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Yes, there is life without live TV

Once in a while someone will ask me if I saw the game last night, or who I think is going to win “American Idol.” I have to reply that, no, I didn’t see the game, and that I don’t know who will win “American Idol.”

“What?” they will ask. “Didn’t you go to Iowa State? You missed the biggest game of the season with K-State!” To which I will honestly reply, “We don’t have a TV antenna. And that’s OK.”

That’s right folks: For as technologically advanced as you may think I am, my family does not have live terrestrial or satellite television in our house. And we are fine with that decision.

A little backstory is in order, I suppose.

Growing up here in south-central Iowa, we had just four channels: ABC (WOI-TV), CBS (KCCI), NBC (WHO) and Public (IPTV). Some days WOI would be fuzzy, but we got used to it.

In the early 1980s a new station appeared: KCBR Channel 17 UHF. This meant we had to buy a special smaller antenna to reach it, but we made the investment. With Channel 17 we increased our viewing pleasure by 20%!

Of course, my town friends got cable, and with it, MTV. Oh, how I wanted that so bad! I begged my parents for a big satellite dish so we could get MTV, but they had nothing to do with it. Instead, they bought the family a Commodore 64 home computer, which, in the long run, was a better investment, but it didn’t bring me any closer to seeing Michael Jackson moonwalking.

A cable guy in college

When I left for college, one of the first things I did was spring for cable in my dorm room. Ah, now I had the freedom I yearned for! I had my MTV! So much so that I would record music videos overnight and watch them the next day (this was back when MTV actually showed music videos). I actually had a starting ISU quarterback come over to my room and watch a football game (not his, fortunately) on my TV because I had cable.

I continued my need for expanded television selection up through my marriage with Jackie. Before kids, it was easy enough for us to sit down and watch a show together. We had our favorites we shared (“Law & Order”), and there were some that only I enjoyed (“Beavis and Butthead Moron-athon”).

But we found our available time to spend on TV was growing short with the arrival of Graydon. After we put him to bed we could watch a show or two, or even if we had to feed him at midnight, it was nice to have something on while we got him back to bed. But we could no longer invest the time watching TV as we did before.

When we moved to Humeston in 2004, we attempted to cleave our relationship with television. For a few weeks we even left our TV unplugged, attempting to go cold turkey. But the hunger persisted, so we broke down and set up a rabbit ears antenna — pretty grainy, but at least we could still tune into “Law and Order.” We did watch the Super Bowl with Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction,” but I honestly didn’t see anything but a snowstorm around her.

We have more free time

As we got further and further away from TV, we noticed some changes in our lives. One, it became easier to detect “spin” and “partial truths” during the few times we’d catch a news report on a live TV set. Two, we had no context of these new artists being generated by “American Idol,” et al. Three, and most importantly, we found ourselves with a lot more free time.

When the digital switchover came a couple years ago, we decided to not upgrade, thereby rendering our rabbit ears antenna a simple relic of the past.

Sure, we still have our TV (and have purchased a flat-screen since), but all we do with it is watch DVDs and videos that we find appropriate for our kids. We’ve purchased season sets of “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” — shows I used to watch as a kid and which are much more appropriate than the stuff peddled today. They enjoy these shows, even though the shows are 30 to 40 years old.

We have Internet, and the kids are becoming adept at navigating it (Legos and Barbie being the main sites). We monitor what they get into online and limit their time. We find that our kids are more willing to pick up a book and read for long periods of time; in fact Madallyn, our first-grader, is reading at a sixth-grade level, according to recent tests.

I’m not saying you need to remove TV from your house; you do what you want. I will say once you’ve weaned yourselves off the tube, you may see it for what it really is: a giant time-waster with few redeeming qualities. Ask yourself if it is something you need to exist or not, and if perhaps a little moderation would be in order.

Gunzenhauser farms near Humeston.

This article published in the May, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.