We don’t watch a lot of TV, I”m glad to report. On Thursday or Sunday evening PBS frequently airs a mystery, or a Masterpiece Theatre period drama that will have Imelda Staunton or Colin Firth or Tom Wilkinson in it. We actually look forward to those. There are also a couple of sitcoms we enjoy as guilty pleasures when we’re sitting down to enjoy an ice cream bar after a long day. Otherwise, we rent movies when we want to zone out in front of the tube.
We have been suffering through the minute-or-so-long banners on PBS announcing the approaching end of broadcast as we know it — more precisely as our TV knows it and is able to render it. These annoying paragraphs have popped up during the most awkward dinner scene in Jane Austen, or at that tear-jerking moment of redemption in a Charles Dickens drama, or just when Hercule Poirot is about to astound Hastings and/or an assemblage of fellow touristes.
This message has been running for months and months (remember, there was that three or four month delay because too many people were, like us, insufficiently inspired to protect ourselves from broadcast silence). The message was intended to scare us into the new millennium, entry into which will require us to buy a new TV or… I can’t even bring myself to form a complete clause for the nightmare of cables and plugs and misunderstandings and overchargings and technical inoperabilities that I know constitute the alternative to just buying a new TV.
But I don’t want to buy a new TV. It seems like we just bought this one, though Angela tells me it’s at least six or seven years old. I remember how it was too big for Angela’s old Nissan Sentra and how just to fit it in we had to remove it from its box in the parking lot of the Circuit Emporium or Goodfellas Electronic Stuff or whatever now-defunct outfit it was. It rode home in the back seat like a Jersey cow. I felt guilty then, buying such a behemoth of bourgeois excess. I certainly feel guilty throwing it out before the dust on the screen has had a chance to take on that weird magnetic quality.
When it comes down to it, neither Angela or I has felt that it would be an entirely bad thing if TV just disappeared from our lives. Unless there was a tsunami, of course. Still, we do like our shows.
So we’ve been dawdling, technologically speaking. I’ve actually been considering staying home on June 12 and watching TV, just because it seems like there should be someone there to watch it all go dark or turn to snow, someone luddite enough to pay last respects at the Dämmerung of a broadcast system that has lasted for half a century — the broadcast system that brought us (just in my lifetime) the news of JFK’s assassination, Franz Klammer’s downhill run in the 1976 Winter Olympics, Carol Burnett, and the last episode of Newhart.
I don’t know if I’ll have the guts to do it. I’m shaking already.