I would not have gotten through my parents’ divorce (which essentially extended from 1990 to 1993, with all of the attempted reconciliation, etc.) without cable. Babysitters’ Club books were another big factor, but let’s be honest. Reading quietly doesn’t drown out screaming and crying like MTV does. Or did. Nowadays all MTV contains is screaming and crying, but that’s another story.
Much of my pop culture obsessions stem from this time, where we moved around a lot, trying to find a place we could settle as a family and be happy – be that idealized four person unit, just like in so many fictional stories (the one that sticks out to me the most is the Berenstein Bears). But it wasn’t to be found. My mother saved our lives by eventually leaving my father, more in an emotional and even financial sense than a physical harm one, but the point being that MTV and Nickelodeon got me through it all.
When I was 4th grade, after parent marriage reboot v.3.2, we moved into an apartment that didn’t have cable yet. And I was distraught. I had to watch SNICK, the much touted Nickelodeon line-up. My parents agreed, and hauled us off to my grandparents house every Saturday night for my appointment television. And to be honest, looking back, Clarissa Explains It All (and later appearances of The Adventures of Pete & Pete) were totally worth it.
Which is why, of all the stupid things I could worry about in the future in regards to having kids, I worry about them not having television that stimulates them. Because for its imperative role in my development as a kid, I don’t think I could ever go back to having cable at this point.
Yeah. I broke up with cable after a long relationship. And not to be flippant about my parents’ divorce, but some of the aspects of my break-up with cable echo their break-up, as well.
The first round of separation came in 2006. After two years of living with a roommate with a DVR and every station imaginable at the moment (and so many class projects completed with a background of an America’s Next Top Model marathon on Vh1), I was about to go cable free that fall. And it worked out beautifully. I was house-sitting for a semester. I was working like a dog, as well as going to school full time, and writing my undergrad thesis. Said thesis required a good deal of research on Sonic Youth, who had been one of Clarissa’s favorite bands. Coincidence? Your guess.
Cable free Round One was fine. I was very busy, and living alone, and I’d also bought my first season of Gilmore Girls on DVD. (Season 4 was by far the weakest, but we’ll get to more about that later.)
That spring, I moved back in with dear ol’ mum and was interning. And cable was back in the equation. However, I was able to moderate my useage. I still watched a good deal of Gilmore Girls on DVD, and was beyond hooked on Vh1’s Charm School.
When I moved away from home and all I’d known, there was more cable, though again, it was mostly movies and lots of Vh1. However, to this day I’ve still not watched an acclaimed Rock Doc about 1977 in New York City, dubbed “The Coolest Year in Hell.”
Then there came a different massive break-up (this time, in one fell swoop, and including quoting LOTR) and a shake up in my finances. I let cable go, and was fine. Again, I was living alone, and at that time there was a huge living room and a record player and lots of dancing to Adam Ant to be had. It was during that spring of 2008 I also learned how to cook.
I had one more bout with cable in the fall of 2008 when I had moved yet again, but at that point I was just getting depressed. Too many evenings watching too long blocks of Rock of Love made it easy to break-up with permanently. The bills piled up too high, and it was time to say goodbye.
Besides, a Season 1 DVD set of 30 Rock gave me much, much more pleasure than a month worth of cable, anyway. So much that I’ve bought every other season as well – at least, after I got every season of Gilmore Girls. For awhile it was really easy to buy me Christmas presents.
I guess it’s just a shift in the paradigm. I’m sure there’s still worthwhile programming on cable that I’m missing, but especially with the no more free network TV deal, I am perfectly fine rebelling from having any TV service at all. T-storm is a longtime video game addict, and so with his Xbox Live membership we also get the streaming Netflix.
Any TV show you might even want, no commercials, most seasons available. Although having a lack of Dexter past season 2 on the instant queue really messed me up, and forced me to read spoilers while we waited on discs to come in the mail. It also forces you to heavily put on the brakes when you hit a slow point in watching a show, as it did for T-storm during Battlestar Galactica at the point where Starbuck starts to have PTSD and go nuts.
Maybe he’ll have hit that point with Breaking Bad and the episode about the fly in the lab.
Either way. Thus, my break-up with cable extended from 2006 to 2009, and I cannot imagine going back. No one ever plans on it, but having analyzed my parents’ break-up, the conditions that caused it, and having put my husband through the emotional ringer already, I cannot imagine a time where any future children would need a 4 hour block of music television to get through us breaking up.
At the same time, sad as it may seem, many of my good childhood memories are associated with books & TV, so who would I be to rob my kids of that?
The plan is to wait quite a few years before we test that theory. For the moment, we’ll be happy with watching selected Twilight Zone episodes during dinner (watching them all in sequence hasn’t been as successful), and continuing to plow our way through How I Met Your Mother, which has enough slapping and Canadian dick jokes to keep us in stitches for another few months.