Lance Conzett: So, here's the thing: I like television. I'm not one of those awful people who are like "I don't even have a TV, I only read books and pretend to care about The New Yorker." But I hate paying for television because I am a poor person. Also, I don't have an antenna on my TV because I'm a lazy poor person.
Ashley: Woah, you don't have one of the converter-box things that happened a few years ago? Those were only like $30! I know you have $30. I guess my first question is this — did you grow up with cable?
Lance: Yes! I remember watching Æon Flux on MTV when I was way too young to understand what that show was about (that wouldn't come until I was like 23) and I'm pretty sure it warped my tiny little brain. What about you? I mean, about childhood cable, not borderline incoherent cartoons on MTV.
Ashley: Oh yeah, had it my entire life. Now, until I was 13-14, our cable situation wasn't that great. It was a small-town operation that refused to even offer channels like MTV (due to the immorality and whatnot), but it provided what I needed most when I was a kid, namely Nickelodeon. I can't underestimate the importance of '90s programming on Nick.
Lance: Oh, yeah, totally. Salute Your Shorts for life.
Ashley: And my mom love-love-loves TV. I remember getting ready for school when I was a kid, and she'd braid my hair with Little House on the Prairie or Gilligan's Island on the background. It was always there. My youngest sister (two to three years old at the time) would run around the living room and throw herself down on the ground like when Carrie falls in the field in the Little House opening credits.
I firmly believe that a deep love of The Adventures of Pete and Pete helped turn me into the woman I am today.
Lance: I feel the same way about Space Ghost. But! I feel like I got to a point in my TV watching where when I had hundreds of channels to choose from, I was just watching stupid nonsense. Like Law & Order: SVU marathons. Aside from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I saw at 3 in the morning once and got hooked on, I don't think I've had any of those "this changed me" TV show moments since childhood. Which is part of the reason why I refuse to pay for it now.
Ashley: And yet — HBO.
Lance: See, I never had HBO. I've also never seen The Wire, which is why most people I know are disgusted by me.
Ashley: Oh, well now I want to shut this entire conversation down.
Lance: It's so many episodes!
Ashley: It's a commitment! And to be honest, there are a ton of shows I've missed, too. Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Friday Night Lights are the big three that I still get shit for, but I do plan on eventually watching them.
Lance: But I would argue that you don't need cable to watch those shows. I've seen almost all of Breaking Bad and all of Friday Night Lights thanks to Qwikster. I mean, Netflix.
Ashley: I agree, and listen, Adam Gold will totally lend you his DVDs of The Wire. But when I DO watch a show, I like the whole experience. Mad Men and Game of Thrones are the two best examples right now.
Lance: So, what's the point of paying so much a month for cable then?
Ashley: For me, it's not just the show itself, it's now DVRing the show, watching the show (some I watch live and some I have to save for later), and then, because I am a special kind of TV dork, have to read the recaps online a few hours or the next day later.
And comment on them.
I can't do that with torrents.
Lance: Now that's a commitment. At least you're not updating Wikipedia after every episode. Wait, you're not updating Wikipedia after every episode, are you?
Ashley: Noooo. But, honestly? Last night I got irritated that there wasn't a separate Wikipedia entry for every episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. I thought SOMEONE would have done that by now.
Lance: We could have a whole separate conversation about how Wikipedia's episode guides make no sense. The fact that someone wrote little episode descriptions for every episode of Becker is baffling to me.
Ashley: (Future article: Wikipedia's best episode guides.) And to backtrack a little, you're 100 percent right about the cost of it vs. the actual amount of quality. Most of the channels I get are garbage. I only actively watch maybe 10-15 channels, and that includes ABC, CBS, etc. But for me, the quality is SO quality, I'm willing to pay. The problem is, it's not an a la carte system.
Lance: That's why I'm going the Hulu Plus + Netflix route — it is a la carte, to a degree. It's just not quite complete. I read recaps too, I just have to shift my timeline a day so that I read what The AV Club thought of Community after watching it on Friday instead of Thursday.
(Also, spoiler alert, The AV Club always thinks Community is awesome, as they should because they're not monsters.)
Ashley: I'm watching it tonight, of course. I might even make myself a fancy dinner to go with it.
I made a mistake earlier, I HAVE lived without cable before. For a year, I had a roommate and was living cheap, but I HATED IT.
Lance: Was this pre-accessible streaming TV services?
