Giving Up TV

By Rory Freedman   |  41Comments|

July 1, 2010

It scares me to even write this because then it will be real. But that’s exactly why I need to write this – I need it to be real. I need to put it out there and be accountable. And in order to battle any addiction, you need a support group.

I’m canceling my cable.

Ahhh!! It’s real! I said it. I’m accountable. I’m really doing it. Oh my God. I’m freaking out. I’ve been a TV junkie my whole life. Growing up, I had a TV in my room from the time I was two or three. In college, I had an illegal cable descrambler. And now, after a long, busy day, there’s nothing I love more than sitting on my couch with TiVo. And perhaps if I was a normal TV watcher, this would be fine. But I’m not. I’m an addict. I can’t sit down and watch one or two shows and call it a night. I’ll sit down in front of the TV, already exhausted, at 9:00 or 10:00 pm, and then watch straight through to at least 2:00 am, occasionally 3:00 or 4:00. Every time I’ll promise myself, “just ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Private Practice,’ then bed.” But like all addicts, my disease is beyond my control. So after “Grey’s” and “Private,” depending on the season, come “Glee,” “The Bachelor/Bachelorette,” then “The Real Housewives of New York City,” “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” “United States of Tara,” “Nurse Jackie,” “The Tudors,” “Survivor,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Mad Men,” “Friday Night Lights,” and on and on and on.

Just writing this, my heart is racing. I can’t imagine not knowing what’s going on with… all of these people/characters. (I can’t even pick some specific people/characters. I am invested in all of them!) Maybe this is a bad idea. TV gives me so much pleasure. Why should I deprive myself of that? Taking deep breaths. Getting refocused. I know why. Because it’s not good for me. Watching TV actually makes me feel bad. When I’m done, I feel like my whole being has been pervaded with negative energy. Yes, there are moments of joy, laughter, happy tears, and inspiration. But for me, for some reason, it is all outweighed by this sense of heaviness/angst/discomfort/sadness when I’m done. Maybe if I just watched “Glee” and nothing else, I’d be fine?

A year or two ago, after wimping out on canceling cable, I decided to at least cut out shows that I didn’t totally love. So I broke up with the Desperate Housewives. And I didn’t really miss them. This time, though, it feels different. I feel like I can easily part ways with the Bach and Bachelorette. But Nurse Jackie’s husband just found out she’s a drug addict, Tara just discovered a new alter ego, and Betty and Don Draper are divorcing. This is hell.

I swear this is not me backpedaling. I will allow myself a few favorites online. But I cannot and will not spend hours in front of the idiot box like I’ve done for these past three decades. I haven’t watched TV for three weeks and I’ve been fine. But last night, alone in my hotel room, I closed the curtains, hunkered down, and watched a whole slew of shit. It was such a big hit off the crack pipe. Yes, there were moments I felt happy, moved to tears, and inspired. But overall, while watching, afterward, and this morning, I felt bleh.

It feels terrifying to know that when I get home to LA later tonight, there are three weeks worth of TiVo waiting for me. I haven’t quite decided how to handle it. Technically, it’s all grandfathered in.

Regardless, I’m canceling my cable and I’m excited to see who I am and what I do without it. I’ve said it out loud, and it’s real, and I’m accountable.


July 8, 2010

I cannot believe how different my life feels already. I haven’t even canceled my cable yet but I’m already experiencing better focus, productivity, and clarity. Just knowing TV is not an option – even while it actually still is – has been amazing. I already feel certain that this was the right decision.

July 9, 2010

Shit. It just occurred to me that I still have the series finale of “Lost” on my TiVo. It feels totally ridiculous to have come this far and not watch the final episode. I will watch it, and then – bam – cable over.

July 11, 2010

I watched the final episode of “Lost” and sobbed. So beautiful, so profound. While crying, I thought, “Why would I give this up? Being moved like this is such a gift.” And it is. But it comes at a cost, and I am clear on this now.

