My wife and I spent an hour watching television the other night. Well, actually, we only spent half an hour watching — the first half hour was spent trying to find the program we wanted to see.
Because, as a story in The New York Times last week declared, television today is a “hyper-fragmented mess with a jumble of on-demand services.” There are lots of great shows and movies being made, “but finding them has become harder than ever.”
We thought the show might be on Bravo, but it could be on TBS, TNT, FX, FXX, HBO or USA. Unless it was on Netflix. Or Amazon.
Even if we knew the channel’s name, we wouldn’t have been able to remember the corresponding numbers on the remote control. The cable company tried to make it easy for us by providing a list of channels, but the list runs from No. 2 to No. 1810 and so far I’ve only managed to memorize No. 26 (ESPN) and No. 1301 (ESPNHD).
Finding the right number was only half the battle. Finding the right remote was the other half.
The cable company’s remote has 63 buttons. One of the buttons is marked “ON/OFF,” which you might assume means it turns the television on or off. But sometimes all it does is produce a screen that has little blue and white balls surrounding the words “NO SIGNAL.” So then you have press a button on the top of the television to make the little balls go away.
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Some of the programs we like to watch are on Netflix, which we can access by means of an Apple TV device. To watch those you have to click on one of the 63 buttons to reach something called HDMI3. Sometimes that doesn’t work, either. So then you have use the remote that came with the television. It has 38 buttons. When, and if, you get to HDMI3 you have to put down whatever remote you used to get there and use the remote that came with Apple TV. It has only six buttons, but I’m sure they’re working on adding more.
By the time we figured out what our program was and how to get to it, the show was half over and we had no idea what it was all about. Fortunately we still could watch it on demand, which we could access by clicking on channel 402, or 1402 if we wanted to watch it in high def. Then we could call up whatever channel our show was on. Unless the show was on Netflix, in which case we had to go back to HDMI3.
Or we could just go to bed and read a book.
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