Now THAT’S Entertainment!


This is our TV.

Our one and only TV.  I know some of you are suspiciously thinking, “Hey, that looks an awful lot like Alison’s one and only TV.” And you’re right. It does. But it’s not.

Before we moved to Halifax in 1998 we divested ourselves of all our stuff except for a few suitcases and boxes of essentials. Then we had fun getting new stuff once we got there. We picked up the TV from a Canadian Tire about 4 months after we moved.

The TV has a 13 inch screen. (Coincidentally, I once knew a guy wh….. er, nevermind).  So, our cute little TV sits unobtrusively in a corner with its perky, decorative rabbit ears antenna.

The cat loves to sit up there watching us while we’re watching TV. Sometimes his tail hangs down over the screen which drives my daughter crazy because it pretty much blocks out the whole picture – and the cat doesn’t have a particularly bushy tail.

She yells at him, “Move your tail!” And then he swishes it back and forth. This makes her even angrier because she believes he’s deliberately mocking her.  

I laugh and I laugh. It’s better than anything they’re actually broadcasting on the TV.

Anyway, I’ve never had cable in my life. I’ve never felt any impetus to sign up. I don’t like the whole idea of paying for cable.  I can get the 3 major national channels with the rabbit ears along with the provincial public broadcasting channel, a couple of local channels and a bunch of French channels.

The Francophones really seem to love shows where people film each other, their kids and/or their pets falling off or under stuff, tripping over stuff, bumping into stuff, getting injured, maimed, electrocuted, losing their clothing or being spotted doing crazy stuff while naked and/or urinating. As far as I can make out, there are at least half a dozen French Canadian versions of America’s Funniest Home Videos. On top of Juste Pour Rire, which I think is really awful and doesn’t make me rire at all. (Click link for video samples).

Sometimes,  I’ll look through the TV listings to see what I could be watching if I had cable and there’s almost never anything that I can’t already watch on the channels I have.

The kid, of course, is totally horrified, completely embarrassed and extremely fed up with our “home theatre system”. Every time we change the channel (and yes, we do have a remote control), she has to get up and adjust the rabbit ears, shift the TV and find a place to sit that doesn’t interfere with the airwaves.

Her exasperated grumblings and exhortations are also always quite entertaining.

And then there’s the ultimate good time of getting ready to watch a DVD. The TV needs to get hooked up a VCR player, which then hooks up to a DVD player. Coaxial and perhaps some other sorts of cables are involved, I think.  (I let the kid take care of this too since she does it so much more often, she’s gotten to be a pro). Everything then needs to be plugged into the wall. And then it all needs to be turned on. And then a video needs to be put into the VCR in order to start the whole thing rolling. Then the video is removed.

Only then can the DVD can be put into the DVD player player. Then the cables need to be adjusted for a clear picture. Then we get to watch a 13-inch movie.

Her friends don’t much like coming over to watch movies. Not that she would ever invite them specifically for that purpose. (Perish the thought).  It’s just that when teenagers gather and get bored of the computer, the only other thing they can think of to do is watch DVDs.

So, the kid has been lobbying mercilessly to a) get a new, bigger TV; and b) get cable.

Basic cable starts at around $30 a month + +. It’s not a lot, but the idea of being suckered into another stupid bill every month when I already pay a ridiculous amount of stupid money for internet, home phone and cell phones irks me. 

I think I could get away with not getting cable if I cave on the new TV. It’s probably high time anyway – especially in light of the upcoming digital conversion scam. BUT! Will I still be able to use my rabbit ears antenna with a fancy schmancy new digital TV?

I went to Industry Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs so that I could find out everything I needed to know about getting a new TV and now I’m scared. When did a television get so complicated?

So before I run out to Future Shop and end up slapping some condescending salesgeek, I would appreciate any tips, advice, inside information, warnings, opinions, suggestions and/or hilarious anecdotes.



41 responses to “Now THAT’S Entertainment!

  1. I think you need to make one of your little movies about your daughter trying to watch TV while yelling at the cat to move his tail while you’re laughing at her. That’s my advice.

  2. Does she not have the Internet??

    I haven’t had a TV since 2005, and any TV I do want I can watch online, like South Park, the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report at the Comedy Network’s website, various Discovery Channel shows on their website, and yet more content (including hour-long serial dramas like E.R.) on

    You can watch the daily CBC newscast on the CBC website, you can watch CPAC’s live stream in English, French, or no translation (because I’m sure your daughter is a real federal politics junkie!)

    You can watch PBS Frontline documentaries on their website, as well as a few other of their shows.

