Flat screen television

Suddenly everyone has a flat screen television. I remember when 29 inch TVs were the hugest things on earth. My wife and I had one; a behemoth of pure glory that ate up a whole corner of the lounge.

These days if your TV screen is 40 inches, you’re just starting out.

I once staged a private rebellion against television. I didn’t want our kids growing up to rely on TV whenever there’s so much as a whiff of boredom in the house.

So we got rid of it. An ironic move for someone who loves movies and who had trained in the television industry. But I had a bee in my bonnet. The TV was an enemy of proactivity. Bye bye, glorious behemoth of passive entertainment.

We lasted about a year, I think. It was nice. There’s this really strange thing that fills the void called, wait, let me try to remember its name … conversation. Yes, that’s what it was. Conversation. A powerful thing.

Eventually we ended up borrowing someone’s TV to watch a DVD. The prodigal box was back in our lives and, let’s be honest, we welcomed it home with open arms.

I acquired a set from my parents. It was a hard working unit that somehow managed to survive getting peed on, twice, by our toddlers. (Don’t ask.)

We upgraded when my friend gave us her old TV, last of the giant cathode ray tubes. One day the picture squished itself into an hourglass shape, then shrivelled and died altogether.

I skipped with youthful joy into town to join the 21st century. After years of convincing myself I didn’t care, I was pursuing the high definition screen of my dreams. It turns out I do care, I do, very much.

Now we have to figure out what to watch. I have friends who rave with enthusiastic spittle popping from their mouths about the joys of MY SKY. At least one person I know has Apple TV, which I don’t fully understand yet. There’s normal SKY and the newish Igloo and basic Freeview. We’re sticking with Freeview on account of the lack of accounts.

We played with SKY for a year, having fallen into one of their deals when they phoned at the most annoying time of the day. Our leap into SKY was partly a misguided attempt to get better reception (should’ve just got a UHF aerial which supports high definition), but mostly we wanted to see the Olympics.

The Olympics were wonderful, and after that we hardly watched anything else.

I sat on the couch flicking through the channels. Typically I would see this: American reality show; British reality show; cooking; Porridge; more cooking; Hollywood gossip; rich teenagers complaining on the beach; Family Guy; infomercial; a Duran Duran music video; a slutty rap song; fishing; a documentary about sprouts.

All that choice and nothing to watch. Inevitably I ended up back on the free channels waiting for the ads to finish. Then I’d go to bed and wish I’d spent the night reading a book.

It would be great if I could subscribe to one or two premium channels without needing to pay for an entire package that I don’t actually want. Television is a portal to the greatest art and it’s a greasy slide into the lowest dross. There are so many things I want to do in life. None of them involve clicking blandly through a hundred channels hoping to be distracted by something.

In our house, broadcast television is always the last resort. We’re very deliberate about when the TV gets switched on. It’s not used as a perpetual silence filler. It’s never on in the mornings. We hardly ever watch the news because that’s dinner time.

Most often we’re content with the video shop, the internet, and that other thing … what was it again? That’s right. Conversation.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 13 September 2013. Reproduced with permission.