July 12, 2010

Just hung up with my cable provider. I did it. Canceled. I had one moment of concern, when the representative started asking me if I was sure I didn’t want to just suspend the service as opposed to canceling it: What if I regretted my decision and then had to deal with a whole rigmarole to get it turned back on in a few months? But I quickly regained my composure and continued with my plan. And I feel great. It was the right thing to do and I’m thrilled to have done something so good for myself. And I’m excited to see what the world has in store for me now that I’m no longer selling my soul to TV.

Photo credit: David Ojalvo

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41 responses to Giving Up TV
  1. You’re awesome! Way to go! I think this little addictive behavior is totally hiding in the corner of our minds right now with excuses such as “i just wanna kick back and relax!” and “I’ve been SO stressed I’ve done This and This and This all day at my job – and I deserve to relax and zone out and turn off my brain!” However, sadly this is Not relaxing. At least for me. I, like you, and MANY people I know, are *gasp* Addicted! Yep. Accountability. I love it! It’s a way to turn off our life, because we’re So tired or stressed, and jump into a completely different one. We don’t have to do anything while we’re watching Rachel, Puck, Jesse, and Finn from Glee sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart”! And what better a remedy will we find from working all day, expending so much energy into our projects, than to do literally nothing? Unfortunately, it sounds just like drinking, smoking, etc. It pulls our self-consciousness – that takes care of us, our bodies, heals & nurtures us – and hooks it into a different world, full of drama and seduction. LOL. Okay – it’s not a “sin” or bad at all in the big picture, tv gives us glimpses into things all around us that we wouldn’t have seen without it and teach us valuable lessons, connects us, and give us inspiration. it goes along with our wanting to Know Ourselves and “look inside”. HOWEVER. WE have problems!! We’re Human! Haha. And certain old-patterns and behaviors easily distract and capture our attention making it difficult for us to take care of ourselves. Like you feeling drained after a series-binge. I’ve had manyy days where I woke up, wasn’t feeling too hot – definitely should have been up, cooking for myself, taking care of myself, resting/healing, going outside breathing fresh air, giving my eyes natural light and movement – and instead I chose to lay on the couch, slowly petrifying, while I hooked myself up to my television for the whole day, afterward, once I finally broke the surface of my trance, gasping for air, i felt completely horrible. Body Aching BAD, headahce, HUNGRY, mentally uncomfortable considering I’d been watching flashing pixels all day instead of actually interacting with the life around me, had to use restroom, etc. Our body gives us a Wake up call. So I totally understand why you want to give this up, and BRAVO! I’m sure many of us need a break to help us get back to balance [myself included!!] You’re brave! ;D I know how good I feel when my consciousness is totally into taking care of myself so I’m a big supporter! Also, I’m not sure who else may relate, but I have another problem which I’m actually doing as I type on this keyboard. I start by turning my computer on, convincing myself I have the conviction to just go on facebook, look at that message I needed to read for that job I’m gonna do, and I end up 5 hours later reading about every god in ancient greece and rome and their lives, the politics of greece today, the gulf oiil spill, the total structure and functioning of lightning and hurricanes, and watching 20 youtube music videos and voila! I’ve made myself feel just as poorly as when I’d sold my soul away to Anthony Bourdain! 😀 It’s a delicate balance of inspiration & knowledge seeking and self-care that I think we’re all trying to reach! So, I believe it’s time for me to sign off of the internet and rip out the cord before I continue on to an endless loop of youtube music videos! <3 GOOD LUCK! 😀

    Thanks for your post!!

  2. That’s great. My wife is reading: In Pursuit of Silence, Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise by George Prochnik. We decided together to take one recommendation to watch only 6 hours of TV a week. Last week we only watched 1 hr of Young and Restless, 3 hrs of So You Think You Can Dance and 1 hrs of Glee. Wow that adds up to only 5 hrs of TV watching. I have found that we have better conversations at the dinner table and I am not gobbling my dinner down or always watching the clock. One week down and with support like this we can all cut down and turn off the TV.

  3. In mindfulness studies we ask, what thoughts are you avoiding when you fill your senses with TV, internet, other stimulation? As you move away from TV, those thoughts will come. Finding the courage to be WITH them (not react to them by running back to TV) is the challenge. Good luck!

