With basically no money I had no option but to live without cable, it was the first time in my life that I had done so and while I’ve since come to love the lacking, at the time it only served to further my depression. Not knowing what to do with my over abundance of free time I eventually bought an antenna (Hulu and the like did not yet exist…remember 2003 kids?)
Telling people that I lived without television was a source of pride for me at that time. It made me feel cultured in ways that I never had before. I told people that I read a lot – it never felt like a lie because I did read a lot of bullshit on the internet. When Justin came over once he did note how few books I owned, with no library card to diffuse his argument I probably just said something along the lines of; “weird huh?” Meanwhile I was thinking, “you know internet books right? They look a lot like naked people playing WWE wrestling in 30 second clips,” 30 seconds porn clips were like full movies at that point in my life.
This was the first time in my life where I felt a clean break from the past, becoming ‘cultured’ was important to me in some way. Every fiber of my being wanted to change and escape aspects of my life before that year. My musical preferences had recently changed and I wanted to reflect that in action, style, sophistication, and everything else in my life. The music didn’t really matter much, it seemed important at the time, looking back though it was little more than a catalyst.
What I really wanted was Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Yes, there were things worth running from but Conan was a constant I hoped to keep. I had been sneaking his shows since I was about 15 years old (1995,) I watched it through college when nobody was around to advice (read: force) me to sleep, and I wanted to keep on watching. My work schedule was 4pm-9pm on the weekdays and 4pm-10pm on weekends, at the time it felt too long, I only wanted to return to my silent and depressing home. A splash of Midnight Red would, I felt, have helped.
My schedule otherwise was sort of crazy, wake up at about 3pm and go to sleep at about 6am. Sadly though, I kept this schedule without Conan, as NBC wouldn’t come in on my TV. Fox was really the only channel I got, so it was late night syndication for me – this is why I know every episode of “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “Just Shoot Me,” and the Michael J. Fox episodes of “Spin City.”
Fox did 103 episodes of “Spin City” before Parkinson’s forced him to leave the show, Charlie Sheen amazingly lasted 45 in his stead. I’m not a television buff but I can think of no other show where the main character was replaced and the show continued to be a success, even if only a minor success. While you could argue this with Cheers, Diane was a highly important character but not the focus. Sheen has had some moderately good movies (and yes, some great as well but those movies were great in spite of him and in no part great because of him) but he is a well known asshole, who has done just about everything wrong and yet he remains on the number 1 show on television. Regardless of whom you were to put in the Sheen role on “Three and a Half Men” the show would remain offensively bad and just offensive to entertainment as a whole – yet America fucking loves this guy. It blows my mind. I guess there are just a lot more people out there who appreciate a good wife-beating than I know about. Needless to say, I only watched the M.J. Fox episodes.
I wrote down a line, from “3rd Rock” that I will never forget, it’s the exact kind of misdirection humor which I so appreciate (see my affinity for Allen Woody,) I don’t remember the characters but it went like this:
- Character 1: “somebody wants you in the other room.”
- Character 2: “oh? Who?”
- Character 1: “everybody in this room.”
So that is how I spent part of my nights; watching 3 TV shows while my days were spent telling people that I didn’t have a TV. Again, I somehow never really felt like any of it was a lie. I didn’t watch a lot of TV, by most standards, an hour and a half was basically like no TV at all, except it isn’t no TV, it’s an hour an a half of TV. Part of me believed that the more I told people I didn’t have a set the more likely I would be to actually stop watching those shows. In a way though, my “programs,” were the one time in my apartment when I felt just slightly less than suicidal and lonely.
Of course there was also (teaser) MySpace, Ash In Concrete, LiveJournal/MySpace Blog, the 2004 elections, and god knows what else…but those come later.