How cable TV works is you pay for 1,000 channels to get the 15 that you want to watch.
This works because of sports. If I didn't want to watch live sports, I wouldn't need cable TV at all. Most current programming is available online, and older programs and movies are available through "a la carte" services like Netflix.
I'm a sports lover so they've got me by the footballs.
(BTW, I've got a very specific point that has prompted all this, and I intend to get to it, but I just can't bring myself to go right there. Bear with me.)
There are a lot of channels. Let's collect 'em all.
Those I watch often:
5. CBS affiliate: Sports. Sometimes Letterman.
7. ABC affiliate: Sports, sometimes Kimmel.
8. FOX affiliate: Sports, nothing else regularly.
9. NBC affiliate: Sports, some random things, Fallon, and this year I've become a fan of The Voice.
12. Another ABC affiliate, see 7 above.
13. PBS. Lots of good things here, but not usually "appointment television" because it's hard to keep up with their programs.
24. ESPN2: Daily.
25. ESPN: Daily.
26. FX: Over the years FX has had some original programming that has caught my attention, first with Rescue Me, lately with Louie and Wilfred. They also have some decent movie choices.
27. Fox Sports SW: This keeps me up to date with my Dallas teams, most of the time. I'm grateful. However, because of the undue influence of beloved State U, we sometimes have my good sports programming overruled by crap like gymnastics, softball, college baseball... ugh.
29. TNT: Great source for NBA, but I don't stop by nearly as much when hoops are out of season.
30. A&E: One of my favorites. Excellent original programming, especially Intervention, Storage Wars, The First 48.
32. CNN: Second-favorite news channel.
34. Weather Channel. Daily visit, but short visits. More often if a big weather story (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.)
57. MSNBC: My top news outlet, because they're big on facts. Yes, they skew left, but because they back it up with a lot of information, I'm interested.
65. Comedy Central: Stewart, Colbert, and when you need a laugh, you can probably find one.
Those I watch on occasion:
2. TBS: I watch sometimes. Mostly Conan.
23. USA: Mostly because M has gotten me into SVU reruns, and some interesting original programs. BTW, what is Burn Notice?
28. Discovery: Actually, finding stuff here is kind of a fluke, but I find something from time to time.
31. AMC: Very rarely visit, but not never.
36. E: I like the Soup, but in general, I feel like watching this channel makes me dumber.
37. MTV: I liked it better when it had more M. I rarely watch now, almost put this in the "never" list.
38. Vh1: See MTV.
41. Animal Planet: Used to watch Animal Cops, but that may be too intense for some viewers. I rarely go here, although I love the Puppy Bowl.
42. Disney. More on this in a bit.
50. truTV: I admit if I am channel surfing and they have one of those shows with cop chases or stupid criminals, I might hang around a bit.
51. FOX News: I despise this with every fiber of my being, but every so often I will stop by just to see what is going on in Made Shit Up Land. I almost always regret the experience.
54. Food: As irritating as Guy Fieri is, I like his show and will watch at times. Giada's show is also on and she's hard not to look at.
55. History: Rarely, but they do have quality stuff. I just don't often make time for it.
58. VS/NBC Sports: Only for hockey, though. And the Tour de France alpine legs.
61. Spike: Loved when they had MXC.
62. Bravo: Something about Bethenny Frankel appeals to me. M watched RHONYC and I scoffed. When I watched a few shows I went with it and Frankel caught my attention because she seemed like a real person.
70. TCM: Great during Oscar season, and otherwise.
75. NatGeo: Some interesting things. The Alaska State Troopers is interesting, and shows you how different Alaska is. I used to think I could live there but it's truly a frontier setting.
Those I never watch:
3. QVC: Never
4. The CW: Never
6. Some Jesus channel: Never, unless out of curiousity, but not for long, and not ever anything I'd miss.
11. Hispanic. No.
15. WGN. Almost never; will watch some Chicago sports programming or if a Chicago news story has gone national.
17. C-SPAN: Almost never, but in an election year, good to have for different/unvarnished perspectives.
19. HSN. I don't even know what this is.
20. The Rerun channel. I don't know what this is, either. It shows a lot of ancient stuff (Ex: Something that had Pamela Sue Martin in it. Who? Yeah, unless you were a teenage male in the 70s, you wouldn't know. But she was... interesting.)
