My Breakup With Cable Television

June 26, 2012

My fiancee and I quit cable television cold turkey back in March.

The decision wasn’t made as part of some hipster agenda or with the intent of sticking our noses up at our cable-viewing peers whom I now very much envy. (People do that, you know.)

Fact is we grew tired of our Comcast bill costing a couple dollars more each month, despite the fact we weren’t being offered anything more in return. So, we drew a line. We took a stand. We stuck it to the man. And dammit, we’ve been pretty bored ever since.

Poor Beth has resigned to watching re-runs of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix. By the way, who would’ve thought Katie Holmes would turn out to be the crazy one?

I’ve nearly finished James Andrew Miller’s 784-page ESPN exposé, “Those Guys Have All The Fun“, so I have replaced cable by reading a book about a cable television network. Great.

comcast logoPeople will tell you quitting cable television is the best thing they have ever done, but they are lying liars who only want to make you feel bad about enjoying delightful, entertaining television. (That, or their lives have otherwise been completely marked by lackluster achievements.)

Our TV, once the all-you-can-eat buffet of our media diet, is now limited to the four major networks, CNN and TBS, all in STANDARD definition. Our living room, once a center for entertainment, is now filled with sadness and despair.

Cable television is a cultural mainstay — and it’s unequivocally awesome. When you withdraw from cable, you’re withdrawing from a huge part of culture, which is just as batty as abstaining from pants or silverware. That’s why I feel deep pangs of regret whenever my friends and co-workers mention the most recent episode of “Mad Men” or “Girls” or “Breaking Bad” or “Homeland” or “Louie” or “Game of Thrones.” I feel like I’m missing out on something important.

We are living in the Golden Era of television after all, and while that often means getting nickle-and-dimed by the cable providers, at least they’re bringing the goods.

In theory, not having cable has:

  • Helped me save money
  • Inspired me to go out and enjoy new things
  • Decreased the amount of television I watch

In reality, not having cable has:

  • Made my life more expensive. Dinner and a movie is roughly the twice the cost of a basic cable subscription
  • Inspired me to attend more pro sporting events where inevitably a) the home team typically loses b) a beer costs $8.50 and c) I must have three of them
  • Decreased the amount of good television I watch

A reasonable person would concede, give in, and go crawling back to Comcast. I’m sorry, baby. I thought I could live without you. I was wrong. But my frustrations go well beyond the steep fees. I’m really tired of paying for crap I don’t want.

That’s why I’ve thrown my support behind Take My Money, HBO!, a movement that launched earlier this month encouraging viewers without cable to publicly share how much money they would pay each month for a standalone HBO service. I would gladly pay $20 per month for HBO and HBO alone. But we all know that’s not going to happen because the cable providers have created the thickest, stickiest web of contracts and sweetheart deals possible to ensure viewers never, ever get their favorite channels a la carte. And that’s a travesty.

I don’t want Bravo, Disney, CMT, Lifetime and MTV.

I don’t need Oxygen, Nickelodeon, TLC, USA and VH1.

Give me ESPN, AMC, HBO, Showtime and FX and keep the rest. Let me pay for these channels and be on my merry way.

In a more practical world than our own, this request would be totally feasible.

Instead, my fiancee is relegated to watching a youthful and idyllic James Van Der Beek and I’m stuck reading books about television. Altogether, not a bad shake, but I still feel like I’m tuning out on a vital chunk of culture.

At least Dawson can feel my pain.