Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Life without cable

It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you don’t want cable and you can’t get good reception with your new digital rabbit ears, there is another option.

I haven’t used my television in six months, but I’ve been able to keep up with my favorite shows on the Internet, free of charge, through a variety of Internet services.

Most networks offer on-demand streaming of their current programs now, available on the Web 24 hours a day.

You can’t see every episode from every season, but most popular shows are available, even from smaller networks like Adult Swim and the CW.

Just go to the network’s home page and look for “Full Episodes.” Some sites claim to offer aggregation services and TV on demand, but for most programs, the network sites are more reliable.

Some of these pages will require flash upgrades and the installation of special plug-ins, but you only have to install them once, and the quality can be quite good.

You’ll need a fast Internet connection and a large monitor to enjoy them, but there are a surprising number of shows available, if you’re willing to watch them on your computer.

The standout service is called Hulu, a joint venture from NBC and Fox, available at http://www.hulu.com. Hulu requires a fast connection and the latest version of flash, but it offers the best selection and the best user experience of any network.

I can go on Hulu right now and watch the last five episodes of “Heroes,” the last five episodes of “30 Rock,” the last 10 episodes of “24,” or the last five episodes of “The Office,” full screen, with limited commercial breaks.

I can also go back in time and watch old favorites like “Buffy,” “The A-Team” or “The Facts of Life.” I don’t know anyone who would need 74 complete episodes of “ALF,” but if you want them – if you think puppet-driven sitcoms reached their peak in 1989 – Hulu can hook you up.

The show “ALF” is written in all-caps because “ALF” is, in fact, an acronym for “Alien Life Form.”

I want to be sure and mention this because the correction would just be too sad:

“The name of the ’80s television show ‘ALF’ was misspelled in Michael Duff’s column on Friday’s B-1. ‘ALF’ stands for Alien Life Form and should have been capitalized. The A-J regrets the error.

“Also, in our reference to the 1986 program ‘Small Wonder’ the character known as ‘Vicki’ was actually named V.I.C.I. – an acronym for Voice Input Child Indenticant. The Avalanche-Journal is aware that ‘Indenticant’ is not a word and was never used in real science, even in 1986.”

There is a danger when you go back to watch television programs from the distant past. Not a physical danger or a technological danger, but a kind of spiritual danger that I need to warn you about.

Let’s take, for example, “Knight Rider.” I remember being astonished and offended at age 14 when a teacher at school told me that Knight Rider was a children’s program.

Nonsense, I argued. The drama, the nuance – the subtle statements on identity, memory and man’s notion of self – how could a mere child appreciate these things?

I wish I’d been smart enough to say that, but the truth is, at age 14, the sight of David Hasselhoff in a goatee, driving an indestructible talking TRUCK was pretty much the coolest thing in the world.

I never cared much for KITT (the Knight Industries Two Thousand) but was enthralled by the notion of KARR (the Knight Automated Roving Robot) and Goliath (the giant indestructible truck.)

Hulu doesn’t have the original “Knight Rider,” but I was able to find the new show and see that KARR had returned for the 2009 remake.

And this is where it gets ugly. The shows that we love in childhood are loved in a very specific context, glazed with novelty and fairy dust, with their rough edges smoothed out by memory and time.

The opening credits of “The A-Team” may stir your heart and transport you back to junior high, but after the third time you see the guys escape from a fully equipped tool shed, the nostalgia starts to wear thin.

You can still find standout episodes of “Time Tunnel” and “Hill Street Blues,” but few shows can survive the passage of time.

Obviously, watching TV on the Internet is not for everybody. A few companies have taken stabs at it, but we haven’t found an elegant way to move the computer into the family room yet. The “sofa factor” is a big deal, and until we find a way to browse the Web comfortably with a remote control, TV on the Internet will be an option for videophiles and people wasting time at work.

Still, we have to give these companies credit for making a legal viewing option that is faster, easier and more convenient than piracy.

I hope Big Radio is taking notes.

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 20, 2009 at 18:34

Posted in Columns, TV

2 Responses

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  1. I always liked the A-team Im thirty four years what about airwolf? I liked it to, for true there is only one knight rider.


    June 20, 2009 at 09:34

  2. And how about the incedible hulk? Lou Ferigno and Bill Bixby are him. and Christopher Reeves will always be superman no this guy Dean Anderson.


    June 20, 2009 at 09:38

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