I want my TV

The unbearable decision of whether or not to cancel cable

By Matthew Singer 09/13/2012

As summer draws to a close, I’ve got a decision to make. A hard, terrible, agonizing decision: Do I cancel my cable subscription and, for the first time in my life, live without television?

I know, I know. First World problems, right? But a problem, no matter how small and insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe, is still a problem, and this is one that is looming on the horizon for my roommates and me.

There are three of us living together in a house. While we’re all doing much better financially right now than we were this time last year, we’re still not raking it in. A significant number of Hot Pockets are microwaved in this home. We drink a lot of PBR. As two of us work in “media,” we’re privy to the benefits of free concerts and movies and the like, but if it wasn’t for those perks, we could hardly afford to leave the house. And yet, we still pay for the privilege of being able to watch World’s Worst Tenants whenever we choose. What can I say? We’re entertainment junkies.

The situation is becoming untenable, though. We’re shelling out about $30 each per month for cable and Internet. And the truth is, none of us really watches the thing anymore. That probably sounds strange coming from a guy who writes about TV. But in all honestly, outside of my truly favorite shows — basically Breaking Bad, Louie and NBA games if you count those — these days I mostly watch television out of obligation to this column. Same deal for my roommates. They’re just too busy. We’re basically flushing money away at this point. So we’ve been talking about canceling our subscription and living off our exhaustive shared collection of DVDs, and my one roommate’s vast selection of Chuck Norris movies on VHS.

It seems like a no-brainer, especially considering how easy it is to find TV programming online. And yet, none of us can pull the trigger and actually agree to do it. There is a psychic hold the cable box has over us that we just can’t escape. It’s not like severing ties with a good friend, or even like breaking up with a significant other. It’s more like throwing your childhood pet off a bridge.

That’s the kind of comfort cable provides us. Even if we neglect it, the knowledge that it’s there if we need it — to wrap around us on a hungover Sunday and comfort us with a marathon of American Ninja Warrior
is a difficult feeling to give up. Sure, you can pull it all up on the Internet, but that’s not really television. Television is a box in your living room that surprises you with gifts, like four hours of Cops episodes in a row. Is it really possible to put a price on something like that? I’d rather go broke than go unentertained. And what’s $30 between friends, anyway?

I Need Media is a biweekly media column. Matthew Singer watches everything from PBS documentaries to Community and Showtime’s Gigolos, but mostly he’s just happy Breaking Bad is back. Follow him on Twitter@mpsinger.

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