Let your TV set go black on Friday


On Friday the government is switching off analog TV broadcasting. My rabbit-ear set will go blank. I’ve known about it forever but, like millions, have not, er, bought my converter set, subscribed to cable, or whatever else the infomercial has been urging me to do.

Who are “we”? According to the FCC we are “society’s most vulnerable.” Elderly, handicapped, poor, fat, illiterate, and so forth. I’m sure that covers some of the millions. But not me, and not Knute Berger.

In this witty piece, he tells his story of how he and TV just sort of drifted apart, grew estranged and now decided to see other people. It is exactly what I would have said, had you asked me.

To tell the truth, my consumption of broadcast TV has been in a downward spiral for decades. Programming is often available online, and much local content, especially news, is dreadful… Cable TV holds out hope that there’s something wonderful just a few clicks away. I can waste hours in a hotel room just clicking through all the 100-plus cable channels, lost in an endless gyre of anticipation, hoping that something more than sports, cable shopping, movies you’d never rent, and TV preachers is a channel away… Which isn’t to say I won’t still watch TV: I can see Conan or Colbert highlights online, broadcast and cable clips at Huffington Post… I much prefer watching TV series on DVD, which allows you to avoid the ads and watch a whole season’s worth in a weekend… Of the 10 million or so households that aren’t ready for digital TV, a few will panic. But for me, I’m content just to let the old medium end like the Sopranos — with a fade to black.


If Knute and I are, as I think, in the unmeasured millions, I will make another prediction: We will soon see a flowering of human culture and literacy, as we stop wasting our time on this shit and (re)discover thought, culture, the written word and creativity in all its new guises.

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15 thoughts on “Let your TV set go black on Friday

  1. My television hissed at me the other night. He’s ticked off and to inflict hurt, told me I don’t turn him on any more.

    His pimp, Direct TV, charges me 75.00 per month for his services but the only ones I use are in the fall when, like the Greeks, men take to the field and compete for a ball.

    As for your prediction: a return to literacy and culture would make my work life much easier.

    • I’d like to reply to myself: Cheri, were you thinking when you said that the Greeks took to the field for a ball?

      No, I wasn’t. ( Try to come up with something clever here to disguise your error..)

      OK: I meant the Men of Troy at USC Those Greeks.

    • Well, you got me. First time I hear about them.

      Since I do enjoy seeing you writhe: If they are indeed “men of Troy”, they can’t also be … Greeks.

      BTW, absolutely LOVING The Trial of Socrates that you recommended!

    • OK. As one of your readers called it, I’ve done some “wart preening.” The Trojans or Troy weren’t in Greece at all, but rather in what is now Turkey. The Spartans were in Sparta, the Greeks were in Greece, and so on. And when you finish the book, I will be curious to know if your opinion of Socrates changed.

    • I’m destroying my page layout, as I see.

      Troy/Greece: I was just teasing you. But yes, in theory, the Iliad was the epic that “made the Greeks Greek”, ie that defined Greekness. The world ‘Hellene’ never appears in it. Instead, it’s the Achaeans, Argives, and so on. But by implication, the Trojans in “Asia” (Minor) were not Greek (though they appear to have spoken Greek). Hence this might have been the beginning of our East-West worldview.

      Subplot: The Romans (Virgil) wanted to tie themselves to the same grand epic, but distinguish themselves from the effeminate Greeks. Hence Aeneas, a Trojan survivor, becomes the Ur-Roman.

      I always, always wondered why they named the condoms after them. Pun on the horse? I never got it.

  2. I’m not a big fan of most TV stations and programs. But network TV as a media still has qualities others cannot easily replace.
    As Brooke Gladstone, the co-host and editor of the public radio program On The Media, puts it: “What TV had, and what only TV has, is the power to create the moment everyone could share.” She made the observation during the ’08 election night.


    If one still wants to “share the moment”, but doesn’t want a TV, or Cable subscription, here’s a good option.


    I use it on my Mac. I get all the major network channels, plus 5 PBS channels, many in High Definition, on my home computer screen.

    With it, I used my laptop as a TiVo to record “the moment” on ’08 election night. So I not only “shared the moment”, but also, to some extend, kept it 🙂

  3. Maybe there could be a TV show about our sort. “Tonight on Fox: Society’s Most Vulnerable.” Like a circus side show. I’ll smoke a cigarette using my feet.

    I’ve done that thing in a hotel room. Watch TV, that is. I can watch TV for hours without watching any one channel for more than 20 seconds continuously. The Missus wonders when I have time to see so many movies.

    I’ve asked to have my TV removed from my hotel room a couple times. I think you have to be a rock star to have your TV removed (then, I guess you could throw it out the window).

    • It amazes me that all hotel provide free TV but not all provide free WiFi.

      If I do that thing in a hotel room for more than 5 minutes I get a headache.

  4. What hotels or motels don’t provide, or at least those I’ve stayed in, don’t provide, is adequate lighting for reading books. Those bedside lamps are useless for reasons obvious to anyone who tries to read a book in a hotel or motel room.

    This may, though, all be a cunning plan on the part of hotel and motel owners, who, by deliberately withholding adequate lighting, discourage their patrons reading, so that they’ll instead watch the TV, thereby earning for the hotel and motel owners, kickbacks from the TV advertisers and programmers.

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