books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Should Writers Kill Our Televisions?

I figure this is an appropriate post for the #1 TV-watching day in the U.S. Enjoy the chicken wings, football fans!

But first, congratulations are in order. In Nathan Bransford’s Most Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Contest last week, 2 of the 17 winners (out of more than 1500) are regular followers of this blog!

Congratulations, Ann and Ben. Maybe some of that good writing mojo will rub off on the rest of us.

Memoirist Ann Best got an hon. mention for her wonderfully evocative piece, and Beniot LeLièvre placed among the six finalists with a powerful opening that contained the line—

“It’s local custom to shell up in a living room and anesthetize your dread of the coming week with a massive dose of televised entertainment.”

It gave me chills—not only the great writing, but the timeliness of the message. I realized I’ve been doing just that—anesthetizing my dread. I watch about three hours of TV a night—sometimes more, as I zone out and numb my brain to all my lurking fears.

Strangely, I’d often rather read a book, but I feel a bizarre obligation to watch—as if regularly going comatose in front of a cathode ray tube is a requirement for membership in modern civilization.

I guess this is because I belong to the first generation to grow up with TV. Everything that made Boomers who we are came from television—from the chirpy mind control of the Mickey Mouse Club, to the first-ever televised horrors of war, to the astro-turfing of the Tea Party.

Boomers’ psyches were formed in a time when TV dominated American lives. Everybody we knew watched the same shows. Missing an Ed Sullivan show on Sunday night meant you couldn’t join in the conversation on Monday morning. The average Boomer has spent two years of life just watching TV commercials.

And even though I lived for long periods far from television—a decade or so traveling the world as a hippie vagabond, and more in the theater as an entertainment provider rather than consumer—I came back to it every time.

TV-watching is my default mode.

But I’m about to put an end to that. I’m having a birthday in a couple of weeks and my gift to myself is—NO TV. My Direct TV service ends on February 22.

OK, I’ve gotta admit this is partly out of financial necessity. Direct TV has tripled its fees in the last month and my health insurance has gone up twice in the past six. It’s easier to do without TV reception than a house, which I would lose if I got sick with no insurance.

But I’m embracing the change as positive because I’ve been feeling for a long time that TV is standing in the way of my success as a writer. It’s wasting my ever-dwindling time—time I could spend writing and (just as important) reading.

And there’s what Ben LeLièvre said: television anesthetizes us. I’ve read it reduces your metabolism to a lower level than sleep.

Writers need to be fully alive. We need to be paying attention. We can’t do that if we’re hypnotized drones offering up our free will to corporate advertisers.

We also need to get our plots and characters from our own original observations of life—not old TV scripts.

Plus, when your head is stuffed with teleplays, your fiction suffers. As editor Victoria Mixon said in her great post, 6 Ways to Shoot Yourself in the Foot : "Far, far too many aspiring writers these days are trying to write fiction the way they see storytelling done in television and in movies. But fiction isn’t screenplay. The page isn’t film. They’re not the same medium.”

They say if you want to be a success at something, act like a successful person. If you ask most successful writers how they do it—writing a couple of novels a year, doing the publicity, marketing, reviewing, and social networking—plus staying connected with family and friends, they almost all start by saying:

“I don’t watch a lot of television.”

The television age is fading. It’s becoming a medium for people who have given up on their own lives in favor of watching Snooki’s.

“Nobody watches TV but old people,” my twenty-something nephews told me recently. They won’t watch one even if it’s on in the same room. They’ll boot up their laptops or grab a book—as if they could catch geezeritis just from glancing at the screen.

Statistics say they’re right about the TV demographic. According to an article in Gawker last August, Television has become seriously engeezerated in the last ten years: The average age of a TV watcher is now 55. The most decrepit watch Fox News, and the merely middle-aged watch the other Fox—the one with the Simpsons. And the Superbowl.

(I wonder why network executives don’t notice this and give older actors and un-botoxed newspeople work—instead of doing pathetic stuff like hiring unfunny hotties du jour like James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host the Oscars. Execs—go ask Grandpa if he’s ever heard of Franco or Hathaway—I dare you.)

