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Cable Hopping

by Paul Rapp on September 18, 2013

 

This is the 200th Rapp On This. Damn. It seems like just yesterday that I marked No. 100. Strangely, though, it seems like eons ago that Steve called and asked if I’d consider writing a column about, in his words, “what you do.” To which I replied (and Steve will back me up on this), “Steve, I’m not sure Metroland readers would be all that interested in tales of binge drinking and masturbating like a monkey.” But, alas, apparently you are. My people!
The schedule for the 13th Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit is filling up nicely. It’s the best, most useful, informative, forward-looking music conference on the planet, and it’s cheap. If you’re a working musician or in the biz for real or even just interested in where it’s going, you should try to get down there. It’s a blast. Oct. 28-29, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., futureofmusic.org. I’ll be giving a musicians’ legal toolkit workshop midday Monday.
Moving on. A close friend recently announced with some fanfare that he was “cutting the cord,” which in modern parlance means ditching his cable TV service. I found this quite amusing since he’s had cable only for a little over a year! For most of the 12 years I’ve know him, whenever I’ve mentioned something I saw on TV he’d say, “We don’t have TV in our house.” We all know people like this. They don’t have to spike the statement with tones of hubris and superiority because it’s implied in the words: We don’t need TV. And, of course, being on the receiving end of the statement invokes certain feelings of shame and remorse: “Geez, instead of watching TV I could be reading a good book, having a meaningful conversation, practicing a timeless craft,” and so on.
But still, his announcement hit me because I’ve just almost decided to do the same thing. And I’m no newbie, no latter-day Luddite; I’ve had cable from the git. Remember the dark brown plastic box with the light brown buttons and the long brown cord to the TV? How someone would always trip over the cord, pull the box off the “coffee table” (typically a wooden cable spool rescued from the side of the road) and knock over the bong, sending bong water everywhere? Right?
Cable’s always been part of the household. And, for a long time, for good reason. Before the Internet, it was the portal to the greater world. Obviously, that’s no longer the case. But there was also stuff to watch. At the risk of sounding like our parents, that’s not the case anymore.
I don’t actually have cable; I have DIRECTV, but it’s the same deal. There’s like 1,000 channels. I watch maybe three. I’ll watch Stewart and Colbert and TCM when there’s a good movie, which is usually. I love TCM. A couple of weeks ago they had a Martin Balsam film festival. Yes! Martin Fucking Balsam. And I watch Buffalo Bills games (if you’re a Buffalonian you understand), and the occasional Big Sports Event.
But that’s about it. My last serious series addiction was Entourage, which I got into because it followed The Sopranos. I’ve enjoyed the couple of episodes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad I’ve seen, but not so much that I wanna plan my life around them. Maybe I’ll watch past seasons on DVD next time I have the flu.
Channel surfing is dead. Why? Because the Big Media assholes have driven general cable programming into the rathole. I need a shower after just perusing what’s on. Tonight’s servings on DIRECTV? Channels 1-50: game shows, lame network series, WWE; Channels 50-100: infomericials (Don’t Let Your Neck Reveal Your Age! Hip-Hop Abs!); Channels 100-200: pay-per-view, in which I’m supposed to pay more to watch premium content. Uh, no. Channels 200-300: more infomercials, sports, more sports, and some news and old cable standard channels that used to be good.
Old standard cable channels: Bravo, A&E, Discovery, MTV, VH-1, etc. Sigh. Bravo, initially dedicated to “film and the performing arts.” Now? Real Housewives. A&E: originally documentaries and biographies. Now? Duck Dynasty, Storage Wars, and reruns of shitty crime dramas. Court TV, which showed actual court trials with in-depth legal analysis. Now? It’s TruTV, with shows like Top 20 Most Shocking . . ., Top 20 Funniest . . ., World’s Dumbest . . . . And then, of course, we all know what’s happened to MTV and VH-1.
It’s utterly gruesome. But still. It’s addicting. It’s hard to quit. I just broke a rib and thought I’d keep it to watch while I healed, then realized that no amount of pain medication would make that crap watchable.
The Bills, however, are looking damn fine! But they’ve done this to me before. In fact, they do it every year. On the off chance they’re still hot come December, well, there’s sports bars. Then the other night I watched Al Jazeera news. OMG. Unhurried, intelligent news reporting. No screen crawls, no soundtrack, no fifth-grade comprehension level, no pretend attitude, pretty boys or bimbos. It’s brilliant. It’s by far the best news programming on TV.
But I can watch it online. Buh-bye.

 

Paul Rapp is a Berkshire IP attorney, lifestyle maven, and woodsman who at the moment only hurts when he laughs.