Saying "I Don't Watch Television" Does Not Make You Cool Anymore

Saying "I Don't Watch Television" Does Not Make You Cool Anymore
Doctor Who

Admittedly, that headline is a bit of a lie because saying that you don't watch television has literally never been cool. Ever. So if you claim to not watch television, please be advised that not only is no one impressed, but we're reaching the point where we actively wonder why you are shutting yourself out from the world.

First of all...what is television? That's a legitimate question in this day and age. What constitutes watching TV?

For instance, my favorite television show of all time is Doctor Who, and you can bet all rondels in TARDIS console room I will be tuning in at exactly 8 p.m. on Saturday to watch Peter Capaldi debut. That's not how I started watching the show, though. I started watching it streaming on my Wii through Netflix, gulping down five years of serial science fiction in roughly a few weeks. Was that watching television? How exactly is it different from all the documentaries and movies I otherwise watch through Netflix streaming?

Here's another question that Doctor Who helps illustrate. When the show is off the air, I often pick up books that continue the adventures. Am I still watching television, or have I graduated to reading? How do the radio plays fit in? In that last case, I'm hipsterishly enjoying an art form that predates television, yet it exists because of a television show.

That's the problem when you say you don't watch television in the age of Amazon Prime and Hulu; it is an almost completely meaningless statement because of the cloud-like nature of modern entertainment.

Saying "I Don't Watch Television" Does Not Make You Cool Anymore

Orange is the New Black is a Netflix exclusive. Is it television? Video Game High School and Mortal Kombat: Legacy are web series, but I watch through my YouTube app on PS4 on my TV. I'm seriously asking where you draw the line on what counts.

Lots of people mean they don't get the news from television, which would make you part of only 13 percent of Americans. Still, I can get that. I don't watch my local news outside of severe weather coverage myself. I prefer to get it from Yahoo! News because I like being able to read information at my own pace rather than have it read to me.

Also, I'm an ignorant comment junkie and Yahoo! News is the black tar heroin of ignorant commenters.

So I might do that, but I still catch up with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver when I find the time. Mostly I find the time online during my lunch break, when I can easily digest a 15-minute clip.

Make no mistake, people will look back on us 100 years from now and hold up Stewart, Colbert and Oliver as the Voltaires of the American 21st century. There hasn't been such biting contemporary commentary on politics and events since Mark Twain, and he never had the ability to instantly stream his snark around the world.

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Saying "I Don't Watch Television" Does Not Make You Cool Anymore

And even if you don't agree with me that those three men are the sharpest wits around, by shutting out their chosen medium you are purposely locking yourself away from some of the most influential dialogue going on in the country. In 2010, a Pew poll found that of Americans aged 18-49, Colbert claimed 80 percent of the television news market and Stewart 74 percent. Again, when you look at the huge number of people still getting their news from television, that means that well over the majority of the Americans who will shape the future of the country are listening to those men.

That's really the crux of the problem. When someone says, "I don't watch television," they are essentially saying that they are excluding themselves out of a medium just because it's that particular medium. And that is madness. 50 Shades of Grey and The Secret didn't make me want to stop reading books, just those books.

I understand that reality TV continues unabated, and that the news channels are full of partisan punditry that is more confusing than enlightening, and that the History Channel lost its damned mind several years ago after running out of Hitler's stuff. I get that most of our pop culture like our Kardashians and every vapid Disney pop princess program finds its home on TV.

However, serialized drama has literally never been better. Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, and Hannibal to name just a few. And thanks to my TV provider, I can stream independent movies the same time they are in the theaters. It's the only way I was ever going to Beasts of the Southern Wild or Moonrise Kingdom. It's not exactly the fare I was going to be able to take my four-year-old daughter to see.

Somehow, despite all predictions to the contrary, television has found a way to grow and thrive at a time when everyone told me it was going to be obsolete. It's become more relevant than ever, and by contrast the people who insist that they never touch the stuff are edging away from relevance themselves.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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