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Hundreds of Channels, Still Nothing On

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I cannot lie to you, from where I sit (on the sofa with remote in hand) I tend to have one thought when I watch television – more.  That’s right, more.

I know, I currently have a few hundred channels, but I ask you, is that really enough?  Can a few hundred channels ever truly satiate one’s desire?  Plus, as has been pointed out repeatedly, we all may have a few hundred channels but there’s never anything on.  Seriously, if soap operas and talk shows aren’t your thing, where are you going to go for quality programming at 2:30 on a summer afternoon?

Don’t give me any of your ridiculous answers like “go outside and play” or “try a book.”  I read regularly; currently I’m in the middle of And Another Thing… which will be followed up with Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (and don’t kid yourself, they do).  As for going outside, I do that too and I promise you that one day I will break 100 over the course of 18 holes.  My point, however, is that I believe that in this day and age there should never be a moment when I turn on the television and there isn’t something on that I want to see.

We are, I think, progressing in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. 

The TiVo unquestionably has greatly enriched all our lives – it ensures that you can record the late movie and watch it the next afternoon without having to see the myriad of 976 commercials that interrupt it every eight minutes and it even suggests other shows that you might enjoy (although those suggestions regularly leave something to be desired).  Beyond that, as I discussed a few months ago, the TiVo has become an excellent device for streaming other media – it integrates beautifully with Amazon on Demand and Netflix. 

While that does make things better, there is one rather large fly in the ointment with the Amazon and Netflix offerings – I have to pay for them.  I already spend more than I care to think about on cable, why should I pay more for these other streaming services?  Where does my $100 a month go with the cable (or satellite, or FIOS, or…) company?  To a whole bunch of channels that I will never, ever use. 

Cable does offer a lot of on demand stuff, but much of it I would – again – have to pay for.  The (and I’m using a ballpark figure here) $100 per month a pay to cable gets me… the ability to spend more so that I can watch what I want when I want.  Yes, cable does have some free on demand, and if cable and TiVo could make it so that said on demand was usable on an HD TiVo that would be pretty swell, but currently it doesn’t work and I’m not sure it ever will.

But, before I stray too far, back to those hundreds of channels I don’t, and never will, watch.  I am in no way arguing for an a la carte cable system here, one that could potentially save me more than enough to offset the cost of Netflix and Amazon on Demand (although Amazon does need to work out an unlimited rental policy).  The question of a la carte pricing is for wiser minds than mine to answer.  Compelling cases have been put forward on both sides of the argument and I don’t know where I come down. 

What I’m saying is that if I can get seven different 24 news channels why can’t I get one 24 hour best of the ’90s sitcoms channel (no, that’s not what TV Land is)?  If I get more than a half-dozen home shopping channels why don’t I get one that does nothing but show old episodes of Doctor Who (the show was on for decades, I think it could be done).

Those may not be the best of examples ever, but I find myself continually amazed that I can have so many offerings, love television so much, and still have nothing to watch.

So let me throw it out there, what channel would you like to see?

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Lisa McKay

    In my house, we would actually love to see some kind of a la carte cable menu that would consist of some basic cable package, and as many “special interest” packages as the consumer wishes to pay for. For us that would mean a basic package plus a package of all the movie channels — IFC, Sundance, TCM, etc. — and no sports. It would be heaven, and there would always be something on I wanted to watch, which isn’t currently the case.

  • Luigi Bastardo

    I’ve been saying that for years, Lisa. It’s one of the reasons I don’t subscribe to any sort of cable or satellite TV crap.

    Your article is well stated, Herr Lasser. Personally, if I had my druthers, I’d like to see a series of networks devoted entirely to Italian-made productions: Gialli, Italio-Horror, Spaghetti Westerns, Sci-Fi Rip-Offs, etc. But then, I still probably wouldn’t pay $100+ a month.

  • Music Mook

    Great article and very true and one of the reasons wifey and I don’t have cable either. I recently stopped over my parents’ house for a visit. No one was home so I flipped through about 200 channels of schlock and the best thing on was the Papouli episode of Full House. Not that I don’t like a little Full House now and again but when THAT is the best thing on something is wrong…

  • dj scribbles

    very true!! channels these days are just too repetetive – we honestly dont need 15 sports channels!