TV Or Not TV? That Is The Question.

It is not an understatement to say that television has been a major presence in my life. I’m convinced that the reason why my skin is so fair is because as a little kid I was much happier sitting in front of the TV than I was outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

It’s also probably part of the reason why I was reading at a third grade level in Kindergarten, because “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company”. It’s also probably why I never could perform a proper cartwheel.

During the 1970s my TV habit grew, and this was BEFORE CABLE, kids. We had the rabbit ear antenna attached to our box-shaped TV set, we had four channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS) to choose from, and we had to get up and change the channels because we didn’t have a clicker (ahem, remote). I loved both “The Brady Bunch” AND “The Partridge Family” (though if I had to choose it would be the Bradys all the way), was a “Charlie’s Angels” addict (and always called dibs on Kate Jackson’s Sabrina when role-playing with friends), watched “Emergency!” and curved track roller derby with my dad, and could even be found enjoying Dinah Shore’s talk show and “All My Children” in the afternoons with my mom. Don’t even get me started on Donny and Marie’s variety show, “The Love Boat”, and “Fantasy Island”. Even when the picture tube on the TV was wearing out and regularly making a frighteningly loud “THWAP!” noise (accompanied by a shockingly bright flash across the screen) that scared the bejeezus out of me, I was still watching the tube.

Listen, I know I’ve lost many of you already. INDULGE ME FOR A MINUTE.

In the 1980’s WE! GOT! CABLE! (and a new TV.)

I wanted to be a “Solid Gold” dancer or at least make an appearance on “Dance Fever” with Deney Terrio. I watched, just to name a few, “Family Ties”, “The Facts of Life”, “Cheers”, “Who’s The Boss”, and, of course, “The Cosby Show”. Add in “Dynasty”, “LA Law”, “China Beach”, and “Hotel”. When you remember that I was a teenager when MTV launched (and actually played music videos nearly 24/7), and then try to absorb that I have only scratched the surface in naming the shows I watched on a regular basis. you might be *starting* to understand the seriousness of the very first sentence in this post.

Related: It’s amazing that I haven’t ever needed glasses*. Or physical therapy for my atrophied muscles.

In fact, for most of the 1980’s and 1990’s (ahem, “Seinfeld” and “Friends”, among many, many others), you could tell me it was *insert day of the week here* and I could tell you exactly what was on TV that evening. On multiple channels. And the time of each show. And often what each episode was about.

I still love TV. (duh.) I watch reality shows, sitcoms, comedy specials, and news. (I’m a “Today Show” junkie.”)

That said, over the past year Jim and I have been trying to cut back on various household expenses–two kids in college simultaneously causes one to look at things a little differently–and the one that was glaring at me was our monthly satellite bill. For one DVR and two extra receivers, the bill was about $100 per month. That’s a lot of money.

Then, we started considering how we were DVRing so many shows to watch later and how, often when the TV was on (nearly all the time), we weren’t actively watching it. It reminded me of how, when Jim was in the Navy and often out to sea when we were newlyweds, I used to keep the TV on all the time, just to have noise in the house because I was alone.

It was decided: the satellite had to go. Ouch. I admit that I was a little anxious. Of course, I had researched what our future would hold as far as TV was concerned, and my friend Michelle, who had already made the break, even wrote a post about what she did so I could see her plan in action.

Last month, we did it. We cut the cord. We bought two digital antennas (one for the family room TV and one for the TV in our bedroom) so we can get the local channels for free, like the old days. We are now streaming shows and movies via our Roku (and PlayOn TV).

The major downside right now–other than the fact that we’re in rerun season–is that the antennas are only picking up ABC, and the reception isn’t great. This is due to the location of our house in relation to the stations’ antennas in the city (Chicago), and because our house is weirdly shaped and we can’t get the antenna placement right. Why is this a major downside? Because I haven’t been able to watch the “Today Show” in over a month, and we can only get news clips from it on Roku, not the entire show. I know, first world problems. I mean, “Good Morning America” is okay but I miss my friends at 30 Rock.

Luckily, as of next month we will be able to stream local television in real time due to a new service that’s coming to Chicago. I can’t wait. And I feel sad that I can’t wait. I mean, really. It doesn’t get much more pitiful than me, pining for Matt and Savannah.

Aside from my morning news show of choice and how much I miss it, it’s been okay. I haven’t gotten the shakes or anything. I don’t babble nonsensically. (In relation to the lack of TV, that is.) I listen to music during the day when I’m working. The savings of $1200 each year will be well worth it.

The lesson? Every now and then it’s good to re-evaluate what you have and decide if you truly need it, especially if it costs a pretty penny that could be used for something else or saved for a rainy day. I think Suze Orman talked about that on the “Today Show” once.

Sigh. The Todaaaaay Shoooooow…

Okay, it may take some time. Hold me.

*Well, until now. Note to self: make appointment with optometrist.


  • Shannon

    Are you referring to the Aereo service that is coming to Chicago?
    We never had cable until we moved here three years ago. We have only the basic plan (mostly local channels) and its bundled with our Internet so it wouldn’t save much giving it up (the Internet bill would go up). But I am intrigued by the ability to get local channels without an antenna and without cable. Hmmm…

    • Melisa Wells

      Yep. I just didn’t name it in the post because I didn’t want it to look sponsored. I believe Aereo is $8/month and we pay $8 for Netflix, but $16 is a far cry from $100 so I can’t wait. 🙂

  • Michelle

    Bummer that you can’t get your antennae to work. FYI we started out with a digital antenna that got everything except CBS because CBS is a different frequency in Chicago. After looking into it for awhile, we were going to have an analog antenna installed (which is something like $300-400 to have done including labor for someone to do it) when we discovered that in our attic we have the original antenna. My husband rigged it so that it runs to a digital receiver and we now get ALL local channels because the old antennae work by FAR better than the new digital ones. Sooooo if by chance you still have an old antenna on your house, call me and I’ll figure out from my husband exactly what he did.

    Nice to not pay that huge bill though, isn’t it? 🙂

  • As Cape Cod Turns

    We are like soul sisters, sistah. We could have watched all those programs next to each other growing up. Today show news update: It was Al’s 59th bday yesterday and Jenna Wolfe had a baby girl the other day (2 days after she was on with Matt and Matt told her she was HUGE). Let me know if you need more info or forget it, I will just send you the highlights 🙂

  • Tabatha

    We cut cable years ago and got by on borrowing DVDs of shows from the library. When Amazon Prime added streaming it was amazing. Now we borrow my sister’s Netflix. And we also have the Roku. 🙂

  • Skye

    I cut cable by telling myself I had Netflix. Then I eventually dropped Netflix because I had so many other things to do, it wasn’t worth the monthly cost, and I told myself we can always run to the local video store. Which we do now about 10 times a year. Or I check out something from the library. Now I’m not sure how I watched all that TV, but I guess it was before I had a kid?

  • Patty

    I’m glad you wrote this because I am considering the same thing due to the CBS Blackout. I feel for my local CBS news anchors the was you feel about the Today Show peeps. I can’t bear any of the other local news anchors from the 6-7a hours. Its torture to just wait for the weather then turn off the TV.

    Good luck with your switch I’ll post which option I went to once I decide. 🙂