TV has ads?

Remote controlMy schedule is all out of whack. Maggie and I have been house/dog-sitting, meeting with mortgage lenders, and trying to adjust to daylight savings time all at once. I’m lucky I can remember what day it is!

Away from our usual entertainment, Maggie and I watched normal TV for the first
time in months. I’d forgotten how annoying ads are. No sooner would I get into a plot
than they would break it off and try to sell me something. I felt like one of those
kids they test for Sesame Street to see when they look away from the screen. As soon as
an ad came on, I’d lose focus and start looking around (usually egged on by some dogs
desparate for attention).

Unlike Maggie, I actually like TV and think it can have a positive impact. Shows like
Lost and Heroes get you thinking and can provide a fun way to
interact with other people (I’m not the only one who had Saturday evening family time to watch Dr. Who, am I?). I also have an real respect for a well-told story in
any medium. Nevertheless, our opinions mesh over advertising. It’s specifically made
to distract when you want to be doing something else.

I love that the choice is no longer TV or no TV. We have a TV (how else would I play my Wii?) but no cable and no access to broadcast channels. Although we’ve got some shows on DVD, most of our viewing is through Netflix. When we weren’t so busy, and it wasn’t as nice outside, we had two movies out at a time but at the moment we’re making do with one. I’d love to see a cable plan that let you do that.

But then I’d still have to deal with the ads, so it’s probably better this way.

At first, I had a hard time dealing with no TV. I kept wondering what was on and what I was missing. As time went on, I realized that I was using TV as a distraction. It wasn’t that I wanted to watch TV, it was that I didn’t want to do what I was doing (and couldn’t be bothered to think of something else).

Now, I’ve filled my time with other distractions. Reading, playing games, working, even writing for a blog. I no longer get stuck for hours when all I really wanted was a fifteen minute break. I haven’t noticed any social stigma either. There are enough channels and shows that nobody could watch them all, so nobody is even particularly surprised when I haven’t seen the episode they’re desperate to talk about.

I do wonder how universal my experience has been. How much would other people miss live TV shows if they only used the TV for watching DVDs or playing video games? Do people really want to watch TV or are they just looking for a distraction?

Give it a try and let me know how it works! Even if you go back to cable in a week, you’ll have skipped almost fourteen* hours of ads and that’s got to be worth something.

* That’s no typo. The average family has the TV on for almost 7 hours a day with ads for 3 out of 10 of those hours. this!

5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Student Doctor Green said,

    March 12, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

    I agree about tv being a distraction. We have one only for watching movies on the weekends. I find the internet can be an equally powerful distraction. Maybe even more so.

  2. 2

    Will said,

    March 12, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

    No question there. The web is a powerful distraction. In my first draft, I talked about that some, but I don’t feel like I have much unique to say there. Having separate work and play computers has helped, though. Messing around on the computer also isn’t very social, so I tend to avoid it in the evening when Maggie is home.

  3. 3

    Dana said,

    March 14, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

    I quit watching TV regularly during my second year of grad school, and when I moved back to NC, I didn’t get a TV hookup here either. It’s not that I don’t watch TV at all now; instead, now I have to go over to either my parents’ house or Mark’s place to watch. (And Mark uses his TV almost exclusively for games if I’m not there.) This means that my TV watching has gotten refined down to watching just a few shows that I actually really want to follow. The annoying thing is trying to be home at a time when those few shows are on. This will probably either be solved by a TiVo-like contraption, or just waiting until everything comes out on DVD.

    I definitely find the internet distracting. I love to read, but if my computer is nearby and I think of something I want to look up, I put the book down and get distracted by the internet for hours. I find I get more reading done when I don’t have ready access to my own computer, and I get a lot more craft stuff done when I’m around a TV, because then I can multi-task. And I definitely find TV to be more social, as you said.

    It is nice now that there are so many channels not everyone can watch the same shows, because it was kind of socially isolating in elementary and middle school to not be allowed to watch TV during the week.

  4. 4

    Will said,

    March 14, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

    I really enjoy watching TV shows on DVD. The one exception was Firefly, where Whedon did such a great job setting up cliffhangers that I started to wish I had ads there to give me a couple minutes to process what had happened. In any case, it’s much nicer to be able to watch on your schedule. Back when I had TV, I got so that I’d set aside 4-5 every afternoon to watch the Simpsons. It wasn’t that I really wanted to watch the Simpsons every day, it was that if I wanted to watch it I had to watch it then. Having that block of time set aside was a real pain.

  5. 5

    Ian said,

    March 19, 2008 @ 12:19 am

    You’re definitely not the only one. I watched a whole lot of TV when at San Antonio due to not having much else to do (other than running and reading) but haven’t watched anything while at home on TV since May. Honestly, the stuff you can get on DVD and video games are more than enough to keep myself occupied for far too much time as is. And I will buy something on DVD any day as opposed to trying to deal with watching it on TV. Ads just cause me to either mute the TV or change channel, thus usually making miss a part of the show, anyways.

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