I hate my, I hate my, I hate my dTV
Does anybody else hate digital TV as much as I do?
A recent episode of ABC’s PanAm featured a scene in which one of the off-duty pilots was trying to get TV reception of a live space launch back in the early 1960s. The picture came in and out and went all staticky (as a certain former Alaska governor might say) as he carried the antenna around the room testing different locations and positions. In the end, he recruited one of the stewardesses to climb through a window and hold the antenna outside for the perfect reception.
With the advances in TV technology during the past couple of decades, this type of scene had become a quaint anecdote of the past. Until June 12, 2009, when we all were forced to accept digital transmission of TV broadcasts.
So, for those of us who still refuse to pay to watch TV (or can’t afford to), the antenna dance has returned. I can seldom get through an entire show without some sort of reception mishap: pixelating images, frozen images, st-st-st-stammering sound, no sound, or the dreaded blackout with the message “No Signal.” I haven’t heard ba-ba-ba so many times since the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” was a Top 40 hit.
One or more of these glitches usually occurs just before the murderer is revealed, as the punchline is delivered or as the winner is announced.
Some stations are worse than others for a few weeks, then a different station catches it. For the past couple of months, our CBS affiliate has had it (are you listening, KMOV?), which is a bummer because I’m missing large chunks of NCIS, NCIS-LA, The Good Wife, The Mentalist, 60 Minutes, the evening news …. Reception is particularly churlish when there’s any kind of weather abnormality, such as extreme cold, extreme heat, rain, snow, wind. And in St. Louis, weather abnormalities are pretty much the norm. Even in good weather, the fizzles seem to get worse as the day wears on. The morning shows are usually fine, but by the time the 5 p.m. news comes along, the pixels have started pixelating. By prime time, I have to keep all three of my TVs on during a favorite show so I can still pick up the sound if one of them blanks or b-b-b-bumps out.
Funny, I never notice it happening during commercials.
At first, I assumed it was because I was using converter boxes to get the digital reception on my older TVs. But when one of my TVs died, I got a new digital TV. The high-definition color is beautiful (when there’s a picture), but the reception is the least dependable of the three sets. I’ve tried several styles of digital antennas, but they all require constant fiddling, adjusting and juggling. By the way, the instructions for the digital converter boxes suggest that you should rescan for channels every time you adjust the antenna. Which would be every 10 minutes. And I thought the days of aluminum foil on TV antennas were long gone. Ah, well, at least foil is cheap.
This is progress? Like in PanAm’s 1960s, I often have to stand or sit in a certain place to pick up reception. At least back in the olden days, I could get one of my brothers to do it (“Timmy, stand there —keep holding your arm up like that!”). Waving the remote at the TV seems to work; so does rubbing a moist finger across the remote’s sensor. I’ve even tried pointing the remote at the TV, shouting Potter-like incantations (“Rennervate! Lumos! Stupify!”), which sometimes work, but that could be a coincidence.
The TV-watching supplies I keep on hand include: rubbing alcohol, Q-tips, canned air and, of course, foil.
What works best is when I’m not in the room with the TV. That kind of defeats the purpose.
Makes me just want to read a book. Or write a book. On paper.