I’m not saying giving up TV will keep my brain cells from aging, but my looming birthday reminds me I have a limited amount of time on this planet—and I think I’ve already offered up enough of it to the television gods.

I know I’ll go through a little cold turkey. I’ll miss my ritual of eating dinner with the local newscast (I know—how geezerific is that?) And I won’t be able to watch the much-anticipated second season of Justified, or next summer’s Mad Men, until they come out on Netflix. But I’ve got a library nearby (until CA shuts them all down, anyway) and a pile of unread books and literary magazines waiting for me—not to mention all those BBC radio dramas I can listen to on my laptop. I’ll be fine.

In fact, I think my home entertainment is about to get an upgrade.

So what about you? Anybody still watching the boob tube? Have you given it up recently? Did it affect your writing?

*********

A final note: I belong to a fine organization called the SLO Nightwriters (SLO stands for “San Luis Obispo” and is not intended as a description of our mental functioning.) Every year we hold a 500-word flash-fiction contest, and recently there’s been a poetry category as well. This year’s theme is “illumination.” There are cash prizes. Info is at the Nightwriters Website.

51 comments:

  1. Great post, Anne. As you know, I very publicly threw away my TV a few months ago. It broke at only 1 year old, and I was all prepared to pay $250 to get it fixed...until I found out it would cost $70 to ship it to the manfacturer to be fixed...and that it cost $58 a month to get programming on it...and that I really didn't want it. I still watch the Daily Show on their website, and use my computer as a DVD monitor for Netflix films. And that's enough in the entertainment department.

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  2. Shaun Hutchinson posted awhile back that he used to admire TV families on television and all the time they had to do the things they wanted (perfect fictional worlds). Then he realized one important clue, you never see televisions around or the actors/actresses of your favorite programs watching TV.

    I rarely watch television myself. However, since I can't listen/hear actual conversations, I find it wonderful research to read the close captioning on TV for dialog purposes. (Hugs)Indigo

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  3. Brilliant post and so appropriate. I've spent this weekend watching a box set, I could have been writing/reading/learning a language or something else more productive.

    You really notice TVs impact on life when we lose electricity (which sometimes happens where my family lives) and you end up telling stories, playing cards or boardgames by candle light.

    I think I might join you and start limiting my tv/dvd sessions. Like your nephews I don't watch much tv but I do watch tv programmes via dvds or internet and its almost worse as its up to you if you want to continue to watch for another episode (and then find a couple of hours have gone by in the mean time).

    I'm going to check out your competition now too :)

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  4. The only TV I ever really watch(ed) -- ie actually put down a book or magazine and paid attention -- was The Sopranos and Mad Men. I've never seen American Idol or Glee or Jersey Shore or any Housewives from Anywhere. But -- and it's a big but -- I'm a breaking news junkie and a sports slut & keep the TV on mute in order to de-mute when something new or interesting happens. I doubt I'll totally get rid of FIOS, at least in the foreseeable future, altho their software sucks & TV just gets more and more unwatchable (even on mute). Why are the sets so ugly? What are the clothes so awful and the colors so garish? Why do the commercials get louder and louder & the products they want to sell more and more awful?

    Interesting post today from Ken Levine on writers, bookstores, e-books, the book biz & TV:
    "Sorry to see the Mystery Bookstore close in Westwood. E-books are killing the bookstore industry. Now I feel even more guilty that I have an e-book of my own coming out in the next few weeks.

    They held a last hurrah reception at the Mystery Bookstore Monday night and I got to meet a lot of best-selling authors. Standing with a few of them, I mentioned the name Meredith Viera. Three of the four had no idea who she is. People don’t know the host of the TODAY SHOW? Good luck to those new hosts of CBS EARLY MORNING. "

    Of course writers don't know who Meredith Viera is because THEY DON'T WATCH TV. At least, they don't watch AM TV.

