“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Morpheus, The Matrix.
While at a friend’s house for last weekend’s Misano MotoGP, we were able to watch the race through one of the several streaming sites. Trouble was that the BT Sport (British) feed was stop and go. Which is not good when you’re watching the pack enter turn one and then freeze for 30 seconds.
A frantic search for an alternate feed followed and one was found – Fox Sport. Apart from the dire commentary and somewhat fuzzy feed, Fox was at least reliable and we were back in the race until suddenly … commercials.
Mid race? WTF?
It was back to BT Sport, which had unplugged itself just in time to see Marquez spin out and then frantically try to get the bike restarted, which he did 30 seconds later. The Fox feed still showed an overweight middle-aged man in another predictable and inane commercial trying to sell a Dodge Caravan to zombified American families who have been convinced that having a family means buying an oversized gas guzzler.
The race finally came back to show that the viewers had just missed what may have been one of the most important incidents of the season. What shit. Now I admit that this experience with Fox sports provides the perfect segue to an issue that I’ve been dying to bring up for a while now; that the way North American TV works has to die.
My weekend away was the culmination of a short tour with fellow hack, Mark Richardson around the Gaspesie peninsula. Although it was a great little escape post the stress and chaos of the Fundy Adventure Rally, a few nights in motel rooms was a stark reminder of the current state of so-called North American television “entertainment”.
Now I don’t have a TV at home anymore, or at least not one connected to something as mind-dissolving as cable or antenna. It’s connected to an aging Mac mini that serves to stream directly from the internet, with the myriad of options such as Netflix and those opened up by such gems as Hola Unblocker (BBC Iplayer anybody?) and Tunnel Bear.
This has opened up a whole new world to me. One where I watch quality TV when I want and sans commercials. It has transformed my TV viewing from clicking from one of the 52 channels of shit (to steal a line from The Wall) to another to another, spending a whole night watching everything but then in reality, nothing at all.
And what does that evening look like? Five minutes of a mundane show, inevitably gets slammed every three minutes with commercials, which have been seemingly created with the imagination of a dead sheep. It’s almost as if the TV masters are having a competition to see who can produce the most mind putrefyingly inane stuff and actually get people to pay for it.
With my new magical mac mini set up I tend to turn on the TV for an hour at most, watch a really good show (uninterrupted) and then turn it off and do something else. Even the kids get to see the occasional educational documentary, admittedly slipped in between the usual cartoon suspects, but at least they are without the horrible commercials that make them feel that they are not doing at all well unless they can convince their parents to buy the latest piece of garbage.
Unfortunately this is likely a brief golden age of television that we are experiencing, as the powers that be work hard to determine how to plug the hole in their Matrix of control. But the hope is that the reality of people being able to actually see what they want, when they want and with a whole new world of quality to boot — for FREE! — will force them to step up their game or die trying.
In a world where more channels/content has ultimately meant fewer dollars per program, we have sunk so low that I do not see a way that the industry can raise its game where someone will stick with them over the exponentially superior (and free) alternatives. This leaves them to try and prevent access in the form of legal threats or more subtly the dismantling of net neutrality – enabling internet providers (who are generally the same companies) to throttle speed to the alternates and undesirables.
So here is my call to arms. Cut the cable, remove the antenna and kill the bastards before they can kill you. Okay that may be a little dramatic of a statement, but after just two nights of seeing the world I had left behind, I am convinced more than ever that this is a fight for the future of television, and the best opportunity to make a change that we will likely ever get.
Imagine a world where Kim Kardashian is waits tables and no-one know her past the restaurant regulars. Where you aren’t getting stressed out because Billy just got voted of the show/island/world and if you are famous it’s because you actually did something.
Go on, what are you waiting for? Take the red pill.