Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I don't watch much television.

Because I don't have a television to watch. I get a huge kick out of saying "I don't watch much TV," when someone asks me if I've seen a particular show. "Oh, I don't either. There are just a few shows that I'm into," people respond quickly. Apparently most people think I must be morally opposed. But it's not that.

When Brian and I moved in together after college, it didn't really occur to us to get a television at first. Neither of us had watched a lot of television while we were in school, so there weren't shows we missed. I could listen to Giants games on the radio. Brian didn't seem to miss watching Lakers games. It wasn't some "kill your TV" kind of attitude; I simply didn't feel the need. I suppose the fact that we were living in Santa Cruz at the time didn't hurt either. We knew lots of people that didn't bother with TV, and people didn't seem to think it was weird that we didn't have one. Or maybe they just didn't say anything.

When we moved to Washington and I started grad school, if I admitted I didn't have a TV people thought it was weird. People here are more likely to ask why we don't have a TV set, and while I was in school, I would say, "Because I would just watch it when I'm supposed to be studying." It's true, too. When I travel for work, one of the first things I do when I get into my hotel room in the evening is turn on the TV. Maybe it's only because I like the noise to fill up the empty room, but I'm afraid that's what I'd do at home too. Most of the time I can't find much I'm interested in (although there's always an episode of Friends or Seinfeld on one station or another), but it doesn't take long before I'm totally sucked in.

Most of the time I still don't miss having easy access to television. During big sports events like the World Series or March Madness, we can walk down the street to the brewery to watch the games. Having gone to school for public policy, I have plenty of friends who were having groups of friends over to watch the debates in 2004. We joined Netflix and can watch movies on our computer.

This week I started wondering about our decision, though. It never occurred to me that when we had kids we might get a television. It's not something we talked about. But then I read about Grace Davis's suggestion to write about the books, music, movies, and television shows we want to share with our kids in honor of the 37th anniversary of Sesame Street. Instead of thinking of my favorite books (A Wrinkle in Time! The Little House books! Ramona!) or of the fantastic children's music I've added to my Amazon.com wish list, I immediately thought, "We have to get a TV so Sticky can watch Mr. Rogers." Because as much as the Sesame Street theme song makes me smile and in spite of my love of Big Bird, I have my fondest childhood TV memories of watching Mr. Rogers. Can I deny Sticky the happy routine of watching Mr. Rogers change into sneakers and cardigan (always hoping it's the red cardigan today)? The Trolley-Trolley music? The reassuring voice addressing him directly?

We may end up revisiting our decision. Perhaps Brian can create some sort of TV set that only gets Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. But maybe that's not necessary. Looks like Netflix has several Mr. Rogers DVDs to choose from.


Washington Cube said...

I hate it when I tell a friend I haven't seen a television show, and this is particularly true of those reality shows for some reason, then they proceed to give me a blow by blow description of what occurred, even though I've just told them I never watch it. Hello?

Mary Tsao said...

We didn't have a TV when I was in Jr. High and you would not believe how much popular culture I missed from those years. Now I blame my parents when I lose at Trivial Pursuit.

Don't let this happen to you! Think of the child!

Elizabeth said...

Washington Cube: People who watch HBO dramas are way worse than people who watch reality TV in terms of that issue, I think.

Mary: I'm not sure that having a TV would help. I still somehow missed out on popular culture, and we had a TV. I walked into a dorm lounge in college where someone was watching a show with a talking car and was totally baffled by it. Everyone was shocked that I'd never seen or heard of the show. And now I can't even remember the name. And I never watched that show with Mr. T but I did have a toy of the van. Perhaps Sticky is doomed to be a pop culturally illiterate as his mother, regardless of whether I get the TV?