    And that’s all just stuff made for broadcast TV. There’s also Youtube, [various questionably-legal means of obtaining TV shows], and content designed specifically for web distribution like TED talks and websites that compile stupid and funny video clips.

    When I rented Monty Python’s Life of Brian a few weeks back, I discovered that I had seen just about all of it in clips on Youtube, just not in order!

    You don’t need a TV to waste your life in front of a screen. Save your money on worthless cable. Use the Internet!

    – RG>

  3. Your daughter might find my advice heretical, but I’d buy a big computer monitor and then attach your computer to the “TV” and steal shows off the internet. Easier with a laptop, but also doable with a tower.

    Fuck those cable vampires and this digital business to boot.

  4. Hmmm. I’m guessing I have nothing to contribute to this discussion! (I don’t have cable or satellite TV either). Can’t you get lots of good stuff to watch online? BBC iPlayer has the good British stuff, for example.

  5. Woodsy – I’m not a big fan of future-shopping anyway. I much prefer to shop in the present or even the past. I shall take your advice and NOT go to Future Shop for sure.

    Heidi-Lou – Hmmm. Who needs TV when you have home-made movies!

    Grouchy – I’m trying to figure out the logistics of that. The computer is in its own room and all the comfy chairs are in another room. I don’t want the computer in the living room. And how does more than one person watch the computer with you? Can I just get a giant computer monitor and run a cable into the living room?

    Megan – The exact question I just asked Grouchy. I’ll have to figure out how I can do that. It sounds like a very sensible solution.

    Loth – Do you have rabbit ears, too? You, me and Alison have so much in common (aside from the whole toast debacle). Watching TV on the internet seems to be a lot of people’s advice. An option I’ve never really considered. I dont’ know why.

  6. The problem with the computer being in a different room from viewing is that you often have to interact with the videos. Online videos tend to be in short clips or exit full screen at random intervals to expose you to more ads.

    In theory, you could get a flat-screen TV, which should have a monitor input port, and you can get a wireless keyboard and mouse if you insist on having the computer in a different room.

    Keep in mind though:
    – this will mean lots of long cables from your computer to the audio/video devices, which in turn means expensive long cables and possibly performance reduction.

    – the bigger the screen, the more powerful the machine and video card to process the information to send to it. Most stuff streamed over the internet is at relatively low resolution, even when viewed on a 15″ laptop screen (unless you want to download higher-resolution stuff). So if you get a huge flatscreen, unless you’re watching DVDs, it’ll be blockland on every intertube-channel.

    As for how does more than one person watch one computer–how does more than one person watch the 13″ TV you have already?

    – RG>

  7. When I moved here it was years before I actually decided to get cable and then it was only because of some special offer. Now, I can’t seem to live without 400 channels.

    I didn’t know buying a tv was complicated. The bigger the better, no?


  8. My TV dates from 1985, and so does my VCR. (The TV still works fine, the VCR doesn’t.) The TV has a 26 – inch screen and I do have cable. It is embarrassing to have such a dinosaur, but like many people have noted, when I do watch TV programs, I usually do it on-line on my computer. The only actual TV I watch is sports events (gotta love them Canucks!) All that being said, I too have just started researching a new TV, and I’m just as scared as you are!

  9. I love the visual of the cat sitting on the TV.

    We don’t have “live” TV either. I watch the one show I like (LOST) online and we watch movies on DVD, but we got rid of our satellite about a year ago and we do not miss it one bit!

  10. Since she broke her clavicle (it was her clavicle, wasn’t it?) and hung up her skates (it was figure-skating, wasn’t it?), why don’t you buy your daughter that guitar instead?

    There ain’t no future in watching TV; you know it, your cat knows it, and so does your daughter.

    Thank you.

  11. “As for how does more than one person watch one computer–how does more than one person watch the 13″ TV you have already?

    – RG>”

    that right there, killed me! BWAHAHA!

    i really dont have any advice cause i have had cable tv since i was like 6.. i had a tv in my room with bunny ears and at 6 pm i would watch polka dot door in the living room.. until one day my dads shift changed at work adn he could not stay up for 11 pm news.. so i took a hissy and the next day i had cable in my room set up before my show.

    i havent looked back since.

    i am a cable tv addict, i PVR every show i watch and im not ashamed.

  12. You’re considering buying an new TV?

    I’m very VERY disappointed in you.

    I would have thought you’d give it up for stringing pop-corn by candlelight, or knitting sweaters for Thirld-World chihuahuas. Or something like that.

