Rainbow: When did watching TV become such a hassle? - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:19 pm
Rainbow: When did watching TV become such a hassle?

All right, all right — I’m going to watch the second season of “Sherlock.” Enough with the buzz already. I’ll watch it!

Oh, wait ...

It’s already over. Because three episodes counts as a season now? And not just a really short miniseries?

That’s okay. I’ll catch up with “Sherlock” on Netflix. If it’s available.

Or maybe I’ll buy it on iTunes — if I can get iTunes to talk to my television. (I’m not watching Benedict Cumberbatch on my phone; I need a normal-size screen to appreciate the distance between his eyes.)

Or perhaps “Sherlock” is on Hulu. I can watch Hulu Plus through my kids’ Nintendo Wii. I just need to track down the Hulu password ...

Nevermind. All of our Wii remotes need batteries.

And my husband disconnected the Wii to hook up the VCR.

And for some reason that means we’re only getting sound through the left speaker ...

And ...


Every aspect is complicated. The networks, the seasons — is there even such a thing as seasons? The viewing options. The equipment.

For much of my childhood, we had a television set that worked only if someone was touching the antenna. The power dial was broken off, so you had to turn it on with a butter knife. It had four channels. And tuning in anything on UHF required the hands of a surgeon.

But that television was never as frustrating or confusing as our family’s current TV situation.

On the one hand, we have more choices than ever — far more than when we had just a TV set and cable subscription. (We actually dropped our cable last year because nobody in the house was watching it.) And we have almost complete control now; sitting down to watch TV has become more like ordering off a menu than coming home and saying, “What’s for dinner?”

My kids treat our television like the replicator on “Star Trek” — “We want to watch old ‘Transformers’ reruns. Make it so.” They think of the TV as something that gives them exactly what they want, whenever they ask for it.

I think of the TV as more of a to-do list — a to-do list I can access only with a technical degree from DeVry.

There’s nothing spontaneous about my TV watching anymore.

It’s been years since I’ve turned on the TV just to see what’s on — I don’t even care what’s on. I’ve already got more shows queued up than I can keep up with.

They’re like stacks of paper on my desk. Eight episodes of “Parks & Recreations.” Four episodes of “Mad Men.” The first season of “Veronica Mars.” (That last stack has been there for eight years.)

And I don’t want to add new shows. I only add new shows when I can’t ignore them anymore — already beloved shows like “Sherlock” and “Firefly” that practically come with money-back guarantees.

This reluctance means I’m usually tracking down episodes after they’ve aired, sometimes after a series has been canceled. And there’s no clean and simple way to find them.

When I wrote about “Downton Abbey” a few months ago, the hardest part of the column was sorting through all the ways to catch up with the show — on the network website, on DVD, on Netflix, on iTunes — plus the differences in cost and the differences between the British and American versions.

In my house, adding a new show means going through all the services we subscribe to — Apple TV, Tivo, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, VUDU — then remembering their passwords, and then remembering which service lives in which device in our family entertainment center ...

Which I like to think of as the bad guy from “Tron.” (That big tube of light with the Voldemort nostrils.)

Our entertainment center, in the last two years, has mutated out of our control. Too many options. Too many devices. Too much evolution, too fast.

For example, there are at least three ways to listen to Pandora radio through our TV. Each option requires a series of at least three steps. When I want to listen to Pandora, I stand in front of the TV for a few minutes, holding the remote and whispering “Open Sesame.”

And then I walk away.

There are plenty of times when I think about watching TV and then decide that it’s too much work. That watching TV is too much work.

And I love watching TV. I like it better than “going places” or “talking to people.”

When just thinking about watching “Sherlock” — a show I already enjoy, starring an actor I can’t resist — makes me feel more hassled than excited ...

... There’s definitely something wrong with this picture.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1149, rainbow.rowell@owh.com


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