  4. Arguments for the Elimination of Television and knew at some point, I had to cut the chor. My husband at the time still watched but I realized that I’d never find the life I wanted watching reruns of Law and Order. Then 3 years later my then husband got addicted to pain killers. I would come home to find him wasted on the couch watching the Speed Channel. There it was – addicted to TV and to another substance. The husband is gone and so is the TV. I do keep a tiny DVD player to watch some old movies, but do so only once a month or so. Now I just can’t bear to watch it at all. Except for Whale Wars at a friend’s house. I have read on that the average American watches 31.9 hours a week of TV. I read, I swim 10Ks, I do Tai Chi. I do Yoga. I am learning to be vegan. I can say without any doubt that after the first couple of months you will not miss it at all. Rock on.

  5. Here’s the first part of the message above-I’m just learning to blog-I gave up watching TV 12 years ago when I had breast cancer. I read Jerry Mander’s book Four …

  6. Wow…i just quit smoking 5 days ago so i’ll stick with just that for now :) I was also like you, a complete addict and so my first step was cutting out ALL reality TV (i do watch SYTYCD because in my opinion it’s not reality, it’s competition…like a sports show). Sometimes it was hard, like when everyone was talking about what was happening on Big Brother or The Bachelorette or America’s Next Top Model. Overall though i don’t miss those shows as they are really just a LOT of negativity. I also did what you did with Desperate Housewives, i broke up with a few shows i knew i could do without. I am also ruthless, if a new show doesn’t grab me within the first 2 episodes it’s gone. The sad news however is that with the end of the regular season I found myself researching what to watch in the summer! Not good!!! Well Rory, you’ve gotten me to quit meat, dairy and now smoking…could TV be next?!?

  7. I cancelled my cable last October, best decision I ever made. I now watch things via Netflix but usually only for an hour or so on a friday or saturday night if I’m home alone. Never going back to cable and mindless tv watching and channel surfing!!

  8. ali said on July 26, 2010

    wow! congrats! I’ve been TV free for over 10 years and haven’t missed it once. :)

  9. you inspired to me write my own blog post on the subject!

  10. Go Rory! I’ve did the same thing at the beginning of this year. Changes like this and diet can really turn your life around, you no longer want to spend time with ppl who watch/talk ab TV. And you find friends who eat healthier diets too! We all need that support group, I hope you can find one too!

  11. Wow! You are seriously amazing! My hubby would die without TV and I must confess we watch way too much of it. Thanks for the food for thought!

  12. I’ve been t.v. free since 2005. I’ve been vegan since March of this year. Cutting t.v. out of your life is similar to going vegan. The more you live your life without the “drugs”, the more you realize that you have never really needed them…and the less you crave them! Sometimes I treat myself to cable if I am in a hotel or housesitting for a friend. I get all excited about watching t.v., but after 2 hours of watching, my eyes start to blur and my head hurts. It just doesn’t do my body good anymore! Just like animal products don’t. Enjoy the TIME you have with yourself, the endless options for spending your time and unwinding…in a hot bath, listening to new music, writing letters to friends, reading an inspiring and entertaining novel. ENJOY!!!

  13. Good for you Girl, I did this years ago.
    However my Boyfriend watches Tv , I just go upstairs and read a book. I still cant figure out how to turn on and off the damn thing, its got like 3 hook ups.
    Anywho… is more grand without all the negative pulses of the News,etc.
    Live free my friend xo

  14. I soooo know how you feel! I am scared to go without it, although a part of me would like to try. I am definitely addicted. I turn it on even when I’m not watching just for comfort! What would I do, who would I become without it…..I would have to act: pursue my other interests, get things done, and I guess that’s a little scary ( and exciting as well)!

  15. We said we were going to give up TV after the Lost finale. We didn’t. I admire your decision! I realized that Lost was the only show I was giving up sleep in order to watch the night it aired. Any other show was something I could catch later. Not having that “pressure” has been amazing.

    (I loved the Lost finale as well, btw, but never could have waited two months to watch, and even watched–the first of two times–at the hospital after child #3 was born to ensure no spoilers, while said baby slept in my arms and occasionally nursed. I got more out of it the second time, that’s for sure!)

