Saturday, January 10, 2009

Big Hollywood, and my Usual Fatwa Against Television

So, over at Big Hollywood, Nick Gillespie discusses watching a current television show with his teenager, and finding out that it's "as boring as hell."

Yes. And?

I suppose the underlying question is:

What're all these presumably moral, perhaps even Christian, individuals doing spending their time watching television -- and mediocre television at that? Are their lives so dull, so aimless?

Is there nothing more enjoyable that could be done with that period of time, if one merely wants enjoyment? Nothing more informative, if one wants to be informed? Nothing more relaxing, if one wants relaxation?

I'm reminded of that bit in C.S.Lewis' The Screwtape Letters in which that sly devil boasted of his ability to tempt humans to do, not sinful things they actually enjoyed, but things they didn't even enjoy: " habit renders the once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him." Screwtape boasts of a soul he tempted saying, on his arrival in hell, "I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked."

My usual, oft-repeated Recommendation: Cancel your cable/dish account. Get Netflix or some other subscription on-demand kind of membership which limits you to only a few hours' watching per week, which you must intentionally select from the last 50 years' output instead of passively receiving whatever happens to be on this week.

Result: Less watching, more entertainment while watching, and everything you watch comes from a voluntary prioritization of your time.

My family switched to this method oh, two years ago. We don't miss a thing worthwhile. And I can't remember the last time we had to sit through a television commercial. (That right there, when watching an "hour long" program, gives you back 17 minutes of your life.)

Oh, and it's rather cheaper.

And the only way Meathead's treacly moral puffery can water-torture your brain is if you voluntarily put "All In The Family" in your Netflix queue. (I don't know anyone who would...but if they did, at least they'd have Carol O'Connor to make up for it.)

All in all, it's the civilized, pleasanter way to watch, and only the habitual dullness of personal inertia keeps families from making the switch.