Cord Cutting and the Americans tv series

 

I have cable tv. But I basically only watch two channels. News and financial news. I’d been hearing about cord cutting for a few years now and how it was rocking the cable industry. But I didn’t really understand it. I mean, you still need internet access, right?

So I did a little searching and got some Fire TV devices on sale. My hope was I could get all my tv from streaming and be able to seamlessly switch between PC and TV. Right now I have two remote controls and it’s clunky. I bought this really great monitor (refurbished, on sale…) and I hadn’t been able to get it to work with cable without going to a poor resolution.

Still couldn’t get the monitor to work. It’s a monitor, not a tv. It has no infrared so no remote will work on it. And that’s a pretty big deal if you want to not have to go up and manually click through an on screen display using 3 buttons on the back of the monitor. Strike one.

My old tv/monitor, which is still very nice, could work. BUT nothing could get the Fire TV remote to work with it. So I’d have to be going between three remote controls. Two of which are “universal” remote capable. Not capable enough.

And of course, I still need internet access. I’m a self-publisher. If I don’t have internet, I can’t do anything–including writing dumb stuff like this. My TV costs about $55 a month. Spectrum.net. No premium channels. The cheapest streaming service I found to replace them that also includes live TV is HULU tv and it’s about $45 a month. It’s possible I could return the cable box and shave off another $2 or something. But this whole cord cutting would save me about $10 a month.

As for the product, the resolution is worse. The HD TV is noticeably less HD than straight cable. It was easy to see with scrolling stock tickers. It isn’t bad. But it’s just one more hop through one more transformation. You’d think digital:digital would keep everything in tact. But nope.

All of this was a clumsy and cumbersome process. And in exchange I have the ability to talk into my remote control. This is opposed to simply going to a channel. Clearly you can add all sorts of apps and I can see my Amazon Prime movies and whatnot instead of switching to my computer (changing the input on my monitor). Just doesn’t seem to be a tremendous upgrade and in a number of cases, a downgrade. Merely switching tv platforms is going to save you almost nothing. And if you factor in the devices (apple tv, fire tv, roku, whatever) you’re looking at a year or two before you see even a penny of savings.

Color me unimpressed.

******************

Since I’m here, I’ll talk about a tv show, the Americans. I had seen it bopping around but never gave it a chance. I grew up in the 80s and lived around Washington DC. I know that era and place very well. So some stuff they get kind of wrong. There is a point where one guy calls himself a bureaucrat. People got assassinated not because of his directive, but because this massive government machine passed around certain memos. That’s very true. But everyone else is this really stark cowboy-type person. And everyone is fucking around constantly. This was Reagan 80s with compassionate conservatism and religious right. No one is getting top secret clearance and maintaining a playboy lifestyle. For the very reasons shown in the program: you’re too easy to compromise. My dad told me of one of his colleagues who went to Moscow for some trip or other. Some gorgeous young woman came up to him and was flirting. Maybe a 15-30 min encounter. He told his superiors and he was on the next plane out of the USSR.

What I really like about the show and struck me as very unique is they have a female character, one youngish and attractive, one oldish and not-so-much, and they are in conflict. It’s unbelievably rare to see two female characters in a long-form altercation. They have to work with each other, but it’s all this passive aggressive angst. And it’s really amazing that I can’t remember the last time I saw something like that. Or if I ever have. They had one scene where they get in a literal fist fight. Where this skinny, probably 120 pound woman, is launching her fists at the skull of the other woman. I was like, a guy wrote this. You had this perfectly realistic, antagonistic relationship, and they have one scene where they go Bruce Lee on each other in defiance of all logic.

I’m not a great writer of women. I don’t pretend to be and my writing doesn’t tend to be highly realistic. But most gal-on-gal conflicts are portrayed as being exactly identical to dude-on-dude. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a fun series, had the two Thanos sisters beating the crap out of each other constantly. There is nothing in those two characters that made them stand out as women. Yes, they’re strong female characters. Literally. They’re physically strong. They can karate chop and shoot guns. And if you made them brothers instead of sisters, you wouldn’t have to change a word of dialogue.

One of my big pet peeves when consuming media (books, tv, movies, retinal holograms) is when they get genders really wrong. We’re not the same. It’s okay we’re not the same. There was a point in Harry Potter, which is a great series that I truly love, where Ron gives Harry the silent treatment as punishment. I think I threw the book against the wall–then picked it back up and kept reading.

Guys don’t silent treatment guys. They punch each other. If Harry got the silent treatment, he’d be like, “good, shut your bitch ass up.” JK Rowling was writing kids as she knew them. But I’ve known a lot of little boys and not one ever went mum as some retaliation. The fact that Ron and Harry never once wrestled or fought or anything is the most unrealistic aspect of the whole series. Guys fight. And then like 30 mins later they’re back to normal. All forgotten. Well, not forgotten, but merely not spoken about and suitably buried.

I’m only on the first season of the Americans, but that silly little female troubles is the most interesting thing.

I’m reminded of a series called Big Love, which was about a polygamous extended family. The scenes I liked most were when they had this round table of the wiveS–plural. The first wife was like the chair and the other wives, captains. And something like this felt truly natural, because balancing 3 shared households can’t be easy. And even though the wives were clearly subordinate in that religion, they still had identities and issues.

That’s a plus on Big Love, but it was also the first series I saw where the writers thought, “hey, everyone has cellphones, we don’t need to have any transitions.” So there would be a blowup issue, solve it, phone call, new issue. And I was like, no one can live like that. That was stress every single waking moment. Have some downtime.

Americans kind of has that Big Love constant meatgrinder of stress. I like to have scenes in my books that are just fluff. Just people doing mundane stuff. Because if you’re in a gun battle every minute, it might be exciting as hell, but even if you survive the bullets you’re going to die from stress in about a month.

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