Peterson: Nary the cable guy, when it comes to TV

A while back I mentioned that we willingly – with both sets of eyes wide open – allowed cable TV to snake back into our home.

We had canceled our cable nearly two years earlier, and it was 7:57 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, 2010, that we knew for sure that Comcast had cut us off. We had canceled a month earlier, but it kept stringing us along, thinking we would come to our senses.

You can’t live without cable!

We could, and save money, too.

Cable TV was mostly inconvenient. You had to watch the shows you wanted to watch at a time designated by people who own the TV networks. We had several programs we liked to watch, but we had to arrange our lives around them.

Or figure out how to record them on the VCR. You remember them. They’ve been replaced by a new product cable companies sell. You can record all kinds of programs and watch them when you want. For a fee.

We had been subscribing to Netflix, which doesn’t cost a lot of money -- way less than basic cable -- and you can watch a lot of the movies that are being shown in theaters. At some point in time. Unless the studio doesn’t have a contract with Netflix. And you can watch a lot of TV programs. At some point in time. Unless the network doesn’t have a contract with Netflix.

So, Netflix isn’t perfect.

Neither am I. And over the past couple of years, we have been able to modify what we watch according to what is available through Netflix.

I don’t know how long we have had cable TV again. It might be four or five months, and I’m not that thrilled with it. In fact, I am really disappointed in it. If we want to watch a program, we have to follow someone else’s schedule. And most of the channels the cable company offers are really bad. After you’ve been away from commercial TV for a while, you get a whole new sense of what’s bad.

If you’ve been fed commercial TV for years on end, well, for all of your life, your expectations begin to drop ever so slowly. Good and bad become relative. A bad doesn’t seem that bad after all. Until you’ve been away from it for a year or two. It’s as if your senses rejuvenate.

So, we’ve mostly stuck with the programs that we have started watching on Netflix. And these are not new shows by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of them are at least five years old, and there are something like 200 episodes to watch to get caught up with the current year. On just one program. And at the rate we’re going, that’s just not going to happen in our lifetimes. And if heaven comes with a cable package, even a really good one, I’m going to be disappointed.

What’s weird, though, is watching the programs that are five or six years old, and then stumbling across current versions of them on cable TV. It’s like traveling in time, and there is a program with time travel as its premise, so I can’t imagine how out of sorts I would be watching a time-travel program in real-time time travel.

The characters age, change, get dropped, new ones get added. And you wonder what the background story is, but we have Netflix, and if we started watching “Numbers” every night for the next year or so, with time off on weekends, we might figure it out. It’s a good show, but every night? Into what might as well be eternity.

Netflix has its quirks, like shows sometimes it will just stop midprogram, and have to rewind for a few seconds or a few minutes if more than one TV in the house is watching Netflix programs. And it can happen repeatedly in one 22-minute show. It’s annoying, but it gives you a chance to use the bathroom or read the newspaper.

What I have learned about cable TV since quitting it cold turkey in the fall of 2010, and not really watching it much since we’ve been recabled, is that TV is not about its programs. It’s all about advertising at wildly increased decibels, superfast for several minutes at a time in which you are supposed to be persuaded to buy the products. And pretty crummy TV shows are packaged around the commercials.

Maybe I’m coming to this realization because it is Thanksgiving week, and today is – or was depending on the time you read this Friday – Black Friday, which is Darth Vader’s cousin or something. TV is commercialism at its crassest. And I can’t stand it. Because, as much as I don’t like 95 percent of the programs the cable company offers – and it changed its name to something that sounds like a really cool product, but it’s still Comcast – the commercials are even worse.

I want to be entertained. I don’t want to buy. And that’s the good and bad of it. Happy holidays. Don’t try wrapping it with a Christmas bow. How obnoxious is that?

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate, a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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