I grew up without cable television. Despite both my sister and I complaining to my parents about the lack of high-quality programming such as Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare,” our house remained cable-free just up until the time I headed off for my first year in college. After all, as my dad would say, why pay for something that you can just get beamed to your home for free every day?

Jason Roberts

In a way, some of my childhood and teenage years were lost because I missed out on the cable experience. Let me enlighten you, fellow reader, that as I was growing up, we were also the last ones in our neighborhood to get a microwave, a touchtone phone and, only with my unyielding harassment, the Internet. Without cable, I was never privy to the likes of Criag Kilborne as the host of “The Daily Show” or experienced the foul-mouthed kids of “South Park” in their early years from the comforts of my own home. It was like being an outsider without ever setting foot outside anywhere.

In those final years before I left home for college, my dad finally broke down and got cable. He claims it was for my mom — she loved CMT. I still think it was because he got tired of trying to watch playoff Red Wings hockey on CBC through the fuzz. Whatever the case was, I thought the decision was superb. My sister got Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel, and I got Comedy Central with occasional flips to ESPN and MTV. Even when I moved to the dorms freshman year, I was still privy to the plethora of channels that were available on the campus network.

I moved into my own off-campus apartment sophomore year. With that move came the tough decision: Would I carry cable over in the process? Partly because I’m cheap but mostly because I’m in the architecture program and rarely spend a waking moment actually in my apartment, I decided to forgo the cable experience. I didn’t look forward to moving back to the fuzz-filled three channel selection that presented itself to the rabbit ears, but I figured it was a sensible move. After all, PAX comes in perfectly clear no matter how you watch TV, partly because I have a theory that that station is beamed directly from God, but that’s another story.

Despite my lingering longings for “The Daily Show” and Dave Attell’s drunken antics on “Insomniac,” I found the transition to be a surprisingly easy one. Getting off of TV was like getting off of a bad habit and doing so cold turkey was an incredibly rewarding experience. Despite my sister and me longing for cable television for so long when we were younger, I found that I now didn’t really miss TV.

I think the major reason for this fairly easy split was the fact that there are so few very good shows on the air. Wait, let’s be honest: There are so few even mediocre shows on TV nowadays. With cable TV, I found myself getting sucked into the most asinine programs on the air just because they were on. When I was home over Thanksgiving break, I found myself watching “He’s a Lady” on TBS just because it was on. Yes, I was just looking for mindless entertainment, but this reached to levels far below mindless.

In the apartment I’m in right now, I can’t even get reception for my antenna. If I don’t want to watch PAX, there is absolutely nothing else on. I admit that I’m out of the loop when it comes to the culture of television, but, frankly, it’s one that I’m glad not to be a part of. I can honestly say that I have never watched an episode of “The O.C.”, never experienced the terror of “Laguna Beach,” haven’t been privy to the likes of “The Swan” and haven’t seen the continual downward spiral that “The Simpsons” has endured. With DVD box sets coming out a year after the show has aired, why even waste your time when the show is running in primetime?

“24” is one of my favorite shows currently on the air, though I have probably only seen a half a dozen episodes actually in its timeslot on FOX. DVDs are such a better way to go in the end; viewers get all of the action (and more with bonus features!) and none of the distractions. Television has become so absurd lately that it’s not even worth the time to sit down and sift through all of the trash to find those few gems. Wait for the sand to settle for a year and then take a look. “Arrested Development” is always going to be on DVD next year. “Desperate Housewives” will surely hit the shelves in time for Christmas 2005. “Lost” will make an appearance before you even know it.

Our culture is strangely obsessed with the new; if it’s not happening right now, its immediately dated and not worth your time. I would argue just the opposite. Something that’s worth your time right now is going to be worth your time ten years down the road. Why do you think “M.A.S.H.” is still being produced in DVD box sets? You may not be able to sit around the water cooler and talk about the latest Budweiser commercial or the crazy antics on “Real World,” but you’ll be able to appreciate the best of what television has to offer and not give in to the corporate-driven drivel so saturating the market nowadays.

Turn off the TV and disconnect the cable. You’ll be better off for it.

 

Jason is secretly obsessed with the “Felicity” series but doesn’t want anyone to know about it. He’s cleverly disguised his love as hatred for TV in general. Soothe his tortured soul and e-mail him at jasoner@umich.edu.

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