Last year, I did the unthinkable.
OK, let me rephrase. I did the unthinkable for a television scholar. Last year, I called my cable company and told them we were through. The customer service representative did her best to talk me out of it. She told me I could add phone service to my plan. She even offered me HBO! But I held fast. I dumped Time Warner before Sir Patrick Stewart made it cool to rant against them. And aside from missing AMC, I have very few regrets. If anything, cutting that cord may be one of the smartest things I’ve done this past year. Cutting that cord changed television for me. It made it interesting and fun. The thing is that I don’t know if I can even say I watch “television” anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. I watch “something.” I own a television set. I use it every day to watch something. However, the ways in which I watch now are very different from a year ago. For one, I no longer channel surf. I have a Roku streaming player and subscriptions to Hulu + and Netflix. Neither has channels. They have menus, categories, and recommendations. In fact, if I end up watching a channel, it’s only because I also have an indoor antenna for the local news. It’s always on ABC because we’re big fans of their weather guy in my house.
In any case, channel surfing is a thing of the past for me. Instead, I glide through menus. I browse. I add to the queue, and I’ve found myself drifting away from the broadcast network fare I used to love (e.g., Glee), and the cable shows I never quite understood (e.g., It’s Always Funny in Philadelphia) but felt compelled to try because I had FX. Now, I watch things like Battleground, The Yard, Line of Duty, and The Promise. I even tried to watch Dumbland, but I just don’t get David Lynch or fart noises. If you ever try to watch Dumbland, you’ll get plenty of both.
The thing is that I never would have found out about Dumbland at all if I had stayed with my cable company. I’d watch a handful of channels, like I’ve done for decades. By now, my DVR would be programmed to record the premiere of Modern Family, and I’d probably would be pondering whether or not to record Revolution. After all, TV Guide lists it as one of the of the shows to watch this fall.
But then again, TV Guide also included Animal Practice on that list because it’s like House, but with a cranky veterinarian. No thanks! I think I’ll stick with my latest plan. I want to explore the long tail of Hulu+. I haven’t decided how to go about it, though. I already tried random selection. I ended up watching a show about teen mermaids with super powers.
Sigh! I’ll take suggestions next time.
Cyanara Medina is a visiting professor in the department of communication.