Cable television

Cable TV was perfect and we ruined it

have you seen the movie The core? It’s not very good. Bad, even. For those who haven’t had the fun (spoiler alerts ahead), Aaron Eckhart plays a scientist of a certain type – I’m not looking for him – who comes across the realization that planet Earth’s molten core has ceased to turn. This is very bad news. So he and a team of government-enlisted super scientists, mostly played by actors from That Guy, have to climb into a planet-penetrating vehicle, break through layers of the earth’s crust, down to this dead molten core, and kick it back in like the battery of a dead Nissan Stanza. Nuclear bombs are involved. If they fail, humanity itself will be eradicated from existence. Stanley Tucci – a That Guy’s That Guy if ever there was one – channels Carl Sagan, sporting a stunning black turtleneck, all cynical bon mots and a rolling-eye smarm, a cigarette perpetually lit and dangerously hanging from his lower lip .

Reductive, silly, requiring massive, near-constant suspensions of disbelief in order to keep The coreThe hackneyed plot moves forward. I love him so much. It’s the perfect movie for spending a lazy Saturday afternoon, nestled deep in the folds of a plush couch with a comically large hatpin shoved squarely into your brain, perfectly free of critical thought.

The thing is, I would never consciously Choose to look at The core. Except for a few Delroy Lindo stans, no one would. Nobody logs on to Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime or HBO Go or Roku or Fubo or YouTube Premium or CBS All Access or (now) Disney+ and actively thinks, “yes, among the myriad of ever-expanding viewing choices, give -me this, please.” The only reason you would watch The core is if it was forced upon you, or something you stumbled upon among all the other equally lukewarm options available on the basic cable. But that lack of choice is why watching The core makes me happy. Because I miss that lack of choice. Oh lord, I miss it so much.

Pay-per-view programming was meant to be liberating, or at least allow consumers to make better, smarter, and more culturally enriching choices. If you have the money, the story is gone, we promise better world is possible

For me it is too much. Much, much too much. I only subscribe to a few services from the list above and I can barely cope. Like a Damocles sword perpetually hanging above my head, every time I turn on the TV, I am consumed by the fear of necessarily missing something else, somewhere, better, more enriching and fulfilling. . All roads lead to failure, so, and with every hour I spend staring at the screen, I become more and more anxious. There is an incredible important show that i should look at that dreck instead! I just know it. Inevitably, I’ll start switching between platforms, endlessly scrolling, cramming as much material into a relatively short amount of time as possible, and going into a frenzied frenzy.

And yet I fail, miserably. I haven’t, to my eternal entertainment-based shame, ever seen Americans. Many righteous fans have told me that artistry and incisive commentary are a given. There is no time. Nothing. No time to watch Flea bag, That is. should i watch Flea bag to make some online jokes about the whole Hot Priest thing? No? Great. Mrs Maisel. Looks wonderful. People wearing wide-brimmed hats, all photographed in various sepia tones. Like Mad Men! Sorry. I never caught a minute of Leftoversor Mister Robot. I swallowed a season and a half Stop and Catch the Fire but then drop out for reasons I can’t remember. Bosch, ozark, Schtitt’s Stream, stranger things. Peaky Blindersa whole host of genre-changing anime series like Archer, Bob’s Burgers, rick and mortyand Bojack Rider – I saw drops and drops, of course, but nothing approaching the fulfillment of completion. I didn’t even manage to finish Twin Peaks: The Return and I love David Lynch.

Look at this monstrosity. (That’s not even a full accounting.) I should be able to reserve the time and space for myself to consume some of those shows, right? Make a sort of breach in the ever-expanding stack similar to the stables of Augeas. But no. Peak TV is forever out of my reach, dancing happily alongside all the real-world job responsibilities and obligations that surely require my attention. Hell, if TV critic Emily Nussbaum can’t stem the flood, how am I, a normal human being, supposed to keep up. Like Lucille Ball and the Chocolate Conveyor Belt (good show!), they keep coming. (And don’t even mention all the damn podcasts.)

What I miss, then, is not being able to choose. Or rather, that my choices have no meaning and do not serve as a sort of cultural signifier. That they could was an implausible notion just two decades ago, when the firm scientific consensus was that too much television will inevitably “rot your brain”. Today, television has evolved into an art form that is both too good and too abundant. If it were just dozens and dozens of Family Ties and MacGyver-type scams, it would be manageable, even on today’s scale.

But when television ceased to be mindless drivel or led directly to chronic mind rot, something was removed, however inadvertently: for me at least, a way to turn off my oh-so-critical brain. , a diversion in the best sense of the word. . Now that it’s an art form, well… looking is a burden. It is an articulation of my aesthetics and my tastes. And, as such, choosing becomes an act of violence that cleaves a whole universe of other, perhaps superior, unchosen paths.

In the wonderfully sleek, pre-streaming world, none of these issues even existed. Instead, you watched something because it was on.

(My parents, in their infinite wisdom, tried unsuccessfully to direct me directly to programming that could help my development as a human being. The Good Shows. Namely: PBS. Spiritual teachings of Mr. Rogers. The gonzo puppet of sesame street and The electricity companyeven sour 70s funk Vegetable soup. And yet I’ve always craved regressive Saturday morning cartoons / thinly veiled sponcon like so many sugary breakfast cereals.)

In the wonderfully sleek, pre-streaming world, none of these issues even existed. Instead, you watched something because it was on. No further justification was needed, and the act of looking rarely extended to the rest of the world. No summaries, no in-depth critical analysis. Certainly not round-the-clock sessions, featuring an entire season online, let alone years of investing in an epic, Dickensian arc before some sense of resolution is achieved. At most, we’ll have to wait, like, a week for the conclusion of a very special two-part episode.

Maybe that makes me nothing more than another ancient who is afraid of a changing world filled with the latest gadgets and who wants nothing more than to snuggle into the warm embrace of the bland and the familiar. , as others have done before me. “Tivo Guilt” was an identifiable enough phenomenon that CNN started a blog about it in the mid/late 2000s. nostalgic for what had been lost in television in infinity joke. Asked what he misses most, doomed bettor Orin Incandenza says he yearns fondly for the simple, simplistic joys provided by network television sitcoms: “With television, you’ve been subjected to repetition. Familiarity was inflicted. Different now.

My solution, then, is to run away screaming like a child. I can’t get rid of my overpriced cable service, not just because Spectrum has an outright monopoly in my neighborhood. On the contrary, in the end, I want less. The core will air again soon enough, and if nothing else, I know how it ends.

Robert Silverman is a freelance journalist living in New York. His work has appeared in The daily beast, The New York Times, ESPN, The Guardian, VICE Sports, dead spin, Squireand more.