    What I need to give up is sitting aimlessly at the computer, and I might need to go cold turkey for that! :)

  16. T.V is evil. We don’t have it around our place, just watch the occasional movie. I like to go out for walks every night with my husband and my girls. I think it is important for kids to not be just watching T.V all day long and for families to actually spend time together. Good on you for deciding to cancel your cable. You will find life is so much more meaningful. You won’t even miss it.

  17. Good for you! 6 years ago I had a little health scare, nothing major but enough to make me make me realize I didn’t want to have spent my life wathching the Discovery and National Georgraphic Channels, with nothing to show but a bunch of facts about a world I’d never experienced for myself. I cancelled cable and slowly weaned myself of the “antenna” channels. Within 3 months I was free. I’ve never really looked back. Hulu is definetly a temptation, but then I just close the laptop. Like turning off the TV. Click Done. Quiet. Then my world gets big and exciting!

  18. ana said on July 26, 2010

    why does this have to be an all or nothing situation? I have a tv, and use it only to watch dvds, which would be about 4 to 6 hours of tv a week.
    I moved to the US last year and can’t understand this obsession with tv shows. I don’t know what they are about and don’t miss them. Like nicotine, if you don’t start then you really don’t have to quit 😉

  19. I have lived w/out cable for almost eight months and I love it. Yes, I still watch the occasional TV shows now and again…but not here at my house. A good friend of mine records them and then me, her and another friend get togther once a week for about three hours and indulge on cable. That’s it…three hours of cable tv a week. Yes…we have movies to watch here at home…but they (for me) are mostly used for background noise while cleaning. I have rediscovered my love of reading and spending time w/ friends and family. And I made myself a blog….life is good.

  20. I know what you mean about the bleh feeling. In many ways, I’m the total opposite of you as far as past and current TV habits, but there’s this one little thing that zaps four hours of my life every Saturday in the fall — Notre Dame football. At best (when ND wins), I end up feeling totally drained, but I often also feel grumpy, tired, and overall bleh.

  21. I knew I wasn’t alone in this, but I wasn’t aware that there were others aware of the details I was… like what these binges till 4 am do to one’s life and soul… I’ve gotten much better at cutting out many shows and I cut buying cable 3 years ago… I read about what the tube does to us about 5 years ago… and still I let it suck me dry. Now facing an illness, seeing that there are those willing to do the work of healing that have had a tremendously positive effect on their outcomes I know that just sitting like a slug is what got me into this mess (that and hereditary CLL)… I feel so much better when I move. And to eat healthy takes enormous energy and effort… It all goes together. Even though I now see commercials with wheatgrass messages and certain characters discussing the benefits of vegetarianism… for the most part it’s all old school… the one that is killing us slowly. This is Survival in the 21st Century… just like the book said in the 70s.

  22. we don’t have cable and i haven’t had a tv for 8 years. nowadays if you really want to see something you can get it on DVD and watch it on your computer. it takes a bit more patience though but you are likely to do it only for more meaningful shows (like mad men). good for you!

  23. The surprise I have found living tv free is feeling less need to spend money–or rather to get more stuff. It is amazing! In joy your journey!

  24. Congrats on giving up TV! When “W” Bush won re-election in 2004, I couldn’t watch him on TV anymore. I was so depressed. So, I gave my big screen TV to a friend and my small TV to my friend’s college-age daughter. I haven’t missed television since. And, holy cow, the books I have read (including Skinny Bastard – I am now vegan!), how my sleep has improved, and how much extra time I have spent on my projects! If I absolutely must catch a sporting event on TV, it turns into a social gathering at a friends house. Best wishes as you withdraw from the tube!

  25. thanks for your sharing !!!!!

  26. I love this! I just got my husband to agree to the next 5 days with no television. That’s all he would give me, but I’ll bend over backwards to show him it is worth it! :)

  27. Good for you! I could SO do this. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy TV, but I could absolutely live without it. My husband and I were separated for 5 months a couple of years ago and during that time I literally watched NO TV. Not even American Idol! :) Convincing him to give it up….not going to happen. While he agrees is mindless drivel that he could live without, he can’t quite bring himself to turn it off. I’ll keep trying and I’m sending him a link to this article.

