I'm a TV addict whose TV is never turned on. My set is used as an extra shelf in my teensy studio, a place to fling my laundry, the resting site for a pile of books, knit hats, bills I'll pay when I've got the cash. So how is it I find myself in this undeniably hooked state, glued to more shows than ever, panting in anticipation of the continuation of a story arc, craving another minute, another hour, another lifetime of infinite jest?
Sunday mornings, while gospel and VH1 divas blare from the roofdeck stereo 'cross the way, are the perfect time to curl up with hours' worth of the past week's programming (Gossip Girl first, then The Hills and The Paper, then Lost, then How I Met Your Mother, then a Bravo reality show, then either Ugly Better or Grey's Anatomy, whichever looks less irritating).
Friday nights work too, after I've relinquished a dance floor and a vodka gimlet in favor of exhaustion and a slab of imported cheese, and a quarter season's worth of Gilmore Girls or whatever competitive reality show is currently occupying the nation's collective consciousness (right now Top Chef, soon The Next Food Network Star). And the incremental respites between work and more work, well, those are ideal for sitcoms, whether classic or 30 Rock.
I watch movies all the time at home, too. Ones that are still in the theaters, ones that are new to DVD, ones that are big hits and small failures and Marilyn Monroe vehicles and Wristcutters: A Love Story, which doesn't suck nearly as much as it's supposed to.
I watch 'em all, and yet I never turn on my television. I simply open my laptop.
I'm an Internet TV addict. And it has got to stop.
I remember the time before I was a slave to the major network sites: hulu.com, sidereel.com, tudou.com, youku.com, watchgossipgirlonline.net.
A time when all I professed to need was PBS and NPR, soy lattes and a proud pin on my black Jansport proclaiming "This is what a feminist looks like!"
I remember sneaking in episodes of Boy Meets World and Dawson's Creek before my scruffy indie rock boyfriend would come over after class, hating myself for enjoying anything so base. At his arrival I'd swap to CNN, shout obscenities at the anchor, suggest a microbrew and discuss the T.C. Boyle short story I'd been trying to gnaw through all week.
I thought I was better than TV, or that I should be better than TV. Only docile, inert, brainless droids love the boob tube, hmph, and I am so not one of them (am I?).
I now know that I am. TV is great, man. Really. It's like all these mini-cinematic releases made just for you to watch from your very favorite Ikea armchair, in the nude. Top that.
I remember the time, too, before I was hooked to Internet TV, when I was just hooked to regular ol'-fashioned TV (this occurred somewhere between pre-school and becoming a fleetingly self-impressed humanities major). TV was more of a hobby than an intent then. Bored? Flip on the telly and browse the offerings. If nothing else, there'd be something mildly entertaining and terrifying on TLC or the Style channel (weddings, babies, makeovers that render all subjects matching mannequins of the host). If nothing great was on I'd watch anyway.
When I visit my parents in Pittsburgh, it's still this way. In Philadelphia I don't have cable (as a freelance writer and grad student, I can't exactly afford it; besides, who needs to pay for cable when all these shows are online for free?!). But when I've got access to cable, I'm ravenous in my desire. I drill my eyes into as much TV as possible: America's Next Top Model marathons, syndicated cooking shows, Robin Williams movies that never shoulda been made. I don't care what I'm watching as long as there are snacks in the pantry, a comfy sofa and my dog snuggled up against my feet for company.
When I watch TV online, it's a different story. My attention is fickle. My Gmail notifier has dinged seven times within one episode of Lipstick Jungle, and there's this article to work on, see, and oh, I wonder if those sandals I've been coveting on Zappos are on sale yet. Still, Internet TV is a pretty sweet deal for a chick who loves to be entertained but can't afford to be entertained and buy groceries.
So why do I need to stop? I got a virus.
Yup, one of those viruses that destroys everything, especially your sanity. And the virus came from a pop-up on some streaming HDTV flash site I'd accessed dozens of times before. Perhaps I'll still stick with the safe (and, um, legal) standards such as ABC.com, NBC.com and the like, but all those other sites that offered Iron Man a day after its theatrical release and every single possible episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ... dead to me. Gone. It's like giving up Soulseek a few years ago after a downloaded virus destroyed my desktop two weeks before my senior thesis was due. It's more expensive to subscribe to eMusic and stop by AKA in Old City, but it feels a lot safer at the end of the day.
I value my sanity more than my addiction, I guess. And I didn't even have to go to rehab.