An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Tuesday, July 05, 2005  

Sky column

HI, here's this week's ST which existing readers can tell has been adapted from previous experience. One note tho'; the powers that be must have tried to replace an 'it' with a noun but picked the wrong one. I am a little person and could never pick up a television never mind throw one anywhere. On the other hand I have destroyed at least 2 remote controls in a temper. (quite some time ago; contrary to the headline I am learning self-control with regard to some issues).

I’m useless at any kind of control except remote

I finally caved in and rang Sky. Or rather, I had my sister ring Sky (which, in the interests of openness I should point out is 35% owned by News International, owner of The Sunday Times) so we could avail of the introduce-a-friend offer that gives a €30 Dunnes Stores voucher to the subscriber and friend. I had felt virtuous and by no means deprived in four-channel land. On the one hand, I could adopt a morally superior tone when conversation inevitably turned towards the latest reality television programme. On the other, with EastEnders shown on RTE1, Bear in the Big Blue House on RTE2 and Champions League on TV3, all significant constituents in the household were catered for. The existence of the unwatched but potentially educational TG4 added to my Pharisee-like declarations of disdain for satellite dishes.
The only serious downside was the news. TV3’s has aspirations without the budget, while RTE’s would be watchable if Anne Doyle would tone down the makeup and Charlie Bird toned down his voice. The other minor inconvenience related to the wire hanger that acted as an aerial. It had to be adjusted to each channel resulting in tuning disasters if a toddler knocked it over or a large truck rumbled by.

While creating some frustration, this also contributed to domestic harmony by rendering the remote control useless. Other than the housework row and the driving row, the only disruption to marital bliss in our urban cable days had been the flicking row. Our move to the country had saved me from the onset of epilepsy caused by the rapid fire channel-hopping that my husband sees as a core part of the television experience. This had resulted in the television being flung from our third-storey apartment window on one or two instances. But the hardy little device was now safe from his propensity to overwork it and from my hysteria. I had little to complain about.

But the babysitters did. They complained vociferously. As the breastfeeding winds down and the socialising winds up, I depend upon the kindness of others to get out. Babysitters require food, heat and multiple channels. They usually require money, but as mine are family members they come free. However, this only increases the pressure to create a pleasant environment — and wire hangers are not pleasant. So the call was made and the man came out to do the allegedly free installation — free if you didn’t mind miles of cable stapled to your skirting boards. After numerous phone calls, a repeat visit incorporating the attic and writing a cheque, I was handed another remote and several hundred channels.

I sat down to surf feeling more than a little wary. My thumb pressed the “page down” button searching validation for my derision. I found plenty as I noted the shopping channels, children’s channels peppered with advertising and the propagandist Fox News, until I found myself in adult television territory.

As over made-up girls in scarlet underwear caressed their ridiculously large boobs, I was invited to press the red button for the best value in Adult TV. Revelling in indignation, I whipped out the parental control instructions and grappled with pin numbers that would make the purchase of such filth a little more tricky for the over curious tempted by the trailers. Just to be on safe side, I pulled the connection out of the phone line. Cutting off the ability to buy, I was satisfied that at least my fear now had a name: porn.

However, by removing the capacity to act on temptation, it dawned on me why I had revelled in our previous deprivation. With so few channels it was often the case that there was nothing on, thus making it easy to turn off and engage in more productive pursuits.

I felt queasy in the presence of easy access to Seinfeld because what I was faced with was not inherently evil television, but my own weakness. My prior superiority in shunning Big Brother was easily attained when I didn’t have the option. Now, the Sky box performed the role of Satan taking Jesus to the mountain-top and offering him the world. Our Lord said “No” — would I be so strong? I tried to turn it to my advantage. Proving myself a geek beyond all expectation, I inputted the frequencies for the BBC radio channels on the Astra satellite and tuned in Radio 4. Now there were plays and cultural reviews at my disposal. I even checked out Al-Jazeera but was disappointed to discover that it’s all in Arabic.

For the first few days, I did rather well. Then, reclining on the couch one evening trying to focus on an improving book, the remote stared up at me, begging for attention. Surely one episode of Seinfeld could do no harm? Like the alcoholic falling off the wagon, I was soon treating myself to repeats of Frasier, Mash and Will & Grace, hating the sinner but loving the sin.

Humbled, I reached another turning point in the evolution of my character. I acknowledged my weakness and considered self-absolution and reform. What was the point? If I was going to be a repeat offender I might as well enjoy it. Pass the remote.

end article

(ps I've got the babies in the act now. We watched Will & Grace together this afternoon. They seemed amused)

posted by Sarah | 15:48 2 comments
I too love Will and Grace even though it isn't funny and I know it isn't funny and I don't laugh at it.
I even checked out Al-Jazeera but was disappointed to discover that it’s all in Arabic.

It's cool though as one stares at the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen and thinks ... what's not quite right about it? ... and then realise that in Arabic, the scroll is "backwards." Which for some reason I think would actually make more sense in the Roman alphabet as well, it seems like it's a better way to read a moving sentence.
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