I’m staring now at the alien presence in my living room. Smart TV.
I’ve been fighting this thing for a couple of months now. This alien presence, which the impotent folks at Time Warner Cable have been unable to keep from bugging out while I’m watching a show. This alien presence, with its hundreds of channels, yet rarely a program or movie of interest. This alien presence, with its array of apps in which I have no interest in accessing through my television – Pandora, Twitter, Facebook, Hulu and NFL Game Day. They are encouraging me to live my life around my Smart TV. If I have to go to the bathroom, or eat, or talk to someone, all I have to do is push the Pause button and the pitch stops halfway to home plate.
Such luxury doesn’t come cheap. And it feels as if they’re charging me per units of frustration. The more disgusted I get, the higher the Time Warner bill. Unless we call Time Warner and announce we’re cancelling cable, and only then do they magically find a way to strip a few bucks off the bill.
“That’s not much….”
“We’ll throw in HBO!”
This summer, after the old TV died, I was ready to completely dump cable. But that Smart TV salesman reeled us back in.
“Why, look at all of the baseball games you can watch! And Netflix, all the movies you desire! And look at those apps! You must keep your cable! Think of your family! In fact we have a cable representative right here in the store!”
Now baseball season’s over. So when I need mindless relaxation – we all need that – I’ll maybe turn on the TV. That takes about 15 minutes, as I battle with the two remotes and a computer modem that’s 10 yards from me but might as well be on the moon. Then I search the Netflix offerings. It’s hit or miss. Virtually no Kurosawa movies. A few minor flicks by Peter Sellers, none of his great old comedies. I cannot believe how many films have been made about superheroes in the last 10 years. And plenty of old TV shows… hey, where’s Rat Patrol?
But what I have started watching is the old Dark Shadows vampire soap opera, with bats on a string and the shadow of the cameraman visible on the wall. And the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which is really clever and well acted. I have finally discovered Portlandia, long after the rest of you laughed and moved on.
And my first love in low-culture entertainment is here as well, setting my pulse racing… really bad sci-fi movies.
If you have a film set in some uncertain corner of the world in an undefined time, where a lost jungle village of blonde women in rabbit-fur bikinis battles a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I’ll watch it. If aliens from another planet are determined to conquer the Earth, and only John Agar stands between them and our doom, I’ll watch it. If mankind’s careless testing of atomic bombs results in the creation of giant irradiated ants and only the U.S. Army, armed with bazookas, can blast them back into the desert, I’ll watch it.
But then I read a news story Wednesday morning that scared the hell out of me. Worse than giant ants. Big changes were coming to Netflix that day.
A lot of it seemed cosmetic. New background color on the display, that sort of thing. But in the last sentence of the story, almost an afterthought of reporting, was this line:
If you’ve connected your Netflix account to Facebook, it will show you what shows your friends have watched.
Oh, Lord. It’s bad enough that the National Security Agency is logging my phone calls and my e-mails. Do I really want my friends on Facebook, seeing that last night on Netflix I watched John Agar in Invisible Invaders?