Feature Stories

When Television Used to be Television

Over the holidays, I really missed television. You know, 3 channels, or even 12, if you went through VHF. It was all so simple then. If you wanted to watch Cheers it came on just once a week, at exactly the same time, day, and network. Yes, now there are a hundred-eleventy choices, but it’s not the blessing one would expect. I (really we, as my lovely wife suffered through this, too) learned this while trying to watch Netflix® during the trial period.

The plan was to see everything we liked quickly, and then cancel before we had to pay for the subscription. It sounds simple. Of course, not having been on Netflix® before, we really weren’t aware of the breadth of the task we had taken on. It wasn’t a fair match-up.

The first night, we set up for dinner in front of the big screen and I got out the remote control. Looked easy; they had suggestions all set up for us. So, I started clicking, one, two, three, . .. ninety-nine, one hundred. Finally, I took a break and ate my meal which was cold by then.

Learning from experience, I switched to genres. That had to be simpler. Family, action, sci-fi, drama, mystery, documentaries, comedy, comedians, comedians in comedies, comedies about comedians . . . how many kinds can there be?

TV Guide®! That’s what I needed, except I can’t remember seeing it among the check-out magazines this century. So, I went on-line for help. “On-line for help” has got to be one of the saddest oxymorons there are. Limitless options and opinions do not constitute help; they are more of a compass that points in every direction. A little shaken, I went back to the remote.

Westerns, I’m a big western fan. I’ve probably seen every one made since Hop-a-Long Cassidy. I’ll be on familiar ground. No. The first couple of hundred, I’d never heard of: Cowboys of New York City, Cowboys at Sea, Space Cowboys, The Quick and the Irresponsible, Tokyo Gunslinger, Rancho. It took an hour to find the first John Wayne, but that guy was certainly not the Duke! I kept on clicking, kept on searching. Just couldn’t stop.

Until my wife stopped me, it was one in the morning. She came down and turned off the set because my screams of anguish kept waking her up. (I hadn’t even noticed she’d gone to bed hours before.)

By the time I woke up, our test subscription had been canceled, the batteries on the remote were dead, and I decided to spend the day reading a good book, The Golden Age of Television.

Scott Funk lives, works, and writes (and gardens) in Vermont.  His Boomer Funk columns are available at VermontFunk.com, as are his blogs and archived Aging in Place columns.

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