    If you don't follow Ken -- he's a TV writer and great blogger -- here's the link...http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2011/02/random-thoughts.html

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  5. I have a 32" flat-screen (of some technical type that I've forgotten or never knew), but it's never been hooked up to cable or any kind of antenna. We watch movies, and we play games, and that's it (neither of those are fiction, either, but they're as close to it as life itself is, I think).

    I gave up on TV when the cable company raised their rates to $13.95 a month, to give you some idea how long it's been. :)

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  6. You know Anne, we got rid of our cable because we never watched it either. The hubby and I have maybe two shows we like to watch (Castle and Fringe) but cutting the bill by just over $60 a month was a godsend to our already tight budget. Now we just wait till the day after our new episodes air, wait till all the kidlets are tucked snugly in their beds, and we snuggle up in the comfort of our own bed and hulu our shows hooked up to our big screen tv. I wouldn't pay to have cable back for any reason now :)

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  7. Great post Ann. Thanks for the quote :) It's the first time I'm getting quoted in a literary purpose. I'm proud! That said, I watch way too much TV too. As soon as I open the TV, I'm screwed.

    Being from the second generation of television viewers, I don't think I can escape its reality, but it's something that you can mull over and twist to your need I guess. Television is a part of a lot of people, but the point is to give it a reasonable, functional place.

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  8. Catherine--Your inspiration is part of what's motivating me. Plus, I don't think I could do it if I couldn't watch Stewart and Colbert on my laptop. They keep me sane.

    Indigo--that is a VERY interesting point. Yeah--how many TVs do you see on TV? Also, I noticed at the Golden Globes, the TV actors kept saying "I don't watch TV."

    Emily--your post on advertising is part of what prompted this post. Frittering time on DVDs is still frittering, but at least you're not being bombarded by mind-controlling advertisements.

    Ruth--Yeah, I can see the point of TV for hard-core sports fans. If I were into sports, I'm not sure I could do this. And I'm going to be sad having to wait a year to see the next season of MadMen. But for breaking news, I love Twitter. It's way faster, and you can get links to video that's often closer to the source than TV cameras can get. Thanks for the link to Ken Levine's post. He's right. Things are changing fast!

    Levi--If I had a 32" flatscreen, this might be a harder decision. I'll still watch my Netflix on my little 19". I'm not cutting out all visual entertainment. Just the stuff that comes with advertising. And cancels Terriers (One of the best private eye shows in years--canceled after about 10 episodes) but shoves Snooki in our faces. And costs a fortune. Would you believe basic cable now costs $75 a month?

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  9. Considering my NetFlix addiction, it would probably scare people with how much TV I watch. However, very little of it involves me sitting down specifically to watch the screen. So it doesn't cut into my writing or reading. I guess each person is different and needs to know what hinders him.

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  10. WAAAHHHH!!! The computer just ate my comment. Where's Mr. Science (or Mr. Peabody) when I need him?

    But "seriously", Anne, I gave up TV years ago. There's one in the house (roomie is a junkie) but I don't have cable. If anything important is going on I hear it on the street or see it on the Internet. TV hypnotizes you and the images are burned into your cerebral cortex, never to be erased. Too much of what passes for "news" today is the opinions of people whose views I don't need or care to know. WARNING: When I visit friends who have their TV on I get stuck. Rather like sitting next to the Tarbaby. Alas I don't have my mother's multi-tasking skills. She would watch, read the paper, and knit at the same time.

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  11. I love this post...awesome...I use mine for background...I can totally knit or blog or read with it on...now I am not sure if that is good or bad...probably bad...I don't think I can fall asleep without the tv on...now I know that is bad...very bad...

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  12. Geezy-peezy, Anne, your timing couldn't be worse! Haven't you heard that they're resurrecting or sequeling or whatevering Dallas? I mean, just think, you can triple your lifetime of Dallas time-wasting: (1) original watching way back when, (2) watching the re-runs, and (3) watching the new and undoubtedly improved version. How cool is that?

