Cutting the Cable: 6 Weeks In

After having cable TV for ten years (first DirecTV, then the vastly superior Verizon FIOS), we decided to cut the chord when we moved to our new house in a new town.  It had become apparent to us that we were paying over $125 a month to only watch 5 or 6 channels.  So, as the early adopter in the family, I persuaded my more sensible wife to try out a no-cable experiment.

So, here we are, 6 weeks in, and the complaints are few and far between. First the negatives:

  • For the few network shows we watch (So, you think you can dance?), the HD antenna can be a little patchy;
  • When we watch live TV, there is no ability to pause, rewind, fast forward that we had become used to with our DVR;
  • We have missed a few sports events.  However, we have been able to catch the finals: we watched the final day of The Open Championship and the final of Wimbledon. However, as we are watching these on network TV, there often is a time delay, so it means staying away from the Interweb for a few hours.

However, on the plus side:

  • We have saved approximately $200 so far;
  • We watch almost no commercials;
  • More importantly, the kids have watched no commercials, so there have been many fewer requests for Barbies/ Transformers/ pieces of junky plastic that they will play with for ten minutes and then discard forever;
  • We’ve found some great new content for us (see below)
  • We’ve found some great new content for the kids (see below)
  • We can pick up where we left off on a show/ movie from one day to the other, and from one room to the other;
  • We are watching less rubbish: much as we liked The Biggest Loser, we knew it wasn’t good for us;
  • We’re building a great iTunes library that is available on our iPhones/ iPads wherever we go.

So, here’s what we’ve been watching:

  • Wallander is an award-winning Swedish psychological drama murder mystery.  The main character, Detective Inspector Kurt Wallander is brooding but talented and like-able.  He is not unlike the great Oxford University detective of the 1990s Morse, but he drinks fewer pints of bitter.  There is a great supporting cast of well-developed characters, and during each 90 minute episode (there are 26 in all), you are kept guessing as to the identity of the killer. Like many who have watched this series, I want to visit Sweden now, regardless of all the murders.
  • The British remake of Wallander

    Kenneth Branagh as Wallander. Photo courtesy of Degilbo on flickr. Attribution; Noncommercial; No Derivative Works. Some rights reserved.

     is also worth watching, principally because it stars the great Shakespearean actor, Kenneth Branagh.  As the writer of the two versions is the same, the plots are equally complex, though the British version focuses more on Branagh and his train-wreck of a personal life; the supporting characters are less fully developed.  It is shot in Sweden, and though the actors speak English (or more accurately, British), it is a little odd to see them reading Swedish signs and newspapers.

  • We revisited (and purchased) the excellent 1996 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet.  Now we, or more accurately, my better half, can watch that lake scene over and over.
  • The Fall is another psychological murder mystery drama, but this one is set against the backdrop of terrorism/ organized crime in Belfast.  It stars a cold and harsh, but captivating, Gillian Anderson (of X Files fame) with an excellent British accent!
  • We have also revisited some old favorites: the comedy series The Vicar of Dibley, Parks and Recreation, Gavin and Stacey, Freaks and Geeks, Top Gear
  • We’ve found some great French movies such as Happily Ever After, Change of Plans, and The Closet
  • The Daily Show is perhaps the only thing we watch on Hulu Plus, but this show is pretty much worth the $7.99 per month.

For the kids there have been some good new finds: an animated version of The Hungry Caterpillar, an animal discover adventure cartoon series called Wild Kratts, a dancing/ singing entertainment show The Doodlebops (on Hulu Plus), and unfortunately, they seem to have to taken to the noisy and slightly trashy My Little Pony.  They have also very much enjoyed the Larry the Cable Guy-voice Cars Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales.

Overall, then, the experiment seems to be working: there are no complaints, we are more intentional about what we are watching, there are no commercials, and apparently, we are not missing much (unless you count Sharknado).