One of my favorite things about the rapid evolution of technology is the sheer amount of crap it has eliminated from my life. My cell phone, for example, is a hyperfunctional device that offers me a wealth of resources above and beyond those of the first phone line I ever paid for. In addition to the telephone service, it stores my contacts, allows me to access my home computer files, and grants me access to the Internet. I have no need for the single-purpose land line. Essentially, it is a cool little computer I can keep in my pocket that indulges me on those rare occasions when I want (or need) to hear the voice of another living being. Spotify has kept me from having having to access a locally stored mp3 and has effectively rendered CDs (in my life, anyway) obsolete. And, although we have had our problems, Netflix has done the same thing to DVDs.
I am glad that I no longer have any reason to pay for cable. For me, it is a huge waste of money. I rarely watch television and, when I do, my tastes seldom align with whatever is available for viewing. Netflix streaming, on the other hand, is there when I need it and is significantly cheaper. It is a service I like.
That said, there is one very obvious advantage that cable (or any kind of television programming, really) has over Netflix: mindless, middle of the night channel flipping. I will confess, I don’t care for the process myself. And it is a process. I’ve never enjoyed being simultaneously bored, lazy, and unable to sleep. All the times in my life that I’ve done this, I’ve been looking for that perfect something. And it’s easier to find that something with cable. When using Netflix, there is a lot of effort involved when choosing something to watch. From the interface on your TV, you have to search for something (or browse a limited selection of suggested content), and then wait for it to buffer before you can decide it’s garbage and move on to the next thing. Cable, on the other hand, is instantaneous and easy- press a button and it’s gone.
I am writing this as I watch Spaced, a show I took a chance on a few weeks ago. I don’t know that I’ve ever told anyone I watch it. In its way, my viewing of it is too sacred for that. Allow me to explain.
There is a special relationship between us and the television shows we watch alone in the middle of the night. In my case, they don’t typically reflect the taste and identity I project in the harsh light of day. Back when I had cable, my middle of the night obsessions included News Radio, Happy Days, and some show I never knew the name of that involved following a specific set of high school kids through their daily lives with a lot of Bouncing Souls on the soundtrack. All of these shows were exclusive to the late night line up at the times I viewed them. And, once discovered, I looked forward to watching them every night, often at the expense of sleep. I’d show up bleary-eyed to my first hour trig class not because I’d been out drinking and fornicating all night, but because I’d watched Richie Cunningham trying to talk to girls at Al’s.
You can’t talk to other people about these shows. I can’t show up to work on Monday morning and carry on about what happened on the most recent episode of Spaced. No one could possibly care. For one, it’s a somewhat obscure British show. For two, it’s old.
And that’s kind of cool. If we’re doing it right, our late night viewing habits are distinctly us. We’re not being pressured by the sway of timeliness or popularity. We’re not watching something to stay in the loop. Instead, we’re communing with a relatively low brow art form on our own terms. I don’t really know what Spaced is about. There are some slackers doing things. There are a lot of nerdy references I don’t get. It may be a really smart show. But if it is, that is lost on me.
There is something about my sleepy brain that makes me enjoy it. I sit here, I giggle, and my mind wanders. The show has given me many ideas that relate to my writing and my work. I think it has to do with the lack of pressure, my willingness to allow my mind to go where it needs to, and the creative energy that went into making the show. It’s pretty amazing.
Does any of that make any sense? If not, I apologize. I’m only half paying attention. Tim just lost Daisy’s dog.
I feel this sense of wonderment that I found this show without flipping through channels. I wonder if the act of flipping itself is irrelevant. Do these shows just find us when we need them to? It’s a comforting thought.
Or maybe I just need to go to sleep.