Besides aliens with eyes in the back of their heads, a possible interracial baby mix-up at the maternity ward and “Bet he’ll laugh if I say ‘shoehorn’,” one of my most indelible memories of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” has proven strangely prophetic.
Van Dyke’s character (TV writer Rob Petrie) is at a literary dinner and is already feeling a little out of place when society matron Mrs. Felicia Fellowes robs him of what quaint notoriety he possesses by haughtily declaring, “I don’t own a television machine.”
According to the Associated Press, the Nielsen ratings company has finally recognized a trend called “Zero TV Households.” Such homes now number five million, up from two million in 2007.
While three-fourths of these individuals/families actually physically own a TV, the vast majority of them have given up on traditional cable and satellite packages, preferring to receive their programming through the Internet or subscription services such as Netflix. Laptops, tablets and cellphones reign in these homes.
Nielsen finds that the “Zero TV Households” people tend to be younger, single and childless. They eschew the standard pay TV model because of cost considerations, a desire to make productive use of their time and —in extreme cases—”Because lately when the weather is just right, I’ve been picking up Honey Boo Boo free on my body piercings! Dude!”
Industry experts are wondering if the pattern will hold or whether, as the households age, they’ll evolve into the typical Dish-worshipping couch potato mode. Most likely they’ll age into a mode of “Hey, I’m ordering pizza and having some friends over to watch my tattoos sag.”
Rebelliousness has certainly changed over the decades. Where once Janis Joplin and Kris Kristofferson really socked it to the Establishment, today’s nonconformists seem to be singing “Freedom’s just another word for ‘I’m watchin’ all my ‘Game of Thrones’ in one big marathon instead of at the discretion of programmers.’”
When I was in high school, I aspired to being a TV programmer someday. Perhaps it’s merciful that I wound up in a different career path, or I would be spending my middle-age years wrestling with viewers who won’t spend like they’re supposed to.
Yes, broadcasters are desperately brainstorming ways to undo the damage. These include bribing the governor to act like a stereotypical dopey dad, encouraging the local sheriff to consider a spin-off set in Las Vegas, crafting an award-winning “very special episode” of chitchat about the weather patterns that have held for the past two %$#@& weeks and “Bringing in theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking to explain how we can cram 35 minutes of commercials into a 30-minute rerun of ‘Two And A Half Men.’”
I guess my wife and I were pioneers. We subscribed to cable TV when we were first married and lived in town, but we’ve made do with rabbit ears, videotapes and DVDs since moving to the country in 1993.
Depending on the package, we’ve probably saved from $12,000 to $24,000. It has made for awkward social situations as we’ve grown accustomed to saying, “Haven’t seen it,” “Haven’t seen it,” “I’ve heard of it,” and “I’m not sure if it’s on our set or not BECAUSE MY VIEW IS BLOCKED BY THE BIG STACK OF DOLLAR BILLS!”
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©2013 Danny Tyree