First Click: My kid doesn't get TV, and she never will

June 11th, 2015


My daughter's six. She's cuter than me and pretty smart but she doesn't know shit about TVs.

I don't mean the signal processing or the subpixel arrangement on the latest 4k behemoths — I mean the TV archetype. That giant 4:3 box next to the Hi-Fi that sprayed electrons across the front of the phosphor screen of my childhood. She has no clue what real TV was like to watch. The fight for control of the horizontal scroll, the rabbit ears. Grandpa unplugging the “boob tube” each night for reasons I never fully understood, but accepted as a measure of personal safety. She’ll never have to search for the TV Guide, dog-eared and torn by the end of each week, without which you had to mindlessly flip through the channels, all 12 of them plus whatever that “U” was.

"How do you watch TV?" I ask.

"Push, push, ta da!" she says, gesturing to the two remote controls on the table.

"Can you be more specific?" I implore.

"Push the red button." (the power button on the Samsung TV remote)

"Choose the channel." (she means the HDMI input)

"And when you want to choose Netflix you push the big circle." (on the Apple TV remote)

"And then you have Netflix." (ta da!)

Netflix. That’s what watching TV means to my daughter. It’s immediate, it’s always there, and she can watch cartoons all day long and any day of the week if I let her.

TV used to be about waiting, so much waiting. Waiting for the CRT to warm up. Waiting a week between the next show or an entire summer for the next season. Waiting until that exact day for shows to begin. Waiting all week for Saturday morning to arrive to watch cartoons. Watching seven minutes of TV and then waiting another two for the commercials to end. For her, TV is instant. Instant on and on demand.

She wins. I feel no nostalgia because the "good ol’ days" in reality, sucked.

My daughter will never know what it means to watch TV in the way that entire generations did. Good for her. The closest she’ll come is an Android shutdown animation, where the display, like the past, collapses into a tiny dot of brilliance before disappearing completely.

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