Fifty-seven channels and I know exactly what’s on…

I spend about twice as much money on my cable bill each month than any other utility. I don’t have any of the “premium” channels, but with my cable internet, my digital cable service, my DVR, and my HD service, Comcast is happy to get my check. I justify the DVR because I end up watching more of the TV that I’m paying for (the whole pause button rocks), the HD is luxury but it’s really a wash because it’s the same box as the DVR and I spent all that money on the TV, so really it it’s something I have to have. (I’ve always been a master of rationalization.) Before I bought the TV, I was seriously considering getting rid of the cable entirely, but once I took that plunge that idea went right out the window. Bottom line, I spend a good portion of my entertainment dollars programming the home theater.

However, everytime I go and visit the neighbors, I’m amazed at the amount of channels that they have compared to my setup. I should preface this…they have the same cable company that I do, but they don’t have the digital service, the DVR, or even the cable box. They actually have less channels than I do. They don’t have HD, they have a coaxial cable that goes from the wall into the TV without going through a converter, a stereo, a DVR, or even one of those cable amplifiers you can buy at Radio Shack. They have the most the most basic setup, and they pay the basic minimum each month. What’s the difference?

The damn program guide. With my setup, flipping from channel to channel is so slow (it takes at least three seconds between each channel), it’s a lot more efficient to browse through the program guide. Doing that, you see the channel name, the program name, and a four word description. When you flip through the channels, it really doesn’t give you as much information as you can visually discern what’s going on, who’s on the screen, and whether or not you want to watch the crap you see. I noticed this today when I (painfully) used the underused channel up button. The words “Barefoot Contessa*”on the guide offered me no reason to stop, but the smoked salmon dip she was making surely did. With the guide, I find that I’m more likely to stop on something I’ve seen before, rather than getting to play that game “What the hell is this show?” or even, “Who is that actor, I’ve seen him before somewhere?” The guide takes that fun away. At the neighbors, I can quickly (lightning fast channel finger) scan through each channel until I see something interesting to watch.

But I’m not giving up that DVR.

* The Barefoot Contessa is named Ina Garten. In a Garden? As a name for a chef that focuses on fresh vegetables? C’mon, you can make up a less obvious pseudonym than that, Ms. Contessa.

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