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Returning To The Days Of Rabbit Ears And Snow

Michael Grady | Apr 7, 2014, midnight

I believe the quality of television is inversely proportional to the number of channels offered. If you had only one television channel, that channel would probably offer you the secret of life. With two channels, the content would only be half as good—but you’d still have insightful, visionary fare. Four channels? You’d get entertaining programs, with the occasional inspiring revelation. Seven hundred and fifty channels? You get Kim Kardashian’s Mom, urinating in her own shrubbery because she can’t find the keys to her Beverly Hills home.

The deal breaker, for me, was all those times I couldn’t remember. All the hours, projects and adventures lost because cable became my default activity. Not even watching programs most of the time, but crawling across the salmon-colored program grid, searching for something I might watch, or once watched, or could abide watching one more time.

“Are you seriously watching ‘Shawshank’ again?” My wife would ask.

“… just the part where he gets out of solitary.”

“He escapes! How many times do you have to see this?”

I don’t blame her. I have made that poor woman sit down with Michael Corleone, Virgil “the Turk” Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in that little Italian restaurant more times than I can count. (“He goes to the john! He gets the gun! Trust me: it never ends well!”) She has a point. Movies, albeit good ones, have taken up too much disk space on my life. I have probably stormed Omaha Beach with Tom Hanks more than I have mowed my own lawn. And I fear that, when my own end is near and my life flashes before my eyes, half of the scenes will actually be moments from “A Few Good Men.” The fact that I let cable pipe the same movies in and out of me makes me feel like one of those humans duped into believing a phony reality while aliens harvest their bodies for electricity.

Which, of course, is a metaphor from “The Matrix.” Which I saw on cable.

So we’re back to the days of rabbit ears and snow. It’s like stepping out of a time machine, where a strange, arid world awaits. Channels are hyphenated (45-1, 45-2, 45-3 …) No one knows why. There are stations where people talk about Jesus. There are stations where people talk angrily about Jesus. There are stations where people talk angrily in Korean (presumably about Jesus). And there are stations where people sell earrings big enough to be seen from space. Occasionally, I will find a nature documentary or some kind of cultural enlightenment—and in the pauses I can hear my Dad laughing from heaven as I watch.

At least he doesn’t tell me to turn the channel.

Michael Grady is a Valley-based freelance writer, reporter and playwright.

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