It all started months ago. My husband, who is more interested than I am in the latest and greatest things the Internet has to offer, was trying to figure out how we could catch a Yankees game in the absence of cable television. I don't remember if we were away from home, or if the cable was out, or if he was just curious. But that's what started the whole discussion of entering the cable-free frontier and finding other ways to watch the TV shows we like.
Let me first state for the record that this experiment is in no way affiliated with, or even inspired by, efforts such as Adbusters' Mental Detox Week or the Center for Screen-Time Awareness' Turnoff Week. While I wholeheartedly admire and support these endeavors, this is not what we were setting out to do by disconnecting from cable. There are a few reasons for this:
1) I love TV. I can't speak for my husband, but I think it's safe to say he likes it too. As a would-be intellectual, it pains me somewhat to openly admit that I enjoy watching TV so much, but it's true. I indulge in numerous less-than-lofty pursuits, including reading fashion magazines, eating hot dogs and, yes, watching television. I'm not necessarily proud of these things, but I see no sense in hiding them either, so there you have it.
2) There are some pretty good TV shows out there. Right now we're watching Bones, House, The Office, 30 Rock and Terminator, to name a few. These may not be your idea of good TV, but they're ours, and we enjoy watching them together. I don't want to give that up.
3) I require some form of mindless, passive entertainment in my life. I'm all for board games and reading and listening to the radio and singing and knitting and baking and other pastimes that require varying degrees of engagement or activity. Sometimes, though, after a long day of using my brain and fingers to earn a living, I need to disengage and just be entertained. Passively. Since I have no court jester, I choose television as the medium for this form of relaxation.
So what are we trying to accomplish? First off, we're trying to save a few bucks. Having cable television and high-speed Internet is not a cheap proposition, no matter how you slice (or bundle) it. Secondly, I found the idea of going off the cable grid kind of exciting. We would be trailblazers, entering a new frontier of entertainment _ a frontier that, I learned, offered me access to old episodes of "Beverly Hills, 90210." I was sold.
We contemplated about a million different arrangements and finally settled on a simple one: we would keep our existing broadband Internet connection and drop our cable service. We hooked a computer up to our television set (and by "we," I mean "my husband") and called the cable company to break the news.
Let me tell you, our decision did not go over well with them. The first customer service representative seemed incredulous. "But that means you won't be able to watch TV at all," he said. "What are you going to do for entertainment?"
He was right, in a way. As I learned when we first moved into our house, without cable, our TV set picks up nothing but gray fuzz. No networks, no public television, nothing. What the cable guy may not have realized was that we planned to watch television in a completely different way _ over the Internet.
After half-heartedly offering me a bundled package that would include phone service, the cable representative consented to my request to cut the cord, so to speak. So on Thursday, Nov. 14, the Popek household became cable-free.
This does not mean we stopped watching TV, however. Instead, we entered the world of websites such as Hulu, YouTube, Fancast and others, in an effort to keep up with our favorite shows and discover a few new ones.
Tune in next time to see how we fared during our first foray into cable-free living.