    But now YOU….you’re going to get a new TV, just like the rest of us in our consumer-driven materialistic petroleum-based polar-bear-killing society.

    Man…now I don’t believe in NOTHIN’ anymore!

  13. hahaha!
    my advice: don’t get a new TV – get rid of the one you already have.

    if the kid really wants cable, she can find a way to pay for it. if not, she’ll find she doesn’t want it that bad. (i don’t know how old she is.)

    ‘course, i’m the one who moved into my own place in 1992 (yes, i’m 35) and didn’t have a TV to pack … so i didn’t have one. and i didn’t feel like spending money on one, or paying for cable, or any of the rest of it. so i didn’t. and i realized over time i didn’t miss it AT ALL – even though i was the biggest TV junkie in the house before i left home. so i think there’s probably a way to appreciate not having one, even if you thought you couldn’t.

    i was too busy meeting new people and learning to get around my new home city and adjusting to working full time, and i didn’t care about TV. i thought maybe i would get one later, but later kept coming and i never got interested.

    it’s possible.

    but no, there’s no way i’d spend *my* money on either of these things. not for someone else’s sake anyway – HA!

  14. I own a T.V. but it is only 19 inches and I never dated a guy with…nevermind….I do not have cable and the T.V. has a VCR and a DVD player built in. I can’t justify 60 bucks a month for basic cable when I spend most of my spare time on the computer and I can watch everything I want to there. But you get a new T.V. get one of those ones you hang on the wall that are like 50 FEET (METERS, NO WAIT THAT ISN’T RIGHT) BIG FUCK OFF TV (yeah that is right).

  15. So many choices these days. Traditional TV is CRT, then there is Plasma (good for bigger screens), LCD and Projector.
    I don’t like Projector which are also bulky whereas Plasma and LCD are the new slim TV’s. Plasma is often better especially for dark images but has a higher power consumption. There is a new one called LED which is supposed to be better than the LCD for dark images.

    Some say, LCD better in bright rooms and Plasma better in dark rooms. Finally, many TV’s now claim to be HD ready. This is still not the same as Full HD. HD ready can take advantage of High Definition transmissions but can not display the full advantage which is only possible with Full HD TVs.

    Hope this helps.

  16. I just know that you have to do something. If you have an old TV and just use rabbit ears, when it goes digital, you will have nothing. So either buy a digital TV, get cable, or get a digital converter, but you have to do something or you will see nothing.

  17. My advice would be to shop around. When we moved into our first house, we had only one TV and ended up arguing over what to watch, so we decided to buy a second one. (Luckily, we had gift certificates to a few places)

    We went to SEARS and the Bay and Future Shop and compared prices.

  18. Bandobras – I’m happy to take the blame. Also I don’t eat pork, so the swine flu is probably my fault too.

    Grouchy – Sounds like maybe I could just leave my computer where it is and get a new TV. That way if I’m on the computer the kid can still watch TV. I certainly don’t need any more cables. Also it’s very difficult for the cat to sit on a computer monitor.

    Skygirl – I think it got complicated with advent of digital, flat screen, flat panel, plasma, HD, etc., etc.

    Pinklea – Maybe we could form a support group and wade into this adventure en masse; get a bulk discount…. I’m sure there are more of us out there somewhere.

    Kimberly – Ya, you don’t have to sell me on not getting cable or satellite. I’ll have to see if everything I like to watch is available online. It’s an option.

    Tom – I did buy her the guitar and she’s well into lessons now. She just doesn’t seem to want to spend all her spare time practicing. I told her she’d never get really good if she doesn’t, but she insists on having a life outside of work, school and guitar. Where will socializing ever get you, I ask? Or flaking out in front of the TV? But will she listen? No.

    Jobthingy – Well, more power to ya, girl! I didn’t even have a TV in my house until I was 10.

    Friar – Ya, you’re hilarious, you are. I don’t knit and I’d rather eat popcorn than string it up. And I’m only getting the TV for the kid so she isn’t a social pariah. It’s important to be able to discuss the relative merits of American Idol contestants at school, you know. To put your mind at ease, however, I will endeavor to find a TV made entirely out of recycled plastic shopping bags by natives of the South American rainforest being paid a fair wage.

    Auntiehallie – I think the cable is pretty much off the table anyway. I really couldn’t bring myself to do that. And for me, I could probably live very well without a TV, too, and I wouldn’t do it for anyone else, but this is my one and only kiddie we’re talking about here. It’s not like she’s spoiled rotten or anything. And lord knows she’s had to do without a lot of stuff. And she doesn’t ask for much. And she does have a job and buys most of her own stuff now. So, we’ll see.

