Until this year, my husband and I had never paid for television. We relied on over-the-air transmissions and rabbit ears, and thus were limited to about ten local channels: the big three traditional networks, Fox, the two syndicated networks (the WB and whatever the other one is called), three PBS stations (one of them came in really fuzzy), and a Spanish language channel. I saw no point in paying for TV (no one ever starved without it), and my kids watched too much TV anyway. Whenever Jeopardy had a cable TV category, I always missed every question.
Then the digital transition loomed, so we bought a new digital flatscreen TV (to be sure at least one TV worked), and we got two converter boxes. But we weren't entirely happy with our Interenet service, and when we found out the price of the FiOS bundle (TV, phone, long distance, and boradband) we signed up to get it. After all, both kids were out of the house (except for summers), so there was no question of anyone neglecting their homework for TV. I'm really glad we did because our local stations not only changed their frequencies, they changed their signal strength. We get about 12 channels now on our over-the-air TV, but don't get two of the three big networks.
Mind you, we didn't get any premium channels, or a DVR, just "basic cable." With FiOS (Fiber Optic Subscribers) that's still hundreds of channels, although some of them are HD duplicates. Anyway, I can now report the following things I have learned:
1. There is not really that much original sci-fi on SyFy. Except for the Stargate stuff, I don't watch it nearly as much as I expected to. BBC America has the good Dr. Who episodes.
2. Channel proliferation is endemic. There is not a History Channel and a Food Channel, there is a Military History Channel and a World War II History Channel and so on. There are countless cooking shows spread over several channels. Even the Military Channel has its own cooking show (The Grill Sergeant).
3. Alton Brown is awesome! He has said he was aiming for a combination of Mr. Wizard, Julia Child, and Monty Python, and he hit a bullseye. I will probably never cook anything based on his recipes but he is fun to watch.
4. Reality TV is about as real as my spec fic novels and as genuine as my hair color.
5. We actually still watch a lot of network TV, PBS, and some Fox (not Fox News, mind you. Bleagh!).
6. I swear there are some shows that seem to be on all the time, on one channel or another; Bones and NCIS seem to run in an endless loop.
7. Jon Stewart and the Daily Show do indeed cover the news. If he writes his own stuff, the man is a genius.
8. Some movie channels have brought back my childhood. I you change to that channel in the middle of a movie, keep watching. There's a good chance they'll just play it again right away, just like theaters used to do when I was a kid.
9. The picture quality with an HD TV and a FiOS connection is amazing— not especially flattering to network newscasters and other folks who have a lot of closeups, but amazing nonetheless.
10. With FiOS, it takes a heck of a lot longer to figure out that there is nothing on that I want to watch.
How about you? Has TV taught you anything?