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Exciting news in the Apron household — we have cable. 

I haven’t had cable since college, when it was “complementary”, i.e., built into the cost of the dorm I called home.  We’ve survived fairly well on network television and a lousy antenna since then, relying on an independent movie store and our local well-stocked library for videos.  The only shows we seemed to need to watch — news, Jeopardy!, Law & Order and the Sunday night grown-up cartoons on Fox — were on network TV. 

Not having cable also afforded me a great excuse for not keeping up on the latest cable reality TV drivel, such as Jon & Kate and all those thrilling HBO hits.  Of course, my only excuse for not watching American Idol or the dancing one or any number of other spin-offs with a 3-judge panel eerily similar to Paula, Randy and Simon is just that I can’t stand that garbage.  I won’t start spewing venom about those evils just yet.  This post has higher aspirations — the FCC.

In anticipation of that bullshit DTV transition, my father purchased a DTV for us as a house-warming present when we moved in to our new home in February.  And the transition was postponed 2 days after we moved in.  Still, we had new antennae and we scanned the TV for all the “new, fabulous” channels in “stunning HD” that the local stations were starting to broadcast.  They came in sometimes, with jarring frozen screens at critical moments of dialogue.  It was kind of nice when they came in — we had beautiful clear images on a half-dozen channels — for almost a minute.  Then, one of several things would happen.  The dog would get restless and fart near the antenna; I would shift on the couch; or a gust of air from that confounded butterfly beating its wings in some South American rainforest would wiggle the TV, antennae, the venetian blinds by the window, or the air current around the TV, and the set would freeze.  Sometimes the picture would come back very soon.  Other times we got the black screen of death, followed by the bouncing blue rectangle emblazoned with the words, “No Signal.” 

After I had counted signal disruptions 6 times in a minute, we made half-hearted attempts to wiggle the antenna’s ears millimeters, and then we usually switched to analog signal, and made do with what we had had for years.  We just told ourselves the stations were not yet broadcasting at full signal.  After the full transition, it would be much better, right? 

Wrong.  Oh, that fateful day in June came and went, and all that happened was that our analog stations disappeared, including channel 12, our beloved PBS, the original free station.  We scanned and rescanned, but to no avail.  Even when the TV “found” all network stations, the disruptions continued, and now we had no analog choice to resort to. 

How could I have tolerated antennae fuzz for so many years, but give up on DTVblips in a matter of weeks?  Easy.  Some remote control cars are designed to use batteries at full power for as long as possible before just dieing.  Others are designed to slowly let the batteries peter out, giving you less power as they are reduced to electrical “fumes”.  I liken DTV to the former.  Its awesome when it works, giving you 100% signal, but only 90 % of the time.  The latter, our old analog TV, gave us 90% signal 100% of the time.  Lasted longer, or, in the TV analogy, it was on all the time.  Missing huge chunks of dialogue while waiting for a signal that may or may not return, with no feedback from the antenna what you’re doing wrong, just plain sucks.  At least with analog, we could wiggle and get immediate feedback from the picture as it improved.  The sound never cut out suddenly. 

So for all the promsed improvements and “free HD” available to the impoverished masses who were being helped out so altruistically by the government’s $40 converter box coupon, I believe it’s a conspiracy to get people to buy cable.  The FCC is in bed with the cable companies. 

“Let’s offer them something that on face value sounds awesome.  It’ll only affect the people watching with an antenna, anyway.  They’ll like the signal so much, but it’ll never be strong enough to watch a single show.  They’ll have to switch to cable.  Oh, and let’s proceed with this insanely expensive bullshit in the midst of a recession.”

As more suckers are forced to buy cable of some sort, they’ll have effectively done away with free TV altogether.  That’s how it was in our house.

For Mr. Apron, Jeopardy! was interrupted one time too many.  What fun is watching a quiz show when you miss all the questions?  He finally called the Comcasstholes and asked for basic cable.  For just $16 on top of what we pay for Internet already, we can get about 100 channels.  There’s nothing below that.  Now they’ll have us hooked on endlesss Spongebob marathons, back-to-back Law & Order episodes, Jon & Kate reruns, movies we’d never rent anyway, and antiques roadshow (PBS went to HD without us, but it’s back!). 

So far, with the exception of the aforementioned Spongebob, we’ve stuck to our usual routine of network TV.  Developing relationships with new channels and new shows requires time and effort.  I can’t even keep track of which channels our old stations went to.  ABC 6 is now 4?  NBC is on 5?  Truthfully, we’re afraid of anything marked “On Demand”, that it will come with mind-numbing new programming and hidden fees.  That our remote control has a direct link to our wallets and those “free” movies really aren’t. 

For all our apprehension, the DTV assholes at the FCC and Comcast won.  They got us.  As I said when we sat down to our first uninterrupted half-hour of television after kicking our cable guy out, “For $16, we should have done this years ago.”

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