Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Uncable Life

Living without cable television would be unimaginable to me almost anywhere but in New York City. Here I’m not sure how I’d find the time for it. Even if nothing else is going on - and usually there is a museum to visit, a play to take in, a lecture to attend, an old movie to see again - Central Park is always open and the city streets, unendingly intriguing, never close down. Cable TV seems, well, superfluous. Now let me quickly add that I do own a TV and enjoy using it to view DVDs, both owned and rented. But that seems to be a far cry from cable television’s incessant commercial badgering. Even more, one of cable's chief enticements, the promise of nearly endless choice which often leads to aimless channel surfing in search of the perfect program, almost invariably leaves me feeling disappointed.

There are, however, at least three minor problems associated with lacking access to cable. One is the fact that you are cut off from special events like the Presidential Election, the Oscars, or the World Series. Trying to find a bar that isn’t too noisy and is willing to play the show you want to see is not always easy. Second is how quickly you become ignorant of the most basic aspects of popular culture. You go to a party and you don’t even know what Gray’s Anatomy is or who took third place on American Idol. It’s a little like being with a bunch of macho guys and not even having a clue as to who is playing in the Super Bowl. Let me add that not being able to see The Daily Show does feel like a serious omission in my life, but not quite important enough to make it worthwhile to pay the extra cable fees of about $50 a month. Finally, if you don’t keep up with the political commentators on MSNBC or CNN or (heaven help us) Fox, and read, say, only the New York Times, you get a very slanted view of what is going on in America. This has a definite upside, of course, but you really do lose track of how much Obama is hated by a certain segment of the population, or the verbal gymnastics certain pundits must resort to in order to make Sarah Palin look good. All in all, though, I’m going to continue to get along without cable. It’s not so much what I’m missing that matters but what I get to do in this great city when I’m not feeling tied down by the tube.


  1. You can watch a lot of stuff online, including The Daily Show. Go to and click on "Full Episodes"

  2. You already live in Manhattan, so a skewed view of the culture is inevitable. I suppose that could be said about almost any home base. So the question: Is it possible to participate, fully and responsibly, in the national culture without cable television? More important, will you get any of the jokes on 'Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me' or the Capitol Steps broadcasts? Answer: NO! Ergo, ipso facto, post hoc, QED, etc.
    Of course, no one says you have to.