When my friend Deirdre posted on Facebook the other day about being generally baffled and annoyed to see a show on the air called So You Think You Can Skate, I started to reply to her about all the crazy stuff that’s out there to watch these days, and suddenly, I understood something that’s been confusing me for many years.
Which is, how exactly is television going to end up as something I get on the Internet?
Because that’s what people who are more Internet-savvy than myself have been assuring me for many years. Eventually, the Internet is where you’ll get television, they say. The big networks are doomed – DOOMED!
The problem is, I never understood it. On a scale of one to ten, I’m probably about a six, if Thoroughly Understanding The Internet is a ten. I know a little more than the average guy on the street, and considerably less than the average guy on the Internet.
For a long time, the Television-On-The Internet problem was easy to articulate – you couldn’t watch television on the Internet. Then eventually, your hacker pals or whatever you want to call them, would have their big, sweet televisions hooked up to the Internet somehow and would sit there telling you how they get fifteen thousand channels, etc.
I’ve sat in a solid half-dozen living rooms like that, squinting at monolithic screens, and yes, sure enough, that was a Desktop up there with Icons and everything. The Alleged Hacker would tell me how he did it, what cords he used, telling me really earnestly about it, the way the mechanics tell you things.
Blah, blah, blah – that makes sense, right?
Well, it sort of made sense. After a half dozen conversations with those type of fellas, I understood exactly how those type of fellas were going to be watching television on the Internet. They were going to use Magic. Great.
But no, that doesn’t explain how the rest of us, who just got through getting our DVR Badges and are pretty happy with them, are ever going to learn how to identify cables which have names like Star Wars droids, or get their desktops up on the their television screens.
Plus, a lot of the sites and procedures they were talking about, at least to me, were illegal. “But don’t worry, you can’t get caught.”
I said trust me, man – I can get caught. Anybody can get caught on the Internet. Ask your favorite disgraced politician if he thought the Internet was ever going to catch him doing anything wrong. The Internet is watching you, make no mistake, my friends.
A couple of things have happened over the last couple of years, though – the main one being Wifi. Now I have something called a Router attached to my computer, and I don’t know what it does except it’s the reason I can carry my laptop anywhere in the house and still get online, unless I haven’t paid the cable bill – I usually think of that first bill, the one with no shut-off date on it, as a suggestion or a bluff.
The point is, I don’t understand Routers, but I know they’ve got the technology to the point where when it stops working, I can have the Tall Girl call the cable company, where she is patched through to someone in another country, who can then explain to her what to do to fix it. And the Tall Girl is pretty sharp – a Red Cross Certfied Babysitter and everything. She can usually do whatever the Router Guy From Another Country tells her to do, to get it working again. Just like she did with the cable box, when it started to get really complicated a few years back.
So there’s a cable box, essentially, attached to my computer which allows me to access the Internet wirelessly. That’s going to be crucial, if we’re going to watch television on the Internet, because nobody likes to crawl under the desk and plug stuff in every time they want to watch The Ghost Whisperer.
Then the next thing that happened was everybody start talking about HDMI cords, which are used to connect our computers to the big, high-definition televisions all of us obediently ran out and purchased over the last few years. That’s how our desktops get up there – magic cords.
A weird thing to happen, just when Routers arrive to free us all of Cords in general, now suddenly there’s a new Super Cord, which pretty much turns your television screen into your computer monitor. Just like I seem to remember being told for years, you couldn’t do.
All the while, sites like Hulu started streaming full episodes. Also, I think every South Park episode has been available online for years. And then Netflix showed up and said, hey man, how about streaming practically any DVD you might want to rent, right through your freaking Wii?
I thought Netflix had lost its mind – like if you told me I could watch movies on my microwave using my blender. I said, What the hell are you talking about Netflix? But then I had the Tall Girl check it out and it’s true. This is how your great grandpa felt about the horseless carriage, I imagine.
Anyway, when Deirdre mentioned that there was now a show called So You Think You Can Skate, I realized – there is a show for absolutely everything. Logging, running a pawn shop, bounty hunting, baking cupcakes, training dogs, cleaning houses, working out, customizing your semi truck, hanging out in haunted houses, for crying out loud – that’s fifteen seconds worth of thinking right there, and they’re all real shows.
I started thinking about George Carlin used to talk about magazines – there were magazines for everything in the eighties and nineties. “Walking!” He said. “There’s a magazine about WALKING!”
Slowly, the magazines turned into reality shows, as the number of channels increased and the production costs for shows like that decreased. Watching a show turned out to be slightly easier than going out and buying a magazine and then sitting there and reading it with your mind. All we needed were a thousand cable networks geared toward a thousand specific demographics, and holy crap – television was suddenly starting to look very much like the Internet indeed.
Now it feels like there are as many shows as there are websites. Now all of the shows have websites. All they need to do is start streaming their episodes from their websites instead of through networks, and then get their websites on our screens somehow.
Pretty soon, our computers are on our laps and we don’t need remotes because our television screens are the monitors. And the only channel is whatever our brains like – the program directors are us. And that HDMI Super Cord, don’t think they won’t figure out how to do whatever it’s doing without a big, fat cord. They figured out the last set of big, fat cords, didn’t they?
Deirdre and I come from about the same world, one where you watch a few shows, but you’re sort of vaguely aware of practically all of them. That’s getting impossible. So when you run into a show like So You Think You Can Skate, you wonder how on Earth enough people are watching it.
But that’s like asking why there’s a website for finger knittting, or frog jumping, or soup.
We’re not going to start watching television on the Internet. The Internet is simply going to spread to our televisions like a species-hopping virus. There’s no cure for it, and we’re probably not going to want one. The Internet will bite our televisions on the neck, and suddenly one day, we’ll realize there aren’t channels anymore, and that we don’t miss them.
So that’s the good news, Deirdre, about So You Think You Can Skate – if that’s on there, then there absolutely has to be something cool and interesting on there as well, because it means that pretty much everything is.