The Desolate Wasteland of Broadcast Television

My wife and I have never really felt the need for cable or satellite. It just seemed like an unnecessary expense, particularly when 90% of the television viewed in our household comes from Netflix. We have survived with a set of rabbit ears since we were married and, for the most part, it has been just fine.

There are some nights, though, where we do not want to scroll through menus trying to find a gem in the midst of our nightmare of a queue. We just want to flip on the TV and be instantly entertained with no effort on our part. No deciding what to watch, but rather we are given a small number of finite options to select from. Nights like this are where the rabbit ears become a curse.

Tonight was one of those nights. After watching another wonderful episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” the comedy that People magazine says is “fine as it is,” we began to flip through the channels. That’s when we ran into a situation that we have become very accustomed to.

The choice of television programming was unbelievably slim.

We hit Fox. We drifted by NBC. ABC and CBS gave us nothing at all. We even glanced at PBS before remembering the last thing we want is to learn while we watch TV. After exhausting our choices on the networks people acknowledge exist, we moved to the fringe channels.

These are the outlaw channels that are hidden in the lawless areas between channels. There is a reason you have never heard anyone mention the interesting show they were watching on channel 50.3. It’s because no one has ever watched channel 50.3. The people who program channel 50.3 likely have no idea what they are airing. It is television no-man’s land.

The first channel we hit was a religious channel. Out of the 30 or so channels we have access to, roughly 20 of them are religious networks. This would be ideal if I was looking for a person in a suit telling me that God had spoken to him and oddly enough God had mentioned that I should send all of my money to a church held in an arena. As I am not, though, these channels seem to have little to appeal to me.

This particular channel featured a duck-faced woman in a pant suit. She gestured wildly at the gigantic crowd, emphatically proclaiming that we need to let go of our addictions because “addictions are bad.” The crowd seemed enthralled as if they were all saying to themselves, “Wait… addictions are… bad? I had never thought of it like that before. Honey, if God tells her we should give her our money, we should listen to her. She really knows her stuff!”

Having already learned that addictions are bad as child in the D.A.R. E. program, I continued on.

Naturally, living in Nashville, you are bound to run into country music. The next channel seemed to think that Reba McEntire music videos from the early 90’s were what the public was clamoring for. She was in a courtroom, making a case to the judge. Her hair, a huge teased mane bigger than the entire rest of her body, flopped about as Reba McEntire, esquire, pranced around. She sang as she bounced out of the courtroom, leaving her client without their singing lawyer. The video does not show the verdict, but I would guess that the judge did not take kindly to the lawyer performing a song as part of her closing arguments before rudely walking out of court.

This was, however, better than the next music video channel. It was a Spanish language station with, what I assume, was a band playing a song that I could not understand. I say that I assume because I could see nothing on the screen. Somewhere in the control room of this station, someone had hit a menu button. All that could be seen was a menu offering the different languages that the closed captioning could appear in. Oddly enough, it looked like the Spanish language channel had previously had its closed captioning broadcast in French, a choice I thought was interesting and a bit bold, though I am not too sure about the size of the French-speaking Hispanic population.

A push of the channel button brought us to a children’s puppet show. There was music playing and it appeared that Gerbert, the puppet featured in this particular program, was singing. However, someone at that station had decided to play the sound without the vocal track activated. It turned the show into a weird surreal creation that made it appear that Gerbert was attempting to eat the air. We changed the channel as I wondered if the same person was running the control room on this channel and the Spanish music video station.

Channel 28.2 had TMZ.

Um… no.

It seemed we would never find something to watch. I thought we were destined to wander the television wasteland forever when, low and behold, we landed on a channel that features shows that are at least twice my age. There was “The Andy Griffith Show,” a show that we had both watched growing up. We watched Barney’s antics and Andy coolly and calmly helping bust a jewel thief that, naturally, had played Barney for a fool. It was a welcome oasis in the programming desert.

Maybe I was delirious because of the many options we had burned through or I was still distracted by the realization that addictions are not a positive thing, but I felt that finding “The Andy Griffith Show” was more rewarding than anything cable could have offered us. It felt that we had put in the effort and at last we were given exactly what we needed. That is a feeling that we would not be able to have if we had cable offering us hundreds of shows at any given time all through the convenience of a menu.

Of course, I also would be able to avoid TMZ for the rest of my life simply by not clicking on that particular channel while scrolling through the never-ending menu of shows.

Maybe cable is not such a bad idea.


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