for kids to see commercials, even if they do watch commercial programming?
For now, Cobra and Butterbean are only exposed to NPR and whatever shuffles up on the iPod. Which reminds me--I should learn how to filter out the gangsta rap and, according to my wife, the entire Tom Waits oeuvre. Because there is always an ass-biting waiting just around the corner.
Flash forward to 2014--
Cobra: I wanna tote-bag! I wanna tote-bag!
Me: But sweetie, the pledge drive isn't until October. Anyway, I just got you a coffee mug, and you haven't even played with it. Where is that mug anyway?
Butterbean: [grumbling] ...shootin' midget Filipino dice in a Monte Rio boxcar...I lost my mug and my porkpie on a rattlin' snake-eye...and I buried Robert Wood Johnson in a rubble foundation...
Me: What's that, sugar?
Cobra: Get me a hand-crank radio or I'll go all Scott Simon on your bitch ass! East sah-YEED!