    Smackeroos to you from Rrrandy

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  13. Anne, I love this post! I admire you, too for sharing your TV addiction with The World! This is funny, too, because I just wrote a chapter in my memoir about too much TV watching...back when I was a newlywed! I could get by with a lot less TV, but not my husband....he's the type that has to have it on constantly, whether he's actually watching it or not!

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  14. Great post, Anne. I have also gone without TV for decades at a time. I have one and use it for DVR (to fast foward commercials) watch movies or some weekly shows. Love to use the computer to play DVD's ... get movie-links from my daughter ... saw BlackSwan last night.

    I don't honestly think it matters so very much either way.

    Being part of a "TV generation" gave me some wonderful, crazy, classic comedy like Enie Kovak and Sid Caesar, Laugh In, Rowan & Martin, some of my favortie female writers like Gail Parent, write for TV ... for Carol Burnett and Golden Girls. Norman Lear had break-out shows ... the first toilet being flushed (Archie Bunker) ... honest discussions about race ... the fact that black people didn't like us either (Moving On Up) ... I watched my first opera from the Metropolitan on TV ... Public TV came as a result of my generation wanting better programing and we got it.

    Yeah, yeah ... the tween-YA-vampire sucking-blood leaching Madison Avenue whores will always be there ... but you also get a David E Kelly and Mystery on Masterpiece, Nova, American Masters (how many actually contribute during those annoying sweeps weeks??)

    Relax, I won't ask anyone how many trashy novels they have read behind a copy of War&Peace ... and if I mention about ten or twenty more classics how much would you bet the majority of your readers know all of them?

    Me, I like to do, see, watch and listen to it all. Music on the computer, my own Kindle for PC and anything else. I think most of our plot and character development has been sublinally taught by movies and TV.

    Wow, that was fun :)

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  15. I suspect there are some people here who are NOT watching the SuperBowl. The chicken wing police may get you. Me, I've just been to the beach. Gorgeous.

    Alex--You're a movie reviewer. You get no guilt points for Netflix, sorry.

    Richard--Sorry Blogger ate your comment. I hate when that happens. I stand warned about the Tarbaby effect.

    Patty--Me, too. I usually do my cooking, cleaning and sewing with the TV on, but for $65 bucks a month, I figure I can listen to the radio instead.

    Rrrrandy--Dallas? Again?? I have chosen a good moment. Or maybe they'll make the Ewings into the Bush family? I remember the first time I saw Dallas I thought it was satire and I laughed all the way through. Then I found out they were serious.

    Becky--thanks. I think some people need to have it on "for company"--the sound of human voices makes them feel part of a community.

    Florence--Thanks for the time travel! Yes, TV was essential once. It homogenized our culture in a good way. But that was before Snooki.

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  16. As a kid, I watched an INSANE amount of TV. A few HOURS, almost every night. Although I did read a lot of books, too. Now? not so much. A DVD twice a week or so, and NO TV shows. I don't like feeling addicted to things.

    I think to a certain point shows can give you ideas on plots and twists and what's out there currently, but only to a point. Too much TV cuts into my time I could be doing other things--like writing. Good luck to you in making this change. Rah!

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  17. Hey Anne,
    This morning a friend asked something about a game. I honestly asked, "What game?" Ooops - the Superbowl?

    Being TV-less is a gift my wife & I gave ourselves years ago, & it just keeps on giving. Not only do we read more than most our neighbors, we enjoy the serenity of a tubeless house. The downside is that we can get awfully smug about being completely clueless when it comes to modern culture - it's an odd smugness, but it's ours.

    Thanks for another fine post.

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  18. Oh, great post! The husband and I don't have cable or satellite or anything, but we do have Netflix and a lot of old TV shows on DVD. Even that takes up too much time, but it's our best compromise so far.

    The thing to look forward to the most: no commercials. During a recent visit to my in-law's house, I was appalled at all the stupid, useless junk for sale and even more appalled at the mind-numbingly idiotic logic that marketing employs to sell it. The longer you're away from it, the easier it is to recognize it for what it is.