    Cedar – OKAY! By jiminy I’m going to cover my whole living room wall with a plasma TV and sign up for the $200 deluxe ultra VIP cable option and we’ll just sit there hour after hour in the eerie blue glow of non-stop entertainment value…. 19 inches, you say?

    LGS – NO! It doesn’t help. This is the sort of stuff the Industry Canada site told me, too. How does the digital vs analog thing factor into the LCD, plasma, LED, HD thing?

    Geewits – Canada isn’t going digital for a couple of years yet and we don’t receive any American stations here anyway so that’s not an immediate issue. But you’re right. Sooner or later I’ll have to do something or put up with nothing.

    Hannah – I’ve already been warned off Future Shop and I must admit that place freaks me out anyway. Did you get a digital TV?

  19. Not sure if you are a member, but Costco has pretty competitive prices on smaller LCD TVs; in the $300-400 range and the best part is that you have the absolutely no-hassle 90 day return policy to decide if the TV is right for you.

    You can get over-the-air HD channels with your new TV as well as traditional over-the-air channels a la CBC etc. I have heard differing things about the over-the-air HD, some people claim you can get it with plain ol’ rabbit ears but others I know have bought a better antennae for about $50 that is supposed to be better.

  20. For accuracy’s sake, I should point out that the tv in the picture in the post that you linked to is not my one and only tv. I have another one, almost exactly like it with matching bunny ears, in my bedroom.

    I refuse to buy a new television. I read the FAQ here:

    and it seems that I can buy a set-top converter box and continue to watch tv without resorting to cable.

    Unlike Bazel, Max totally ignores the tv. He’s much more interested in knocking things off the mantel.

  21. This post slayed me. I can just see your poor put upon daughter fuming every time she moves those rabbit ears. Oh the humanity!

    No fear though, the new televisions are all cable ready and they are easy to hook up your DVD player to. You may want to recycle your old VCR since you’ll have a hard time finding tapes for it now. And once you get basic cable, you get hooked on expanded basic, then next thing you know you’ll be getting digital cable, then it’s a short step to the movie channels, then you’re history.

  22. From 1986 to 2002-ish, my only TV was a small, 1983, 13″ RCA colour TV that was a hand-me-down from my sister. It was awesome. You could accidentally pour water down the back of it and, once it dried out, it was still good to go. It got a bit jittery in its old age. In 2002-ish, a friend gave me her old 20″ TV. It was nice, except that it couldn’t display the colour green. I got used to seeing only blues and reds. I couldn’t hook my rabbit ears up to it so when I was unemployed in 2003, I had to go back to the little TV. Once I got a new computer in 2004, I started watching TV through the tuner on my computer. In 2007-ish, I got a new 20″ TV as an employee appreciation award and that’s primarily what I use now.

    What’s my point? That if people didn’t keep giving me TVs, I probably wouldn’t have one. And if I didn’t have a TV, I’d probably not have cable. I’d be using the CTV and other TV station broadband sites and Youtube instead. I say tell your daughter to suck it up — childhood is all about being embarrassed by your parents.

  23. MBlock – Thanks. That’s very clear and straightforward information. I have heard that you can get an HD capable antenna.

    Alison – Do you actually read my blog? I have the Industry Canada link within the post already. But, thanks. What was it last time you didn’t notice?? Anyway I’m glad you were able to vouch for the fact that there is actually more than one of these TVs currently in existence and use. Bazel is usually only interested in the TV as a perch, although every once in a while he peers downward and notices the images moving and gets a little excited. Or stranger still, sometimes there’s music on that seems to mesmerize him – his mouth opens slightly, his eyes close to slits and he sways back and forth up there until the music is over. Even the two of us rolling on the floor in hysterics doesn’t break his concentration.

    Dr. Monkey – It’s a non-stop laugh riot at our place, it really is. Between the cat and the kid I get plenty of exercise for my smiley muscles. But no – I will not get cable. You make it sound even more evil than I envisioned it.

    Louise – No worries, even if I do break down and get a new TV, I still have plenty of embarrassing stuff in my parental repertoire. I wish someone would give me a TV – then I wouldn’t have to think about it any more.

  24. XUP: Do you actually read my comments? My link was specifically to the FAQ where answers might be found and not the digital television homepage, to which you linked. So there. 🙂

    Please find some way to film Bazel swaying to the music.