  28. this life after TV by the lovely inga muscio may be helpful
    good luck, grace and linus xxxxxxxx

  29. Well done, Rory! I ‘killed my TV’ in 1986 and my life has been ever so much better, richer, and fuller.

  30. Very courageous if you find it works for you :)
    There are a couple of shows I still like to watch,so I safe them for the weekend. It makes watching them,for me,more fun and fullfilling.

  31. We did this last year and, though it seemed impossible, it’s 100% easy once it’s over. And we do watch shows — via Netflix or Hulu or Boxee. But the difference is they are intentional. We choose what we watch and then we watch it. Then it’s over. It also saves so much money in bills! Congrats on your TV-free life.

  32. My boyfriend and I are going to turn off our cable. I’m freaking out but trying to ignore it. I’m focusing on how much money we are saving. That with that movie we can go camping more often. We can have more peace of mind and more time to grow closer. Not having a TV will be awesome I just know it.

    I just have to keep telling my self that.

  33. Cable is not my dilemma. But, it never has been. I just don’t care for some reason about TV, and will watch it if there is a chance, but really don’t remember the last time I did. Facebook on the other hand is my weakness. I’m on it all the time. Who thinks a cancellation is necessary?

  34. I am 30 years old and have been TV free since October 1998. You are doing yourself a favor. It permeates so much in life that its not like you won’t ever see it again. Friends and family will ALWAYS have that damn box on ruining holidays and special occasions. The hardest part about being TV free is trying to entertain friends at your house.

  35. Way to go. Your life will get better. I cut my cable in 2005 and my life has only improved.

  36. It’s as if you were speaking straight from my brain! I HATE that I’m a TV addict. I’ve been trying to cut down forever, I’m always trying, and then I get sucked into one silly show or another. I wish I could just hold on to Glee and SYTYCD and nothing else! We are moving soon and I’ve been begging my husband to agree to us not getting cable. & TiVo is the worst, you never miss an episode so you get even further addicted! Damn technology! I need a support group or a no TV sponsor…

  37. I like you.

  38. Rory-

    I moved to Southern California back in November and decided not to get a TV upon my arrival. I moved with 3 suitcases and started fresh. I could watch hours of Bravo reality TV and the E channel, but honestly, I like my TV-free life now. It is nice, and I have a lot more time for running, cooking, relaxing, and talking with my partner. :)
    I might have to write a blog post about this as well.

    Great post!

  39. I think that your determination is commendable despite of a couple of slipbacks occasionally. Knowing that I will get hooked to animes, I avoid watching them when possible. This reminds me of my attempt of be a vegan; I gave myself excuses like “Oh it’s just this one time. I won’t eat the meat again.” Then I read this 13-year-old’s blog who’s so determined and passionate about being a vegan, that I decided to hang up that meat chopper and be a vegan. Right now I’m starting small by allowing myself to eat milk + egg, but I hope to gradually abstain from them too.

    Here’s my entry on why and how I’m going to stay as a vegan:

  40. I can not believe how much I identify with your post! I am canceling my cable today.

    Thanks for sharing!

  41. I gave up TV entirely about 4-1/2 years ago, and haven’t missed it. I have a 10″ TV I use just for viewing Videos I purchase.

    I am now working on getting rid of my laptop. I HATE COMMERCIALS WITH A VENGENCE!!! Anytime I am interrupted from what I wish to read by a stupid commercial (I am a senior citizen who does not need contraceptives, new cars, match-making, etc., etc.), I decide not to be interested in the product being advertised. I used to have a laptop and a Macintosh for more than 20 years, and enjoyed them, because commercials used to exploit the minds of people today did not exist. One cannot read, listen, or do anything today without being interrupted and viciously exploited! I hate it and am planning to give up my current laptop, too. It’s not worth the stress it gives me. Even my emails are exploited. I hate the alleged modern system.