There was a time when new televisions were a simple process.
You bought the television – perhaps after doing some comparison research on the various brands and models, or perhaps after simply walking into the store, pointing to the nearest one to hand and saying, “That one!” – and you lugged the thing home. You set it up in whatever space was allotted for it. You plugged it in. You turned it on. And from there it was just the sweet, sweet sensation of your every neuron liquefying into uselessness as you sat on the couch and ate things which could only be classified as food by virtue of the fact that you were putting them into your mouth and not dying then and there.
That was then; this is now.
This month Kim and I came to the conclusion that our current television was becoming a bit too idiosyncratic for our tastes, so we looked at our various change bins and decided that this was the time to get a new television. This is how we do it around here – we dump our spare change into jars and at least one bright orange ceramic pig, and when it all hits critical mass we buy a television. And then we start over. Our last three televisions have been purchased this way, though we usually take the coins over to our bank for processing beforehand. Someday we’ll just hand over a bucket of nickels and see what the salesman says, but that day is not today.
If you’re going to buy a new television, the week before the Super Bowl is the time to do it. Everything is on sale. The one we got was about half price, and came highly recommended by a number of reputable review sites, none of which seemed to be making any money off of such recommendations. It is the same size as our old one, which made it easy to site, and we’re hoping that it won’t be subject to the random fading to black that the old one featured as part of its “intensify the drama” feature. We’re not that into drama.
The buying and the bringing home parts are actually easier than they used to be, since the new televisions are both lighter and more easily handled than the old CRT models. I rediscovered this when I traded out the very old tv upstairs for the slightly old tv that had previously been downstairs and then had to haul the very old tv into the basement, where it will replace the supremely old tv we had when we lived in our apartment in the mid90s. Those things are heavy, those old CRTs.
So we got it home.
I took it out of the box and spent a half hour or so reading through the startup guides and getting the base screwed on so that it would stand up nice and pretty.
This was followed by an event I like to refer to as The Swapping Out Of The Cables.
Because your modern televisions are not simply televisions, nosirreebob. They’re entertainment centers. They’re integral parts of component systems, the way stereo units used to be. Everything plugs into them by way of a bewildering maze of cables and power cords, all of which look just enough alike to be confusing but not quite alike enough to get you where you need to be. There are HDMI cables. There are component cables. There are audio cables. There is probably a trans-Atlantic cable in there somewhere that I may have inadvertently disconnected in my mad flurry of activity, so Kaiser Wilhelm? If you’re listening? Stay out of Belgium and stick to the original plan. Trust me, the war will be shorter that way.
The Swapping Out Of The Cables took well over an hour. It involved a fair amount of labeling in order to overcome the looking-like-all-the-others problem as well as the what-on-earth-does-the-other-end-of-this-connect-to issue that one gets when connecting multiple devices into a single hub. And since no two televisions have precisely the same number or arrangement of ports for these cables, there was a certain amount of rearranging followed by a trip to the local purveyor of electronic goods, wherein I discovered that every other piece of hardware we own is antiquated and only compatible with the new television through either an intermediary device or wholesale replacement, the latter option not really having been budgeted for in the coin-saving process. So intermediary device it was, which entailed further instruction reading and plugging in and any number of other adventures that would probably sound much better of the storyteller had access to a fine glass of whiskey and a hearty fire made from burning the various packing materials that all this came in.
Gather ‘round, kiddies! Grandpa gonna tell yiz a story.
But eventually the previous television was sitting forlornly off to the side and the new one was proudly occupying the space it had vacated. It was fully cabled. The new intermediary device allowed us to have all of our devices plugged in rather than hot-patching them in as required, which is probably good. It was time to watch some television!
And that’s when I moved onto an event I like to refer to as The Raising Of The Blood Pressure, though no doubt the engineers who devised this thing call it “set-up” or “programming” or something similarly benign to hide the sadistic and evil ways in which you have to contort your mind in order to get back to the viewing experience that you had before you started this whole process.
That’s the thing, really. It’s a lot of work and contortion just to get back to square one. But a more brightly and consistently lit square one, and perhaps one that will last a bit longer than the previous one did.
There has been all sorts of set-up happening here. Gobs of it. I have gone through more menus than a mall food court. I have set levels for things that were bumpy and bumped up things that were level. I have told it to scan for channels and signs of alien life and was vaguely relieved when both came back negative. And after another hour or so, there was a picture. And, mostly, sound (that’s still ongoing). I did have to call the cable company to find out how to get the Universal Remote to recognize the new television (either that or rebrand the thing the Particular Remote), but with the notable exception of the Mute button that all seems to be working.
Then I took to old television upstairs and swapped it out with the very old television, as noted. This process went through the Cable procedure and the Blood Pressure procedure, and in the end it gave us exactly what we had previously only rather bigger. So there’s that. If I want it to be fully realized in all its productive glory I need to go get another intermediary device – one that the good folks at the cable company plan on charging me a monthly fee to have.
And then I get to move on to Round 2 of this process.