Tune In, Turn Off

February 22, 2009

In 2009 televisions in the United States are going to be switched over to a completely digital signal. We’re being told that this will give us a lot of great advantages, especially even better picture quality because, you know, when you’re watching that show about that guy who travels around the world to taste how different cultures prepare goat penis, you want the clearest picture possible. The problem is for people who haven’t bought a new television in the past few years. Their televisions could, overnight, turn into giant paperweights. Imagine them tuning in to watch the big ball drop in Times’ Square on December 31st, 2008, and hearing the countdown, "…three…two…one…HAPPY…" and then their screen goes black. Wait a minute. I think I saw a movie just like that. Yeah, it started with television screens going black, and then a guy who’d been in a coma woke up alone in a deserted hospital, only to discover that zombies, talking apes, giant spitting flowers, and animal rights activists had all gotten together and buried the Statue of Liberty up to her neck. I saw it on a UHF station. Remember the good old days when every town had their own local station on the outskirts of town that alternated between broadcasting a guy in a leisure suit reading the farm bureau reports and the same guy dressed up as Dracula hosting really awful late night movies? It’s sad, but you just don’t find that kind of quality entertainment anymore.

Anyway, it’s believed that the change to digital television could affect as many as twenty-one million people. Imagine that: twenty-one million people who still have rabbit ear antennas on top of their televisions, and who probably have to get up, walk across the room, and turn a knob whenever they want to change the channel. I know you can buy a converter box for your television, but I worry whether someone who still has a television with an oval screen and radio tubes will be able to install anything they buy at one of those high-tech stores. And at some high-tech stores the salespeople are pressuring customers to skip the box and just buy new televisions. They’re even convincing people to buy those flat-screen televisions, the ones some people mount on their ceilings over their beds because, you know, that whole sitting up thing can be a lot of trouble. Come on, people, you should only put a television screen on the ceiling over your bed if you’re also so lazy and rich that you pay someone to chew your food for you.

But I digress. I can only say that I’m shocked at the idea of a salesperson ever telling someone to buy something they don’t need. What’s next? Car salesmen who don’t tell the truth? The most important question, though, is, why is the government warning people about this potential problem several months in advance, when it’s usually the job of government to wait for several months after a problem has occurred to warn us about it? Probably because, now that the writers’ strike is over, there might actually be something on worth watching next January.

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