33. CNBC: Never.
35. Lifetime: Not on your life... time.
40. CMTV: Once in a great moon, they have an interesting movie, but since it's been cut up for TV, I rarely watch.
52. ABC Family: Kind of a weird family, if you ask me.
59. Outdoors: a/k/a rednecks killing animals.
60. Speed: Never been a fan.
53. Cartoon: I used to stop in from time to time but I've just kind of lost my taste for it.
43. TV Land: I saw these the first go-round. Actually there are some programs I would revisit, especially The Gong Show, but most of these I don't want to see again.
44. Nick: Outgrown it.
45. Headline News: I used to love HLN, then they went all Nancy Grace. Never watch.
46. ION: Whatever that is, I don't watch it.
47. Travel: I might watch something here, but it would be a total accident. I don't look for this.
48. TLC: Is our children learning? Is this the channel that has all those shows on Nostradamus? Which channel has the Ancient Aliens? Some other channel also had imagined animal monsters. Maybe they should have these on the channel called WTF.
49. HGTV: Hahaha. No.
56. BET: I hope to get to a day where certain ethnicities/population segments don't feel like they need to have their own channel because they don't get representation otherwise. I would make a joke here about "Tyler Perry's BET" but it could be taken the wrong way.
63. SyFy: First, the spelling is stupid. Second, I just outgrew this some time ago.
64. Gala: Not even ironically.
Not including numerous music channels, there's another 50-75 channels I get, and almost never watch. I do like my NBA TV, NHL Network and a few others. I once spent a an entire holiday day watching a program on G4 called Campus Cops, and have never gone back. I just don't need that many choices.
But what got me thinking about all this is not the fact that I have more programming/distractions available than I could ever deal with. What stopped me in my tracks was the Disney Channel. I drifted by there one night and watched for a few minutes. It was a show I later found out was called "Good Luck Charlie."
When my daughter was very young it was the era of Disney programs such as Lizzie McGuire and Kim Possible and Even Stevens and That's So Raven. She loved watching those shows and so I was aware of them and watched them at times as well. The Lizzie generation begat Hannah Montana which begat Wizards of Waverly Place, but anyone who has seen one of these would find something recognizable in later iterations.
The Disney programs are very earnest and American. They're written very over the top, the child actors ham it up but it seems natural... like the kind of thing you'd expect from junior high school-age kids. The colors are vibrant and loud, the sets are immaculate, maybe even a little too squeaky-clean. What's interesting to me is to see the background details... what's hanging on the set walls that are meant to represent a typical family home, or notices in a school (of the "Big Game Friday" variety), or at shops/community locales. Nothing Disney does is subversive, nor is it an accident, so everything was surely very carefully considered and thought out. Yet absolutely nothing is cynical or negative. It's very... wholesome. I don't dislike it at all, but I do think that it provides a very stylized and idealized look at life that is more aspirational than realistic for a vast majority of its audience.
The overall message is positive, although I think it strains believability. Real life is a lot messier than a Disney program.
Which, I think, is one reason that the Pixar movies released under the Disney umbrella are superior in every way to Disney Channel programming. The Pixar movies have touched on very real human emotions in a way that parents/adults understand.
I can watch a Pixar movie any time and enjoy them. But watching Disney Channel is hard. Because it's geared for kids, and reminds me not only that my daughter is grown and will never be that child I watched Lizzie McGuire with... but that my parenting is almost certainly over, and I'll never have that experience again.
And that's OK, because like most parents, I don't think I was a particularly great dad. So maybe prospective future Abider offspring are catching a huge break! But Disney Channel makes me sad for a time that went by too fast, and the realization that you don't get do-overs. Watching Disney Channel is like watching an idealized version of the family I never had, and never got close to having.