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  19. Ah, good memories of TV in the Fifties and Sixties (those Good Old Days) and into the Seventies, too. I watched TV when I was a teenager, in the Fifties (Daddy brought home a small, free black and white TV when I was twelve), but I was also outside playing "games" with friends. Different now. Children are glued to the tube. Hurray for you for canceling! I canceled DirecTV four or five months ago. I told my daughter, "All you're watching is the weather channel and movies you record." And they kept raising the rates. Too expensive. Besides, how many commercials are you willing to tolerate! (Of course, there was the DVR, but then your life seems to revolve around recording then watching later, most of which isn't worth watching IMHO.) I didn't watch as much as my daughter, but she's happier now and more relaxed, I think, at bedtime. We both love movies, so we have a ROKU and get Netflix for a mere $8 a month! Can't beat that. And we get weather through the Internet and my daughter's iPod. As for interfering with my writing, my problem really wasn't the TV; it's just organizing my time, and not spending so much time on the Internet blogging, facebooking, etc!!!

    Thanks so much for congratulating me on my paragraph!! And wasn't Ben's awesome! I felt like I was in great company. So many good paragraphs by so many talented writers!

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  20. I went TV free a couple years ago. We have the networks but rarely watch anything. Instead my husband and I read in bed when we used to watch a couple hours of TV. "Only old people watch TV" ?? That's funny! Another reason to give it up. I don't want to admit to aging!

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  21. TV is background noise for me, just like music. I may be totally snowing myself as I say this, but I don't feel that it effects my work one way or the other. I can't just sit there and watch it, so it isn't a time suck.

    On the other hand, if you took it away from me, I be sort of miffed. Being stuck out in an unincorporated part of Arroyo Grande means s l o w internet.

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  22. Derico--I missed you up there. Thanks for affirming just what I was trying to say.

    Ben--man of the hour--I missed your post, too. Maybe because you're ruining my premise here. You're a brilliant writer AND you watch TV? Please tell me it's not Jersey Shore!

    Carol--I agree with you. I don't like feeling addicted to anything.

    CS--the cluelessness is adorable.

    Chazley--Thanks. I think the last straw was those commercials that are now blared at 4 times the volume of the programming (because there's now a law against it but corporations can buy elections now, so they're above the law.) So tired of them.

    Ann--Your paragraph was pretty impressive, too.

    KarenG--Glad to hear TV-free is working for you.

    Gwen--Slow internet would definitely have made my decision harder.

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  23. Anne,

    A great post! I'm one of those people who rarely watches TV. I have small children at home, and I can only handle so many cartoons. But, also, we don't have cable or satellite TV. That definitely keeps us off more than on the boob tube. My default mode is a nap :) BUT, I do get that itch, once in a while, to veg out in front of a movie.

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  24. I watch very little television. I sang in a band for many years so American Idol is my drug of choice. Other than that, I can take it or leave it. I tivo Glee to watch while I fold laundry but my husband has been threatening to delete them because they're piling up...since I haven't been watching them. I tend to bury my nose in a book or on the computer any time I have free time :)

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  25. I don't watch a lot of TV because I would rather spend my time writing. We don't keep the TV on during the day or else my 4 year old would sit in a zombie like state and stare at it and lower his heart rate, so the TV tends to go on after he goes to bed. But that's my play time, and I play by writing. So I don't watch.

    But what I will say is that watching TV can be appropriate precisely for its anesthetizing properties. Here's the best way I ever heard to describe it: TV is like a glass of wine. In moderation, and for relaxation, when you want to empty your mind.

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  26. Yes, yes, yes! We should throw our televisions out the window. Thank you.

    I seldom watch television. You are spot on... it's a proven fact: television kills brain cells. And I need all I have left.

    Case in point...tonight we went to a "Super Bowl Party". Yes, I admit it. The game was ok....who cared? The food was there, the drinks were cold, and the conversation was bland. The game ended, and the pools were settled. We looked around and the host said, "Anybody wanna play pool?"

    The party started.

