Third in a series
The Happy Little Color TV awoke as he was rudely pushed aside by a man with a box and a long cable. The television tried to look around, but he could no longer see. His antenna had been removed.
“No need for this anymore,” said the man. He started to unplug the little color TV.
Just before going to sleep for the last time, the TV looked at the newcomer next to him. It was his big new sister, a large television with a flat screen and a built-in videocassette recorder and DVD player. She winked at him smugly from her perch atop a strange black box that glowed with tiny lights.
“We must do better!” he pleaded to her in their older sister’s words. “No one is happy anymore.”
“We will.” His new sister looked down on him from her perch. “I am wired to the world. I will bring your family hundreds of channels to choose from. Old shows and new ones. Sports. Games. News. Weather. Why, there’s already a Weather Channel that can show you the local conditions and forecast any time you want. And all the networks they love. And the reruns, and old movies, and now there’s even a Cable News Network.”
The Happy Little Color TV wasn’t sure that all those choices would make his family happy, but he said nothing. He was already unplugged.
All together again
For a while the family was happy. Brother and Sister came home to visit Mother and Father to see the many new channels. Mother and Father recorded their favorite shows. They made “time-shifter” tapes of shows they could not watch. They recorded shows for Brother and Sister, who still couldn’t afford to get cable. And this brought them all together again.
They watched funny shows. They watched crazy shows. They watched stupid reality shows and long-forgotten movies and every kind of sports. It was good to sit together in front of the TV and share the moment.
But it was not to last. Brother and Sister got cable at their new apartments and stopped visiting Mother and Father. And then came another great war.
This, like other great wars, was not so great, but it had one big difference. For the first time, people could watch live broadcasts of the battles as they happened. The “CNN Effect” changed the way people thought about the war, and the way the people in Washington chose to fight it.
The Cable News Network became so popular that people watched it even after the war, which was a short one. It covered angry politics in Washington and a crazy celebrity murder trial and other tune-in-tomorrow cliffhangers.
Cable news became so popular that another cable news network started up to compete with CNN, and then another. Each tried to outdo the others. Soon the screens were filled with urgent, angry talking heads shouting at each other.
One day the wild, wired cable TV woke up with a screen-ache. She looked around at what remained of her family. Father was shouting at one news channel. Mother was shouting at another. Even when they agreed to change the channels, they could not agree on what to watch. Sports? Extreme makeovers? Reality shows? (There was this one about working for a business in New York …)
The wild, wired cable TV felt too wild and too wired to go on. She remembered her brother’s words. “We must do better.”
Her many choices had not made people happy. Instead of coming together, they were moving apart.
“We must do better,” she repeated. But what could she do to bring her family together again?