Tuesday, April 11, 2006

When Will This "TV" Thing Finally Catch On?

In a recent TV Week column, Tom Shales writes sneeringly (of course) of downloading TV shows to portable players like iPods. He says of content providers that they're marketing to "people who'll pay $1.99 or $2.99 or just $.99 a pop for it, lest they find themselves with 30 seconds of boredom on their hands."

I thought about this yesterday as I sat in a doctor's waiting room. I was a little early, plus there was a wait, so I had about a half hour to kill. I was sitting there, watching The Daily Show and Law & Order on my iPod while I waited.

Next to me was a woman reading a romance novel. Next to her was a man flipping idly through a Golf Digest he had found on the table; he wasn't reading it, he was just flipping through it. Next to him was a woman who had brought an Us Weekly with her. Next to her was a woman who was reading a two-day-old L.A. Times that she found on the chair next to her.

When the nurse said it was my turn to go in, I was a little disappointed. I was having a good time. And I realized I was the only person in the waiting room who was actually enjoying himself.

And I thought, "Gee, Tom, why am I automatically the asshole in this group?"

Seriously. Why is watching TV on a portable device somehow a pathetic attempt to fill every second of my sad life, but reading a book or newspaper or whatever magazine happens to be lying in front of me is a zesty, lusty, go-for-the-gusto cabaret of an existence?

Presumably, if we were all on a train, Tom would have no complaint if we were all reading the news. But if we were all watching the news, Tom would cluck and think, "What a bunch of losers."

Am I the only one who sees something wrong here?

And let's not forget: Tom Shales is a television critic!! Why the TV hate?

Why is television the only medium that some people think shouldn't be portable?


Russell Arch said...

Sounds like someone didn't get that video iPod for Christmas. Never underestimate the power of envy!

peeky said...

I have to admit that the idea of being plugged into a screen and able to watch TV wherever I go (and therefore unable to hear when a derailed locomotive might be speeding toward my back) is not that appealing to me. I already look at screens so much that it doesn't hurt me to read a paper now and then. Earphones have a way of shutting everything out, which is fantastic but can also make you kind of an oblivious non-participant in the world. However, I do see your point about choosing an episode of Law & Order over "Highlights" magazine, even though I enjoy "Highlights" and haven't emotionally outgrown it yet.

Paul Israelson said...

Right on target, Mike.

Michael Markowitz said...

Thanks, Russ and Paul

Peeky, your "shutting out the world" argument is the same thing we heard back when the Sony Walkman was introduced. I frankly thought it was ridiculous then, and moreso now, since the average earbuds can barely drown out the sound of a leaf falling on a blade of grass, much less a derailed locomotive.

In fact, I use very expensive noise-cancelling headphones, and even they don't eliminate all noise or conversation, just the most irritating parts of it. I can still hear perfectly well if someone calls my name or speaks to me, and I take off my headphones, as I did when the nurse called my name. Were she a locomotive, I would have done the same.

Tom Shales is making an entirely different, even less valid argument. He's saying I'm pathetic for spending two dollars for a Law & Order episode to kill an hour, but the woman next to me is NOT pathetic for spending two dollars for a magazine to kill an hour. That's obviously ridiculous.

As for Highlights, if that's the one with Goofus & Gallant, I'm with you.

peeky said...

when I'm playing music, my ear buds block out a fair amount of noise, but i'm walking around city streets and it's a different type of ambient noise. in any case, no, i'm certainly not implying you're pathetic. in fact, your mastery of of all that's technical and gadget-y is astounding. goofus & gallant!

Michael Markowitz said...

Peeky, we are a mutual admiration society!!!!