The curious case of the TV-less TV critic

I don’t have a TV in my office.

This may sound strange, given that I watch TV for a living, but it’s been the arrangement I’ve had for the last few months. Long story short, a few months back I moved into a new office space where it turned out that getting cable/satellite/Fios/etc. installed would be surprisingly complicated. This was near the end of the network TV season, and I was so busy writing about finales, upfront schedules, etc., that I put off figuring out a solution until things calmed down.

Things have calmed down, and yet for now, at least, I find myself not needing the thing in here.

Some of this is just a matter of logistics. First, I get a ton of stuff on DVD screeners, and it’s just as simple to watch those on my laptop as it would be if I had a bigger screen, separate DVD player, etc., on hand. Second, most of what I write about airs in primetime, and so I’m at home in front of my HDTV set when the stuff I haven’t seen in advance airs.

Third – and perhaps the biggest mark of how things have changed in the last few years – I got an iPad around the same time I moved into this office, so I already have a second screen on hand. And between Hulu, the ABC Player app, Netflix, HBO Go, etc., etc., I never lack for things to watch if I’m between screeners.

Some of this is just me going back and watching old stuff. I was so put off by the finale of “The Killing,” for instance, that I started rewatching “Veronica Mars” season 1 on Netflix Instant(*) to remind myself that it’s possible to do the season-long murder mystery thing right. If I’m just doing busywork, I can pop on an old episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Cheers” or “NewsRadio” and amuse myself more than I likely would with whatever was on my cable system at that moment.

(*) Though that also illustrated one of the downsides to my approach, in that I didn’t realize Netflix’s license to stream the show was about to lapse, and I only made it to the 6th or 7th episode before it disappeared. Time to go get the DVDs.

But it’s also providing me an excuse to watch things I might not otherwise bother with if I was going the TV route. The only reason I gave “Happy Endings” a second chance was because all the episodes were on ABC’s iPad app, for instance. And when Hulu picked up the British “Misfits” – about a group of juvenile offenders who develop strange superpowers after a lightning storm – I decided to sample it to see if it was any more successful at the civilian super genre than, say, “Heroes” or “No Ordinary Family.” (The short version: in the four episodes I’ve seen so far, not too shabby. Certainly, it’s more nimble than those shows, and has fun grafting superpowers onto various teen angst dilemmas.)

As we talked about when I discussed the whole phenomenon of “cutting the cord” a few months back, you miss out on certain things like this. I can’t see most live sporting events where I am, and live news can be a hassle depending on the quality of the different streaming sites. (Today, though, this was a good thing, as it means I wasn’t the least bit tempted to watch the Casey Anthony verdict live, whereas if I had easy access to a TV with cable, I’d have at least put on the whole disgusting sideshow for a few minutes, if only so I would have an excuse to yell at Nancy Grace.)

Again, I still watch a whole lot of TV the usual way at night, and would be frustrated if I couldn’t, so I’m not exactly a poster boy for the merits of cord-cutting.(**) But it’s been much easier to go without during the daytime than I would have thought a few months ago.

(*) And if I’d wholly cut the cord, I wouldn’t be able to access HBO Go, where you still need an old-fashioned HBO subscription to access. I’ll be curious to see whether HBO makes the service available for a fee to people who don’t have cable, or if they’d feel that would undercut their core business model too much. 

For those of you who do most/all of your viewing via the Internet, I’m curious what shows you’ve picked up that you don’t think you would have ever become a fan of if you were watching TV in the traditional way?