TV or Not TV, That is the Question


Sometimes after a long day of making things up, I like to turn on the TV and let my mind float along on a stream of utter pointlessness. Remember TV? It’s like Facebook, only with commercials.

I like to watch Pawn Stars because I might accidentally learn some history, but mostly because occasionally some drug addict brings in a cool guitar to sell. My addiction to Jeopardy is well-documented. I get reeled into binges of Chopped or Real East Nashville Housewives Who Own Rottweilers But Somehow No Underwear. It passes the time.

I was enjoying one of these mental vacations a month ago when the Dying Star of Death flashed onscreen. I knew immediately that this TV was dead. Back in the olden days when the TV remote looked like the control that runs a mechanical bull, you would shut the power off with a small percussive pop and the image collapsed into the middle of the screen, where a ball of light lingered there for a moment, then disappeared. Kind of like when you kill a witch. That’s what happened here. I half expected a black and white test pattern of an Indian head to appear, but there was nothing.

I tried all the obvious things: I swore at the TV and made disparaging remarks about its lineage. I pushed the power button several hundred times. Nothing. I unplugged the set and plugged it back in. Zip. Rebooted the cable box. Zilch. Our glorious 32” tube TV, which seemed like a JumboTron when we bought it in 2002, had gone to that big Radio Shack in the sky.

Twelve years is more than a decade in the electronics world, and TV technology has changed dramatically. Hell, the one we bought before this one came in a wood cabinet and had to match the furniture. Buying a new set was going to require some major education.

When it comes to replacing machinery in the Wire household, I am typically in charge of the research. Barb has veto power, and usually has an opinion on color or style. (Not much to decide here: Rectangular. Black.) I don’t mind doing the research. But I will tell you this: shopping for a new TV is a lot more stimulating that shopping for a new washer and dryer.

Bob Wire, Humor Blogger, Missoula, MT

“No, Bob, honey–I said put on the porn channel.”

At first, I thought this actually might be a good thing, letting the family go a few weeks without TV. We could pursue other interests, get to know each other, and spend some actual quality time together as a family unit.

After a couple of hours getting up to speed on TV technology, I put my iPad away and went into Rusty’s room. He smiled at me and nodded.

“Hey, buddy,” I said. “I was thinking. Since you’re caught up with homework and the TV’s dead, maybe we could go hit some golf balls. This will be a good chance for me and you to hang out together.”

He kept smiling, and continued to nod.

“Plus, I’ve been thinking about that college you want to go to. There might be a couple of scholarship opportunities we could talk about. What do you think?”

He yanked his earbuds out. “This new Atmosphere album kicks ass. What? Were you talking?”

I peeked into Speaker’s bedroom. She had her back to the door, headphones clamped on her head, and was playing some video game on her laptop. “You’re dead to me!” she said. I had to assume she was talking to the game. I closed the door.

“Wow, I don’t know if anyone’s going to miss that TV at all,” I said, walking into the living room. Barb looked up from her phone.

“What? I was playing Angry Birds.”

It looks like the only thing that’s going to stand between us and a constant flow of entertainment will be our internet connection.

But I wasn’t about to reduce myself to watching everything on a tiny screen. I wanted that new TV. I needed to start following the NBA season, now that the Finals are underway.

Barb accompanied me to the store so I wouldn’t come home with a $4,000 3D home theater complete with popcorn trolley and a surround sound system that could shake your kidneys loose. We had a budget. I’d actually narrowed it down to a couple of choices.

We listened to the sales person tell us all about plasma, 4K UHD, LCD, LED, and how he was working on getting his GED. He told us about refresh rates, motion blur, and a terrifying thing called the Soap Opera Effect. We learned about local dimming, backlit arrays, edge-lit screens and 1,000,000-to-1 contrast. The dozens of TVs all bore stickers that estimated how much you’d spend on powering them each month.

It was a lot to take in. There were smart TVs and dumb TVs. I asked if a smart TV would be compatible with our dumb stereo. It would, but it would always condescend. Now TVs connect to your wi-fi, or you can stream content through an Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Blu-Ray player, or the old standby, Stolen Cable Spliced Off Your Neighbor. A built-in connection to Netflix would assure us an endless supply of shitty ‘80s movies and obscure independent films that your friends from Portland love but nobody’s ever heard of.

In the end, it came down to watching an episode of Big Bang Theory on all the sets in the store. We chose the one with a picture so clear you can see the freckles on the tops of Penny’s breasts. I mean, uh, the highest refresh rate.

We got it home and hooked it up, and not a moment too soon. It’s been nearly a month since I’ve watched The Big Lebowski. I wonder if Logjammin’ will look better with the Soap Opera Effect?

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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