The Death of Cable TV

We haven’t had the luxury of cable TV the duration of our relationship. The boyfrand grew up in a household without it; we had it but only in the living room and only if I was lucky to find it unoccupied by either of my parents. Those opportunities were slim to none (my dad was laid off for most of my pre-teen into teenage period; my mom slept in the living room with the TV on all night). My dad was a news junkie and my mom liked TVland; so naturally, I rarely would find interest in their selection of entertainment. Even so, the TV was like white noise at our house. It had to be on or something wasn’t right—or it was dinner.

Neither of us had much of an opportunity to watch too much TV as kids (as opposed to these days). So you can imagine our excitement when we discovered that our small town (and Mediacom) supplies free cable in addition to an Internet subscription. Pretty dang neat considering most towns will charge up the wahzoo for a subscription for both (partly why we could never justify having it for ourselves). We did a channel search for local channels at the beginning of football season to shake things up a bit. We do get tired of Netflix and we figured why not watch some of the local stuff. When our TV found seventy-something channels, my boo and I were both skeptically enthused. Maybe the TV found what we couldn’t have?

To our amazement, we indeed had (basic) cable TV channels. The elation was pretty ridiculous for adults in retrospect. Like kids in Disneyland. Like hillbillies that just won the lottery. Maybe we felt that all those years as children without the comfort could be redeemed. No longer did we (mostly I since I was home with a new baby) exceed our monthly data allowance streaming Netflix 10/24 hours a day (on average). But like all children with a shiny, new toy—our excitement over cable TV faded. And fast. It seems that at some point between our pre-teens and early adulthood, cable TV died. Allow me to expand upon my harsh assumption:
What it was at the turn of the century:
MTV (MUSIC Television): music videos (all night and early morning), “Viva La Bam” (yep, I was one of those Bam-crazy hormone-raging girls. Besides, that show was hilarious!), “MTV Unplugged” (arguably the best album compilation of Alice in Chains and Nirvana), “Cribs” (who doesn’t love seeing all that riches can buy? And of celebrities no less?), “Punk’d” (pranks? Yes, please. Plus that guy from That 70’s show? YES!), and “Celebrity Deathmatch” (they were pretty stupid, I know, but funny nonetheless). I’m sure I could add more, especially if want to talk MTV of the 90’s. But of that time I was really only familiar with “Daria” and “Beavis and Butthead” because—GASP—my dad liked those shows.

Discovery Channel: I didn’t watch this channel often, but what I remember of it was pretty much today’s equivalent of “Planet Earth” with some “Modern Marvels” in there. Both of those shows are intriguing in their own right. I imagine that of any channel, Discovery covered the vast universe of stardust, carbon elements and the like.

Animal Planet: Nature/animal documentaries! Yes, PLEASE! I also liked the “Animal Cops” shows and other renditions of that kind of thing.

Cartoon Network: “Looney Tunes” for days (or hours). I honestly miss watching Sunday morning ‘toons. It’s kind of a right of passage as a child to enjoy this one thing in common with parents. My folks didn’t mind sitting through cartoons to appease me. Now that I am a parent, I can imagine it came as a relief to have “Looney Tunes” to bond over. I also enjoyed “Powerpuff Girls”, “Dexter’s Laboratory”, “Courage the Cowardly Dog”, etc. etc.

Nickelodeon: “Hey, Arnold!” (what kid didn’t want Arnold’s badass bedroom?? Or his senile, but funny grandpa?), “Rugrats” (so amusing now to look back on the subliminal humor in there), “RocketPower” (I wasn’t big on this show, but I did like the alternative activities of surfing and skateboarding), and of course “Spongebob Squarepants” makes my list. I don’t know many people that hate Spongebob but I would assume that those people and I wouldn’t get along. Nickelodeon used to have a killer evening run of programs too; I have to mention Nick at Nite. I remember not being able to sleep and catching some “Goosebumps” and/or “Are you Afraid of the Dark?” There were too many nights I couldn’t sleep and Nick at Nite would do me a solid and just keep me up all night. All or nothing!

Disney Channel: I didn’t watch Disney much (I thought it too juvenile), but when I did it was “Roley Poley Oley” (very juvenile but so, so cute), “Lizzie McGuire”, and “Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century”. I can still remember the lyrics to every Zenon song.. “Zoom, zoom, zoom. You make my heart go boom, boom, my supernova girl”. Can’t go wrong with Disney original movies, either—I just feel like I saw them on ABC Family more than Disney.

ABC Family: I vaguely remember watching “Wonder Years” and I to this day love, love, love that show. I love shows that are “American-family-nostalgic” so also have to mention “That 70’s Show”. If I was stranded on an island and only got to pick one TV series to take with me to watch for the rest of my life, it would be “That 70’s Show”. I did watch some “7th Heaven” here and there but the older I got, the more I hated how conservative it was. “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” I hear was really good but I think I was too young to really appreciate it.

Comedy Central: I haven’t noticed much to have changed here. Thankfully. What’s new is pretty good. Except “Brickleberry”—that show is awful.

Vh1: I don’t even know what the network name means, but I used to correlate it with music. I remember watching “Behind the Music” or “Best of the 90’s” and shows like that. Which I could watch exclusively for days.
What it is now:
CRAP! Junk! What is going on with society these days? Do the programs aired on TV really sell? People watch this shit?  Allow me to elaborate. Please. I can tell a lot by the world I live in based on what is broadcasted into my home.