Ashley: Oh yeah. Netflix was a thing, though. And I also utilized the downtown library's vast collection of classic British television. Another reason I'd never go the torrent/stream-everything route is I'm not actually all that hot with computers. I organize files in my work drives and subfolders all day, I don't want to have to do that with Law & Order reruns, you know?
Lance: The thing about not having cable, but having those streaming deals though, is that you find yourself watching less dumb stuff just because "it's on." I can't tell you how many times I've seen Joe Dirt on Comedy Central just because it was deemed acceptable background noise. Or, like, episodes of NCIS. There's no way I'm going to be downloading episodes of NCIS. I'm not 80 years old.
Ashley: Oh, but I LIKE dumb stuff! I actively watch 19 Kids and Counting. There's a show called Hillbilly Handfishing. There are now multiple home improvement shows with former celebrities doing renovations (Vanilla Ice and Bronson Pinchot off the top of my head). I mean, I'm not even really utilizing that as background noise, I'm just comforted to know it exists.
Lance: Wait, wait, wait. Is Vanilla Ice repairing his own home or other peoples' homes? Who's hiring Vanilla Ice to do home repair? Do they know that he's Vanilla Ice when they hire him?
Ashley: It's 1. house flipping in 2. Florida, which makes perfect sense.
Lance: I think I'm destroying my own argument with my sudden, intense curiosity over Rob Van Winkle remodeling a kitchen.
Ashley: Exactly! It can't all be Event Television, but the curiosity factor of so much of it is just worth it to me, even for five minutes.
Lance: I always felt like that stuff was a distraction that was preventing me from forcing myself to watch other, better stuff. But, then again, this is still coming from the guy who hasn't seen The Wire, so maybe I'm just making excuses.
Ashley: And I know I have a problem! I mean, I just admitted to knowing about Hillbilly Handfishing.
Lance: Can I ask how much you pay for cable?
Ashley: Well, it's Comcast with both cable and internet, and to be honest, it varies. I don't have FULL EVERYTHING (no sports packages, no Showtime) and I finagle my way into and out of promo deals. But around $100 a month. It's a little less next month because I just moved and got some new deals.
Lance: That is so much money! I pay $20 a month between Hulu Plus and Netflix (streaming only, none of this DVD nonsense).
Ashley: But you pay for your Internet, too.
Lance: Well, yeah. But even with that it's still half.
Ashley: So it's only $1.30 more a day! Plus, I mean, I have a decent job. I can afford it. And I don't have kids, or a fancy car, or a drug habit, or a massive record collection.
Lance: And I have two of those. Guess which ones! (Just kidding.)
Ashley: If something horrible were to suddenly happen to my finances, and I was Legit Poor, I would drop it. But I'd still have my TV (unless I needed to sell it) and would still watch the available terrestrial channels. PBS, yo!
Lance: We won't talk about how I still haven't seen Downton Abbey because I keep getting distracted by other, probably less worthy, stuff.
Ashley: Oh, don't worry about it. It's fun, but if you want to talk about costume dramas, I can point you in other directions. (Ahem.)
Lance: I just remembered that I still haven't seen Series Two of Sherlock too UGH WHY BRITAIN.
Ashley: Oh you see, I haven't either! That's a whole separate thing, British TV — WHICH I LOVE. The torrenters and online smarties will get the good stuff before I will, if I ever do.
Lance: Is that even in America yet? I don't know because I'm one of those online smarties. I even used a thing to get past Channel 4's "Brits only" system to watch my friends play songs on that Black Cab Sessions show today.
Ashley: Nope, not yet. It'll be on PBS later this year.
Oh and I should add that I do have Netflix streaming, but not the DVD side of the service. Going through Carl Sagan's Cosmos at the moment!
Ashley: As if making a nice dinner to go with Community tonight didn't already transmit that.
Lance: Touché. Man, that alternate universes episode was pretty much the best, was it not?
Ashley: Top Five All-Time Best Sitcom Episodes Ever. That's the reason TV nerds love Community so much, it's really smart about respecting the conventions of the format.
Lance: I think the moral of all this is that if I'm not going to pay for cable, I should at least buy the stupid converter box so I don't have to try to convince the bartender at 3 Crow to change the channel from Sportscenter to NBC comedies.
This is something that a friend and I considered doing once, it turns out that people care more about NCAA basketball than laughs.
Ashley: Dude, I will buy you a converter box. Happy Christmas.
Lance: Mazel tov!
Ashley: And my moral is I will never ever give it up unless forced by harrowing poverty. And that two TV dorks can't get through one conversation without it devolving into a Community lovefest.
Lance: Six seasons and a movie!