On the Subject of Watching Television

Sorry this blog is coming in a bit late.  My DVR was filling up and I was forced to watch some television.  Remember when Bruce Springsteen lamented there were “57 Channels and Nothing On”? 

Remember Bruce Springsteen?

We had about a dozen broadcast channels in Chicagoland when I was growing up in the seventies.  I know because I watched all of them.  I watched WYCC, Channel 20, the other PBS station that showed the same films we watched in elementary school.  I watched WSNS, Channel 44, and developed my great affection for really bad Japanese television monsters.  Later on we even watched ON-TV, the pay television channel, without the descrambler.  I know twelve channels (thirteen, if you count the snowy Rockford version of NBC that came in every so often) doesn’t sound like much and – frankly – I’m amazed we survived long enough to get cable. 

When I was 13 we had not one, but two-twotwo coaxial cables coming into the house, providing us with 120 channels of “crystal clear” signals.  Now out of those 120, 48 of them showed nothing but color bars.  We still counted them though.  My mom told me back in the fifties the stations would broadcast a picture of an Indian for hours at a time and people would watch it!  We didn’t have an Indian channel (unless you counted SCOLA), but we did have C-SPAN broadcasting the security camera footage from Washington D.C.  I was amazed it would take me the better part of half an hour to discover there was nothing on.  Of course, by that time, new shows were starting on the channels I had first searched, so I could just start all over again and pretty much kill a weekend.

When the family moved west to Belvidere, we got Dish Network.  This gave us 100 channels.  Forty of them were shopping channels and the others occasionally broadcast content in between Bowflex commercials.  There were two new pieces of technology that changed the way we watched television forever in the Francis household: the DVR and the TV Guide.  When I was younger, TV Guide was a little magazine you got in the mail every week that had a crossword puzzle with clues like “___ Trek”.  Now it was a channel that allowed us to search a week, ten days in the future and record anything and everything of interest.  Even if it was on at 3:00 in the morning, we could play it back from the DVR anytime there truly wasn’t anything on live television.

I still scroll through the live programming to see if anything is worth watching, but then I hit the big grey DVR button on the remote.  Oddly enough, I find myself scrolling through page after page of recorded content and finding nothing worthwhile to watch there either.  Who thought it would be a good idea to record all the Pop Up Video reruns on VH-1? 

Wait, I think that was me.

On top of that, our DVR hard drive holds a hundred hours of standard programming, but only thirty hours of high-definition (and we don’t record Mythbusters in anything but HD).  So, with our counter warning us we have less than three hours of space left, we must either watch the shows we record or delete them forever (or at least until they are shown again as part of next week’s “encore performance”).


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