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TVs go static in back rooms across the nation

June 18, 2009

I guess we’ve made it through the big digital conversion in one piece. Just a couple million people had major problems, apparently, but I keep getting this picture in my mind of millions of little black and white tvs sitting on shelves in garages, workrooms, sewing rooms, and guest rooms, abandoned forever. Not every room in every house could possibly have a cable-ready flat panel.
A little piece of our history is lost with the end of those clunky, metal, and plastic devices that used to open our world to Lucy, Andy Griffith, Gunsmoke, and Lawrence Welk.
We think now in terms of entertainment centers, with our own media at the ready. It’s all about home entertainment, wall screens over the fireplace and friends and family joining in the fun. But that’s a fantasy of privilege. What about working class TV?
What becomes of the stained and dirty sets sitting in break rooms in factories, barber shops, retail outlets, and repair shops across the land? What happened to turning on the set, seeing what’s on, and zoning out for 10 minutes to the moving pictures you had nothing to do with putting there? Sometimes you don’t want choice. You want distraction and to tune in to what other people might be watching right now, this minute, even if it’s to think, “I’d never watch this garbage.”
But perhaps I’m living in the past. Perhaps everyone has gotten rid of those little, grimy tvs already. Perhaps the narrative of TV as a place where other people also “reside” right along with us is as antiquated as the plots on those sitcoms, dramas, and variety shows of old.

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