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Published on March 23, 2021

By Edward A. Forbes / The Bulletin

Remember when TV was a lot simpler? We had three channels, waited for the shows to come on and even watched the commercials. Now we have hundreds of channels and the ability to zap the commercials - most of the time.

I use the commercial skip function when recording my favorite programs, and I’ve noticed that it seems somewhat selective about which commercials are skipped.

Cologuard commercials seem to be impervious to the skip function. I’ve noticed that when recording future programming, both network and local, those “exempt” ads are shown. The broadcasters know we are skipping the commercials, so they omit whatever signal they send identifying a commercial for the ones they want you to see.

Special news reports, sporting events that run over allocated time, and PBS fundraisers and schedule changes cause havoc with your programming choices. I am prepared for those frequent occurrences and when there is nothing I care to watch. I have 80+ episodes of Seinfeld recorded, a similar number of Frasier and Newhart.

Did I mention I stream TV? I watch a lot, so I’m paying around $100 per month for Tablo, Sling Orange and Blue, Disney+, Hulu, Prime, Britbox and Acorn. The last two are a lot of BBC, Australian, and New Zealand programming choices. I’ve been watching so much BBC that I get confused about which side of the car I should be driving.

Sporting events are the biggest scam. Colleges and professional sports teams link to private networks that cost extra or force you to one of the satellite or cable services. Even ESPN has added ESPN-U, which is a separate charge from ESPN 1, 2, and 3. The good news is with all I am subscribed to, I can unsubscribe at any time - no contracts - and I can renew at any time without penalty. The big boys all want contracts of varying duration and have penalties if you terminate early.

Do you need to conserve money? Free TV requires only a good high-definition antenna.

Don’t skimp - choose an antenna that has the range and recommendations of experts. Placement of the antenna is equally important, but once you are set up, you have a wide variety of viewing choices, all for no charge.

There are programs that help you set up, or you can pay someone using electronic equipment to aim your antenna correctly. I am spoiled, so I stream the local broadcasts through Tablo because it provides a menu of stations I select to watch and record if I want.

Things are certainly different from my childhood days, when there was programming in black and white, programming from early morning until midnight - when it signed off with the national anthem and a test pattern - until it resumed the next morning.

The only offering in the early days locally was Channel 2. Later, Channels 11 and 13 entered the mix, and then came PBS and wonderful children’s programming. We went from Howdy Doody to Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers. It was a kinder, gentler world.

My family had one of the first TVs in our area. We lived off Almeda Genoa in Houston and had family and friends travel from Manvel and Houston to watch wrestling with Paul Bosch on Saturday nights.
Later, some also came to watch the Friday night fights. In the late 1960s, the UHF Channels came, and people were astounded they now had six stations to choose from.

We moved from Alvin to Luling in the mid-1950s. Television there was limited to one station from Austin and two from San Antonio. The great thing about the small selection was that most of my school friends watched the same programming. We could talk about Bonanza at school because nearly everyone had watched it the previous evening. Simpler times in a simpler world made us more inclusive.
Don’t you wish things were that simple again?

(Edward Forbes wants to hear from you. Email him at eforbes1946@gmail.com or send comments by snail mail to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)