Friday, July 18, 2008

Back to the Dark Ages (of TV)

We took the plunge. We cancelled cable. We didn't just switch from digital cable to regular, or from regular to the local-channel-reception-only package. We went cold turkey. The Comcast tech came today to take away our box. I made sure he took the remote too, since I bet they would charge us for it.

The seed for this drastic step was planted by the digital reception converter boxes that we got. Our TVs are old with cathode ray technology. No shiny new flat screen HDTVs for us, at least, not until the price for them plummets. While we had digital cable in our living room, the small TV/VCR (double whammy of obsolete technology) just had an antenna. I had been seeing the ads warning us that we will lose reception in February 2009 if we didn't get one of these boxes, so I signed up for the government-issued $40 coupon. I signed up for two of them, in fact, since we have two televisions. We have lived without cable in the past, it wasn't inconceivable that we would live without it in the future. I wanted the option, anyway.

Turns out that the reception is fabulous and crystal clear. Apparently with digital, you either get it clear and perfect, or you don't get it at all. When we saw how good the reception was, we thought, "Hmmm.... we could cancel cable and save a little money...."

A few weeks later, we had a very real discussion about the fact that my husband comes home from work and gets sucked into every episode of Law & Order and crappy movie that TNT/TBS/FX can put on. It doesn't matter how bad, if they blow crap up, he's there. This seems weird to me, because while I watch a lot of TV, I can't watch just anything, I have to watch things that I really enjoy, a category that does not include Lethal Weapon 3 or SVU. He felt that he should be doing work in the evenings instead, but just couldn't resist the siren call of Sam Waterston and former Senator Fred Thompson. As a good wife, I made the offer that we could get rid of cable, if he really thought this would help him do work at night. Plus, it would save us about $70 a month once our Triple Play deal expired.

We decided to do it. To make up for it, we signed up for Netflix, a decision I am not sure is terrific, given how long it is taking them to ship our initial movies out, plus we are getting TiVo, which was part of the deal I made with myself for passing my oral exams. I am not really sure how great TiVo is going to be with broadcast, but at least now I should be able to watch every single episode of Globe Trekker.

Our TiVo is supposed to arrive today. By UPS. This means that I will need to sign for it. However, since we don't have cable anymore, and our Netflix movies aren't supposed to get here until tomorrow (and I'm not even sure that I'm getting one that I want- I know that discs 1 and 2 of Season 2 of The Wire, another show that I hate but my husband loves, are supposed to arrive, but no word on my copy of The Holiday), I wanted to run to the library to get some DVDs to tide me over.

My local public library is a lot like TJ Maxx in a bad neighborhood. You walk in and it's dirty and unorganized with sketchy people in there (seriously- my library has homeless people looking at bikini pictures on the internet), and at on any one given visit, you can't find anything you want. However, when you start stopping in all the time, you find treasures. Masterpiece Theatre DVDs! That new non-fiction book you've been wanting to read! An audiobook of Terry Pratchett's YA novel The Wee Free Men!

Unfortunately, Friday is usually not the best day to find treasures, as everything tends to be picked over. However, I was desperate. I have one episode of the first season of Big Love left (and my liking for this show has gone downhill over the 11 episodes that I've seen so far), and beyond that, nada. And I was worried I would miss the delivery of our TiVo. I tried to make my library trip as brief as possible, and ended up with Masterpiece Theatre's Adam Bede (someone at the library must have ordered the George Eliot boxed DVD set because they have all these DVDs), the sequel to Before Sunrise called Before Sunset, and Supersize Me. Not my top selections, but they will do.

Meanwhile, at the library, I am shaking with fear that the TiVo is going to arrive while I am gone, and then we're not going to get it until Monday, because UPS doesn't deliver on Saturday. I quickly do my cursory browse of the new non-fiction, cookbooks, and craft books, pay my fine (because I always have fines on my account), and hightail it out of there in the hopes of catching Big Brown, should he happen to come by.

There's no yellow/brown post-it on the door of our apartment building. Phew! It ended up being anticlimactic, though, because the UPS guy didn't even need buzzing in. He just left the package, which was half my size, downstairs by the mailboxes.

So for this weekend, it's George Eliot, PBS, fast food, and me.


Amy said...

Good for you both! We did the same thing earlier this year. Our story was very similar - my husband requested a converter box coupon just to try it out and we surprised that the picture quality was actually better than cable.

We use Netflix also and are currently experiencing a two day turnaround time for most movies and just bought a $99 Roku box which lets us watch some Netflix shows on our TV (we use it as an on-demand substitute).

Also wanted to let you know about, which has a lot of good shows (current and classic ones) for free.

We're blogging about our experience at and my husband just wrote a free tool to help us locate our favorite shows (even most cable ones) on the Internet and Netflix/Itunes.

Queen Bee said...

I love I am working my way through Arrested Development on there. It's also great for catching Daily Show/Colbert on the day after, should I so desire.

I really think that the only show that I will miss that I can't get either on the internet or iTunes is Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. I am going to sign up for a season pass when the second season of Mad Men starts next week, and that is so much cheaper than even a month of cable.

My sister got a Roku right when it came out. She isn't totally pleased with it; she said the picture quality was good at first, but is now really crappy.

amy said...

We also use Hulu to watch Colbert and have been using Netflix Instant Watch/Roku to watch Weeds and 30 Rock.

So far, our experience with Roku has been very good, with picture quality better than VHS and near DVD. I think the quality has a lot to do with the signal reception. If your sister is using wireless, she might want to try moving her access point or using a Ethernet cable instead of wireless.

Also, thanks for stopping by our site and sharing your experience with your new Tivo HD.