  25. TV. I knew we’d finally get to a subject on which I can speak intelligently. But before I go any further, you have TV in Canada? I love how much I learn here. Anyway, as some mentioned, the newer tvs have usb ports and you can plug your computer into them. Not only can you get regular programming from many cable networks, but your computer will also double as a dvd player. You can also get an adaptor for your current antenna that will plug directly into the coaxial cable port, if it already doesn’t do that on your current tv. If you do decide on a new one, make sure you buy it online. The roads there are horrible and there are bears everywhere.

  26. No cable? I’m surprised you aren’t typing on a manual typewriter and sending your posts out in good old-fashioned mail.

  27. I have a set of fancy schmancy rabbit ears that you’re welcome to take off my hands if you feel like upgrading. I got rid of my TV but felt I should hang onto my rabbit ears because they were so much newer than the TV.

  28. XUP, the kid can actually sit with co workers/friends/boy frd/husband/grand children and recount how every mistake she made or thinks has made in life can be attributed to a few fatal parental flaws. And, you know what is going to be the first example of eccentric parenting

  29. Alison – Okay, okay. It was really only one page of information to begin with, they just divide into lots of links to look impressive. And, I’ve been telling you since day one that we’re long lost twins.

    Mayopie – In my day anything with an electrical cord just got plugged into the wall and it was ready to go. This is still a major selling point for me when I look for electronics. The more cables, outports, inports, adaptors, etc., etc. I have to deal with, the less likely I’ll want to bring it home. But thanks for the bear warning.

    Mo – Do you mean to tell me there are new ways to send mail and type documents now, too? Whatever next?

    Zoom – Sure. Are they HD type ears? That would be grand. Thanks.

    Lost – That’s what I’m thinking. I’m building hilarious memories for her. It’s my duty.

  30. I think you’re the only person in North America who doesn’t have cable. I have no advice about televisions or cable, I let the hubby deal with that. I can’t even work my DVD player. I am, however a pro with the DVR. At some point in the past I refused to watch TV with my family because I could not see the screen and it gave me a headache. Now we have a TV that takes up an ungodly amount of space, but, size DOES matter. Ok, there’s my advice, no matter what they say, size does matter.

  31. All these people who don’t watch tv! What do you DO with yourselves? I have digital cable and get the Food Network and everything. I have season passes for all my favourite dramas and record them on Tivo. I suppose I could live without knowing what happens on “Heroes” and “Lost” but why should I?

  32. No cable EVER?!

    your daughter must be so deprived. Those rabbit ears can get very annoying, it almost makes TV not worth watching anymore. I vote you should DEFINITELY get a new one. Just so she doesn’t have to turn the TV on 15 minutes before whatever you’re watching so you can get a clear picture!

    Good luck 🙂

  33. i have nothing to add, i thought having internet means you can have more options of things to watch online.

    i got satellite last year and it was/is cheaper than cable.

  34. My TV dates from 1985, and so does my VCR. (The TV still works fine, the VCR doesn’t.) The TV has a 26 – inch screen and I do have cable. It is embarrassing to have such a dinosaur, but like many people have noted, when I do watch TV programs, I usually do it on-line on my computer.

  35. I try not to think about how much I am paying for cable. Or Internet. All I know is that since I started blogging, my tv viewing habits have changed dramatically.

    One time when I had a cable problem I stuck in some old rabbit ears and discovered I could get all kinds of different stations – Rochester, and Chicago and some place in Wisconson on really clear nights. I lived in west end Toronto though, and could not get CBC. Or TVO. Damn CN Tower.

  36. Charlene – No. Alison also doesn’t have cable. And some people I know don’t even have a TV! I’ve heard that about size mattering, but for TVs, I don’t want one dominating my little home.

    Julia – I have maybe an hour in the evenings of free time. I usually go to bed and read.

    BP – It sounds like you have some rabbit ears experience yourself. Has your life changed for the better since you got cable?

    Leah – Satellite, cable… it’s all the same pot. And I don’t want to pay into it at all.

    Jesmi – Wow 1985. Those were the days before they figured out that if they make electronics to last forever they’ll never sell any more. I think you can officially call your TV vintage and/or antique now. And both of those things are uber cool — not embarassing.

    Violetsky – Where you are now you should be able to get tons of channels without cable. When I was living in Niagara I could get all those US stations, all the national stations and the TVO and Moses Znaimer stations from Toronto, too.

  37. I’m fairly sure I must be French. I laugh at the mere mention of people falling down.

    I can’t help with the TV thing. I have a 19 inch CRT, but I do have cable. Sorry.

  38. The picture is crystal clear, and all you have to do is sit down, and turn the tv on, and not move until the show’s over. It’s fantastic.