MTV: How the hell can you even keep that channel name? You are not about music at all! Far from it, in fact. Does playing some current pop music in the background of stupid reality shows justify calling yourself MUSIC TELEVISION? I think things really took a turn for the worse after you goofed up your collaboration with the halftime show at the Superbowl in 2004. Did nipplegate cost you so much money that you sold out for shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Real World IIXL”, etc.? It sure seems so. What’s going on with your program schedule these days? Did you give up on variation? Airing the same show ALL DAY? This ain’t Netflix, and it’s funny you’d even try with your sad attempts to throw in some fantasy shows with half-naked dudes. I hate you, new MTV. You are what’s wrong with people my age and younger these days. I will say that I sometimes watch that show “Teen Mom”. Half of the time, because I feel bad for/am inspired by them; the other half of the time, it makes me feel better about my life and decisions. Furthermore, I would prefer seeing shows like “Teen Mom” on stations like TLC or WE (stations that make sense)—not MTV!! You had so much potential, but you threw it all away.

Discovery channel: Why has reality TV become your go-to? Is the world not vast enough for you that you have to base your shows on staged drama at odd jobs? When I flip through channels, I usually catch something like “American Choppers” on and it’s annoying. I’d like it if you took this whole “big world to discover” thing and made something of it. You, too, had so much potential, but you put it into the manly versions of “Keeping up with the Kardashians”.

Animal Planet: Ugh. “Pitbulls and Parolees” is OK. I like the idea of it but don’t like how it focuses more on the owner, her volatile family, and the parolees. It’s ANIMAL planet. I care about the animals. If I wanted to hear sob stories about criminals trying to make it back into society, I wouldn’t come here. I’d look elsewhere like TruTV or those evening programs on the news stations that cover criminal cases. Tanked is pretty anti-animal, too. It’s as much about animals as “Duck Dynasty” is—zero. Those shows are about a business making boogoo bucks on a product that animal owners might find interesting. I would love to see more of those “Mutual of Omaha” documentary-like shows. You know, stuff about animals. Or, hey, here’s an idea: do features on vulnerable, endangered, or extinct species. Make the world a better place and jump off the reality TV bandwagon. Play more “Planet Earth” in the meantime.

Cartoon Network: Thank you for Adult Swim. It is it’s very existence that my daughter is alive today (probably); our relationship goals evolved around your late night TV shows. Good job keeping that up. As for the daytime kid shows, “We Bare Bears” is pretty good and I can sometimes find some “Looney Tunes” on there, very seldom. But what happened to “The Misadventures of Flapjack”? That show was hilarious and adult-friendly! I can only hope “Looney Tunes” can hold on for a while longer because these newer shows are really hard to get into. You are in my future family goals, Cartoon Network, I’m counting on you.

Nickelodeon: Seriously, only watch Spongebob on there. Everything else is so new. Like Disney, you’ve got these pre-teen targeted shows that are painfully unrealistic for the rest of the world. But, like Disney, that doesn’t stop you from airing luxurious lives of pre-teens (“iCarly”, “Sam and Kat”—seriously, where are their parents?) to give them something to dream/feel bad about. My memories of the early years will never fade, however, and every time I flip to your channel hoping to ease my nostalgia, I’m sorely disappointed.

Disney: Ew. What’s gotten into you? There for a while you were all about the pre-teen girl dream shows like Nikelodeon was (“Wizards of Waverly Place”, “Hannah Montana”). Now, it appears that your channel has the same target as Disney Jr. does. Which is great for parents in retrospect, I guess. I do like when you play the Disney features, though; more of that, less of the “Girl Meets World” crap. That was a terrible attempt of continuing on with a legacy. Lay off the timeless shows like “Boy Meets World”. Thanks in advance.

ABC Family: A slow degradation here. I’ve never gotten into those hits like “Pretty Little Liars” but I’m happy to see family movies on there still. I think I saw “Pretty Woman” on there one time and I think that was a little much for a station who prides itself with being “family-friendly”. I used to see a lot of “Boy Meets World” on there but that was in the early hours at work when I’d catch that. I hear you are changing your channel name to something else. I admire your embracing that your network target is changing. I wish others would take your lead and just get on with things.

Vh1: Like MTV, nothing you do is about music anymore. It would appear that “Flava of Love” and stupid celebrity reality shows like that are your forte. I can’t imagine that a network such as yours would’ve envisioned the direction you’ve taken. Does the now line up with your foundational values? How is it so easy to void network values and focus? I think I have an idea—money. Sell-outs–just like MTV.
In essence, a majority of what I see on TV these days are reality TV shows—the gross, risqué, fake kind. It’s a sad, sad world when you consider stations air what viewers want to see. There is nothing to be gained educationally from these kinds of shows. The only thing I can think of that is appealing about them is the same kind of thing happening with the pre-teen targeted shows on the kids’ channels: the dream life. Is society really that hung up on living these glamorous, drama-filled, money-mongering lives? I get the feeling that people enjoy being lied to, why else would these phony shows be getting more and more elaborately produced each season? These shows coupled with commercials are a great deterrent for over-watching, however. So, in a roundabout way, cable TV is having the opposite affect on me. It’ll take me outdoors more than it’s sole purpose has intended, so there’s always that. Basically, if I ever need an excuse to go outside (I don’t think I will, but if I do) I’ll just turn on cable TV and inevitably finding nothing good on–better go seek my entertainment in the real world. For those days I have to stay inside, for various reasons, I’ll opt for Netflix.


Author: Caitlyn

Artsy, crafty, history-conscious, earth-friendly, new mama.

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