Cheap TV Entertainment

by Mr. Cheap

There’s a wave of frugality going through the world, as people are worried about jobs and money in light of a looming recession.  I’m amazed at how people have developed the expectation that spending $65 monthly (or far more) on a TV subscription is a “necessity”.  Possibly this attitude will be re-examined in the current environment.  I remember as a kid having 3 channels come in on the rabbit ears.  Some of my friends have only recently gotten cable, while I don’t have it myself.

A popular suggestion would probably be to get rid of the TV altogether and start reading library books. While I’m sympathetic when people like to rant about how brain-dead television is, in my opinion it provides an amazing diversity of engaging entertainment.  Wealth isn’t just dollars and cents in a bank account or a car that makes the neighbours envious.  The readily available, high-quality, inexpensive entertainment we have access to is absolutely part of the wealth of modern living.  Please watch this commercial for the Discovery Channel before slandering television.  If nothing else, it’s a chance to hear Stephen Hawking say “Boom De Ya Da!”

As a total aside, I had an idea for a science-fiction short story that would be about a war between Earth and a colony that wanted to break away.  The war would end up being a trade war where the colony withholds resources (radioactives and whatnot perhaps) that Earth needed shipped back, and Earth blocking entertainment from the colony (and driving them nuts when they couldn’t find out what happened next in serials they followed, and being unable to consume new music, movies and literature being produced by artists they liked).  The colonists would be unable to be satisfied by amateurish home-grown entertainment when they were used to the overwhelming supply of high-quality, sophisticated entertainment from Earth.

Say you really like TV, but want to get rid of the re-occurring expense.  What to do?  If we restrict ourselves to legal options, there’s still a variety of choices:

  1. Visit friends with cable on the night your shows are on.  Years ago I used to go over to a friends house to watch Sopranos.  We’d make Italian food beforehand, then all watch it on HBO (which I was too cheap to buy myself).  I like watching TV shows with people, and with the meal thrown in it became a great night out.
  2. Check out your local library.  Beyond a wide selection of movies, they probably also have seasons of older TV shows available.
  3. Look on Craigslist and Kijiji for used season of shows that you’ve heard are good but haven’t gotten around to seeing.  I can particularly recommend “The Sopranos”, “Sex in the City”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (anything by Joss Whedon is good), the first couple of seasons of “24”, “The Simpsons”, and “Futurama”.  You should probably be able to resell it after watching it for about what you paid (how much more used is it going to be?).

Say you watch quite a bit of TV and you’ve already got through all the seasons of the older shows that you’re interested in.  “But Mr. Cheap,” you complain “I need fresh, new, SURPRISING entertainment!” Fair enough, you whine, I deliver.

I’m really not suppose to say anything about this (American readers might be best served surfing away from this page now), but in actual fact, unbelievably, not all entertainment is made in America!  Occasionally (very rarely I admit), other countries produce something that is watchable (if just barely) when nothing American is available.

From Canada

Pretty much all the “Degrassi” shows are decent for what they are.  If teen melodrama is your thing, check them out.  I found them quite enjoyable when I was in my late teens (watching highly dramatized versions of the issues I’d gone through a few years earlier was fun).  Kevin Smith has  said that watching Degrassi on TV was one of the high points when he was working as a convenience store clerk.  He’s since guest starred on “Degrassi:  The Next Generation”.

From England

The entire run of the original “The Office” is available and quite funny for anyone who has worked in an office environment.  Ricky Gervais is totally unique (I sometimes have to stop an episode and take a break because I get so uncomfortable watching him).

Coupling” is another BBC series which is basically “Friends “, with the sex dial turned to maximum (one episode is about a woman finding a tape called “Lesbian Spank Inferno” in her boyfriend’s VCR).

From Australia

A friend recently introduced me to “Wilfred” which is a black comedy about a man, Adam, who moves in with a girl he meets (and her pot smoking dog).  Wilfred is played by a man in a dog costume and he and Adam have at length conversations about such things as what a nacho is (Wilfred’s contention is, if it doesn’t have cheese on it, its just a corn chip).  It’s never made clear (at least to the end of the first season which I’ve watched) whether Adam is actually communicating with Wilfred or if he’s psychotic.

From Japan

Anime are Japanese animated cartoon’s based on manga (Japanese comic books).  People think that all anime is “Sailor Moon”, but everyone in Japan reads manga and watches anime (many series target adults, not children or teens), so there’s probably a series that would be interesting to you, regardless of your “demographic”.

I’ll turn this over to our (far more knowledgable) readers now.  What non-American series would be worth tracking down for someone trying to go cold turkey off of cable television?

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