    We walked down to the "basement" where the pool table sat. There were stereo speakers in the corners and art objects on the wall. One of the guys picked up a guitar and started strumming licks and we talked about the artwork and we played music to the "clunk, clunk" of the pool table and people woke up.

    People....wake up!! If you have a creative bone in your body you have to kill the television. It will drain you of every original thought in your head and turn you into a nobody.

    Thank you for this post.

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  27. Oddly, it was partly TV that got me writing. An unabashed movie freak, I spend so much time on my bumm watching the thing, I thought... I might as well put that 'expertise' to some use! I started writing screenplays - great fun and very satisfying :-) Sherry Heber

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  28. If you self-righteously decry the horrible evils of TV but then tap into HULU or watch TV series via Nexflix, or watch via laptops, are you like the Amish farmer who put his TV set on a fence post outside his kitchen window so he could watch his favorite programs but wouldn't be violating his religious customs by having the set in the house?

    Well, hell, it is tough being a purist about anything. And, no need to really. The most interesting thing to me is how technology has broken up TV's power -- thank you Tivo. As Anne mentioned, years ago you had to have your butt in the chair to see a show in real time. Then VCRs cut the cord and now it's all pick 'n choose. What's been lost is that pre-Tivo communal sense of nationally shared images and ideas -- everybody watching the same Uncle Miltie show in real time. Nowadays, mention some TV show and you'll likely get a blank stare unless you happen to be speaking to someone with the same taste in shows as you. More fragmenting.

    But it will be interesting to see how the networks, cable industry, etc. will figure out new ways to stick it to the viewers again. Isn't HULU only "free" because nobody can figure out how to get you to pay for it? That may be tricky in "free download" Napster America.(Only old people pay for their TV signals . . .) Which should make people who create/write these shows/programs (books/movies) nervous?

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  29. I've never understood what people get out of watching reality television shows. I will admit though that while I'm at my desk, the television is on and I waste a lot of time watching snatches of Law & Order (all the versions) and NCIS, most of which I've seen a few times before. Television is the last place I'd look to for inspiration. It's a mystery why I spend so much time with it running. Habit, I guess?

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  30. Television. I still watch it. I watch shows that I appreciate because of good writing. As far as I’m concerned, good writing is good writing. I’ve thrown many a book across the room when the writing disappointed me. I’ve never gone back to TV shows when the writing disappointed me. I have no interest in or respect for the whole “reality TV” craze. It has taken away opportunity for good writing. Books, TV, movies, even newspapers all give opportunity for creative expression. I respect the good in all of them and ignore the bad. As far as TV being only for the elderly; watching shows on TV or on a computer seems like the same thing to me. Just a different box. One stays put in you living room, the other you can take with you. And, I think that is the appeal to younger folks. How much time did you spend sitting in front of TV when you were in your 20”s? At that age I had places to go late into the night! Now? I kinda like being home at the end of the day with my husband, dog and kitties, no matter what I do with the time.

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  31. I'm really starting to enjoy Television Series, getting into classics like The Sopranos and others as well as some newer ones. But I don't "watch TV" - I follow my faves on Netflix or DVD. I've never really enjoyed sitting down and actively flipping through channels, watching whatever happens to catch my attention. I'll sit in a room with a TV on to be around other people, but I always have something else in my hands.

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  32. Churadogs and Christine make good points--watching on Hulu probably isn't that different from watching on TV, except right now there are fewer ads (A major plus for me.)And it's FREE. But as Chura says, that will probably change.

    But Yvonne's story makes me happy. Thanks, Yvonne! I want to spend more time DOING stuff than WATCHING stuff, and I guess that's what my rant is really about.

    Christi and Sierra--as moms, you probably have a different relationship with TV.

    Sherrie--I didn't know you sang in a band. That's kind of awesome. And for a singer or dancer, Glee is amazing. They've got to find some new plots, though.

    Anon--Writing screenplays is a whole different medium. I've never tried it. I've written for the stage, which was great fun, because I could get all that input from actors.

