Essays on Technology and Culture

I’m That Guy Who Doesn’t Have a TV

I don’t own a television, but I try not to be one of those jerks who’s self-righteous about how he doesn’t own a television. Considering the amount of time I spend passively consuming streams, both social and pirate, I’m not about to maintain any pretensions about how not owning a television makes me better than anyone. The time most people spend watching TV is just filled up with other activities, that’s all. Name any major TV show of the last decade or two: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Wire, The Walking Dead… something else? Odds are, I haven’t seen it.

Growing up, I watched plenty of TV. I was raised on Star Trek: The Next Generation, PBS cooking shows, and various cartoons. Though once I got an Internet connection at home in the late 90s, my TV watching time was doomed. Even then, I made it a point to catch The Simpsons on Sunday nights, and MST3k whenever the Sci-Fi Channel—before it was “Syfy”—could be bothered to show it. I went off to college without a TV in tow, but I did get a TV tuner card for my desktop—so I could hook up my Super Nintendo without needing any extra displays in my tiny dorm room.

Working evenings, with my part-time telemarketing job for the Walnut Street Theatre while in school put the final nail in my TV watching coffin. Sure, we had a TV in my dorm, and later in my shared house, but I was rarely around to watch it. When I moved out to West Philadelphia on my own, I didn’t take a TV. I didn’t even sign up for Netflix—it wasn’t how I learned to spend my leisure hours. Even now, years later, my girlfriend and I still don’t own a TV. It’s just not what we do. If I feel like being mindless for 22 minutes at a stretch, I’ll pull up a classic episode of The Simpsons from [REDACTED] and laugh my fool head off.

And so, I feel somewhat disconnected from talk that flies around my Twitter circles, largely tech-related, about TV shows, new and old. I’ve never seen anything touched by the hand of Joss Whedon, be it Buffy, or Firefly. I don’t really desire to, either, not out of dislike, but sheer apathy. Why bother? It’s officially too much of a timesink that I can’t even be bothered to keep up with recent shows I do care about. I stopped watching the final season of Boardwalk Empire, and I’m far enough behind on Doctor Who that they’ll be on to the 15th Doctor by the time I finish Peter Capaldi’s first season.

I’m sure people who follow me are just as confused when I drop the name of some band or artist whose album or show I’m eagerly anticipating. It’s just surprising after it being a minor-to-non-existent part of my life, just how important TV watching is to people I know and follow. I guess it shouldn’t be, though. I also find myself wondering just what I’ve been missing, but there’s only so many hours in the day. I can’t see where I’d squeeze in the time to keep up with TV, let along all the ancillary recaps, podcasts, and meta-discussion surrounding it. Better to just stick with leaving the metaphorical cable cut. Besides, that’s $9.99 a month I can blow on an album by someone you’ve never heard of instead.