The other day Kelly commented to me, "I think one of your talents is that you are really good at becoming invested in crappy network TV shows." Sweet, I'll rank that right up there with "knack for making any situation awkward," "aptitude for buying lip gloss," and "ability to sleep through anything." Who needs to be able to sing, dance, or draw when you can be blessed with such truly useful skills as mine?
It's true, though. I have been without cable for six months now, ever since I moved into my apartment and couldn't believe that regular old standard cable was going to cost me $55 a month. This was a $55 increase over the previous rate I had been paying for cable at my parents' house and in college, so I was understandably shocked. My roommate was similarly appalled, and she and I both decided that we would enter an experimental phase of living without cable. We figured we'd just see how long we could go without it.
Our cheap "basic cable package," which comes at a more manageable $14.95/month, comes with 31 channels. That would be a small number even if they were all good channels, but alas, they are not. The breakdown is more like this:
So I've had to mine the five watchable channels pretty vigorously. Here are my favorite treasures so far:
Wife Swap, ABC Monday, 8 p.m.
Each week, two new families representing the most extreme polar opposites on a given spectrum (the super religious family and the super-atheist family! The rural farm family and the sophisticated city family!) switch Moms for two weeks. Without fail, the newly transplanted Moms are shocked--shocked--to see that ABC has matched them with families that are the complete opposite of their own (it's almost like they're trying to set everyone up for controversy!).
Here's how it always plays out: both families spend the first 45 minutes of the show making absolutely no attempt to show tolerance of or understanding for the new Mom's way of life, and the new Mom goes through the full cycle of an emotional breakdown in front of our eyes. Then, the last 15 minutes of the show feature each of the families forging a tenuous truce with New Mommy and halfheartedly promising that "thanks to you, this family's going to start recycling/pray more/clean our floors!"
Super Nanny, ABC Monday, 9 p.m.
This comes on right after Wife Swap on Monday nights, ensuring that I start of the week with more than enough examples of why nobody should ever have children or start a family. Where Wife Swap starts off by showing how insane and obnoxious parents are, Super Nanny picks up and reminds us that kids are pretty damn terrible as well. This show has added at least five years to the minimum age at which I intend to give birth to any children. Which I guess means it's up to 95 now.
America's Next Top Model, The CW Wednesday, 8
Now in its eighth cycle, this show continues to be television's top provider of two things: dumb girl histrionics and opportunities to marvel at the self-consumed Tyra Banks, who gets 200% more removed from reality with each episode.
Lost, ABC Wednesday, 10 p.m.
OK, so do you remember that little handheld game called "Lights Out?" It was always impossible for me to win at that game, and I hated how it always seemed like the only way to get one of the lights to go off was to trigger, like six of its surrounding lights. I would always quit with more lights on than I had started with. Watching Lost has started to become like playing that game, because every time they "solve" one of the show's mystery they introduce another little set of them. But I can't stop watching, because I'm way more emotionally invested in Lost than I ever was in some dumb puzzle.
The Office, NBC Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Speaking of emotionally invested, may God bless The Office. That's all I have to say about this one.
Grease: You're the One That I Want, NBC Sunday, 8
I would be embarrassed about this, but I'm too busy tapping my toes to the music! I have no idea why I like this show (I don't even watch American Idol) but I do. It's not because the contestants are particularly enthralling--check out the first paragraph of Sandy-wannabe Ashley's lame NBC bio:
Sweet! I'm dying to read more.
So yeah, not sure why this show appeals to me so much. But then again, who knows why Danny liked Sandy so much? Or why she liked him? Unless that was made really clear in the movie--I don't think I actually ever even saw it.
Friends, The CW weekdays, 7 and 7:30 p.m.
I'm really into watching Friends right now, because they're airing a bunch of episodes that I missed during my freshman or sophomore year of college when I was obsessed with Survivor for a minute. And of course, the old episodes with Skinny Chandler and Big Rachel Hair are always a treat as well. A solid dinnertime choice.
Jeopardy, ABC weekdays, 7:30 p.m.
the end of this story is not going to be me saying that I don't think
I'll ever need premium cable again
because I've found such joy with basic. That's just not true. I do
miss VH1 and E! and Bravo all my other friends, and I look forward to
having them back someday. I am, however, quite pleased at how
survivable my life has been without them. I'm more courageous than I thought.