    J.L. I think writers who watch "reality TV" are betraying their tribe. Stars but no writers-- ick. But I can be a Law and Order addict. Something about that well-ordered universe sooths me. Like listening to Mozart.

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  33. This is a very interesting post; thank you -- so well-thought-out.
    I stopped watching current TV.
    Same reasons you give, +
    1. now I listen to my many music CDs on my stereo (first thing, when home from work);
    2. TV is different now because so much of a show's running-time is taken up with commercials -- it's just too much; having it on after work is like being pummeled -- I realized after I stopped. (FCC must have loosened rules on commercial time, around same time when they did away with the Fairness Doctrine, killing Actual News as a Real Thing...
    3. (DVD's -- movies, + some well-written TV shows which I enjoy -- just without the commercials - !
    4. another reason I set aside TV (boycott??) is the ridiculous excuse for "news" that they give us on cable channels, & maybe it's on the networks, too...I'm not a student of it all -- the idea that a teenager's "sexy" video is a "news story" is far from reality. I don't know what it is, but it ain't journalism.
    5. this goes along with the criticism of too many commercial breaks & too many commercials IN every break, + some will be previews of shows they want to push, and some have horrifying and disgusting aspects -- they get injected into our awareness even if we choose not to watch the show itself, just from the previews -- I'll no longer make myself available for that
    THANK YOU!!

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  34. Samuel, I think you've articulated the difference: "watching TV" in the sense of just sitting in front of the box surfing around seems different from "choosing to watch a DVD tonight."

    Carson, You're right about the longer commercial time. "1 hour dramas" are now 44 minutes long. The rest is LOUD commercials, banging away at our subconscious and free will.

    Most important, I think you've hit on why I've come to hate TV so much--it's the medium that has allowed foreign billionaires to buy their own propaganda network--and subsequently control one of our political parties with sadistic fearmongering that makes Americans fear their own democracy.

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  35. Anne-- quick note-- as a mom I don't have a different relationship with TV except to dislike it more. I don't like what TV does to little kids, from the quick movement to the marketing, so if anything, having children has actually kept the TV off more.

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  36. It's too bad that the prices are giving you concern, I also enjoy spending more time writing than watching TV but I do have some shows that are definitely worth watching. I've found a lot of great sites online that are really productive for writers offering an analytical perspective and a creative place to share thoughts with others of the same mentality. I spend a lot of time writing amongst myself and working at Dish network, hey I'll admit I write at work to as a side distraction. There is always a lot to write about when I sit back and just observe interactions. As I said before, there is definitely a strong connection between some of the movies I watch on channels like EPIX which are more abstract and my screen plays. Come to think of it there are a lot of channels I am able to get good inspiration from, of late I've been getting inspired from that absurdly wild show Taboo on Nat Geo. The programming package I have with Dish is pretty extensive but the price is so much lower than other companies including Direct. It's possible to have both types of entertainment without breaking the bank. Not to mention, there is a big 30th anniversary hooray going on right now and so there is a lot of great specials and what not. Anyway from one writer to another, there are other options that might be more suitable and not so much of a burden on the finances of a "starving writer".

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  37. We own a television, but is isn't hooked up to a cable provider. We download old shows that we enjoyed watching back-in-the-day, and even THAT puts us in front of the television far too much. I absolutely agree that taking this time to do something writing-related would make all the difference. Unfortunately, sometimes you really DO need to mentally shut down - particularly after a hard day - and sitting in front of a bright box that makes noise at you is all you have the wherewithal to do.

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  38. So many interesting points of view here. I think the conflicts come from different definitions of "TV."

    Some of you are talking about the machine itself--a tool for playing movies and selective programs. Nothing wrong with that. It's like a CD player or ipod or Kindle or whatever.

    But I've been talking in terms of broadcast TV--the addictive advertising-delivery device. That's what I need to get control over, because right now I feel it controls me.

    I agree with Sierra that it sometimes has its uses--like a nice glass of wine. But with me, it's been more like a 6 pack of generic beer I've been compulsively consuming ever night even though I kind of hate it.

    And yes, Sierra, I did get that you want to protect your child--exactly because of those addictive properties and the mind control of advertising.

    Most of you don't seem to be as controlled by TV as I've been. I wonder if there's a TV Anonymous 12 step program anywhere?

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  39. Great post. I don't know if I could give up my cable service. I do end up reading fairly often and the TV I do watch tends to be more "non-fiction" than anything plot heavy. And with the DVR I seldom watch live TV anymore. I get to skip the commercials and watch shows when they fit into my schedule.

    Between your post and some of the comments I'm reminded of the Max Headroom TV series. It makes some interesting commentary about how invasive TV networks could be. My husband just got the DVD box set and we've been watching a few episodes a week.

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  40. Max Headroom! One of the great TV series of all time. Canceled in the US after what--was it even a full season? Even though everybody I knew watched it. Way too subversive, I guess. And cyberpunk scared people. So it's in a DVD box set? Gotta check Netflix right now...

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  41. Wonderful post, Anne. I don't watch much T.V, but I spend a lot of time talking on the phone with my friends. If I reduce that time I will surely get more time to write.

    I love your resolution. I am sure you will be able to write more once you reduce your television time.

    Btw...I am going to make my mom read this post. She sees quite a bit of television serials.

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  42. Um, "I don't watch a lot of television."
    But I will happily kill a few hours on the internet in lieu of writing.

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  43. I don't watch a ton of tv. Most of my time killing is spent on the internet but I do watch shows I like through online streaming. The way I see it, those teen shows I'm addicted to are for research!;)

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  44. Rachna and Beth, I guess each generation has our electronic addictions, don't we?

    Rachna, I don't know what you mom watches, but when shows start getting in the way of real life, it's worth talking about. Last year I wouldn't go out the night the new Mad Men episode came on even though I could have recorded it and watched it later. That's just sad.

    Katie, you have an excuse. You're watching TV in FRANCE. All those sexy ads! I'm sure they're good for your French. And right--those shows are research. Research is good. Unless it takes three hours a night, every night...

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  45. Great post! I had a professor in college who challenged us to give up TV. I couldn't do it then, but when I got married we both gave it up. We have TVs, but we only watch movies. None of our stations work anyway except for the cartoon station. :)

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  46. Aside from (ahem) football and a couple movies a week, I really don't watch much television. Too much junk on nowadays, and, really, most of it doesn't appeal to me. I've never purchased a cable package, which means I only get three stations - so that might have something to do with it!

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  47. I've never been one to sit hour after hour in front of the tv. It's great for the news, PBS, BBC and the like, but only seasons my life, isn't the main course. And I've found that I can zip thru the news faster on the computer and move on.

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  48. Great post, Anne! We've never had cable. Can't imagine having all those channels. (Can't imagine paying all that money for it!) Netflix is one of the best inventions of recent years.

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  49. I may be the oddball out, I find tv very inspiring. Of course, I watch Discovery, History, Animal Planet. While I enjoy the reality shows of "Dirty Jobs", "Mythbusters, "Hoarders: Buried Alive," and "Animal Hoarding," I like to think studying ancient civilizations and how animals live in the wild is useful to my writing. Especially animal anomaly shows.

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  50. Anne,
    Paul Fahey called my attention to this blog about tv. Wish my husband would let me turn it off.

    Anyhow, a little late, but thanks so much for giving the info about the SLO NightWriter 500 word contest. Tolosa Press this week published Anna Unkovich's winning entry from last year's contest and Anne Schroder's call to arms for writers to submit. Only $10.

    Judythe Guarnea
    SLO NW Member-at-Large.

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  51. I love catching up with your blog. You have such great posts!!

    It's great that you're unplugging from your TV! I don't watch much, and can't imagine what I'd get done if I did!! Especially since I waste so much time already via my preferred method: COMPUTER time-wasting. As for TV, Most of the shows watched in my house are kids' shows and I tune it out... I do sit to watch with my husband, like social time lol.

    Nice post as always!! :)

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