TV Eye

Watching Without a Set

TV Eye

This is week two of life without a television. I moved one weekend and a few days later found myself on a plane, still without the cable connected, wondering: Is it possible to write about TV and all things TV-related without the small screen nearby? What would that experience be like? Sure, I could save a few dollars – a lot of dollars, actually – without a cable TV subscription, but realistically, how long can this last? Now, going into week two, I have to admit: I like it. I really like it.

The first big challenge that I expected would send me running to my cable provider was when I wondered how I would live without my daily dose of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central). Turns out, I don't have to. Hulu.com recently began carrying the series. Hulu is one of several websites that carry content that first appeared on the air, along with content made specifically for Internet viewing. No, I can't watch The Daily Show in real time, but I never did to begin with. A few keystrokes on my computer, and I can watch the most recent episode – or earlier episodes, along with popular clips – all without a cable subscription.

I didn't need Hulu to watch the special tributes to Meet the Press' Tim Russert. The esteemed host of the Sunday public-affairs series died suddenly of a heart attack on June 13, sending the journalism world, and those of us who watched him, into a tailspin. Russert wasn't a superstar of the news world, he was no glamour boy (it could be said he had a face made for radio), and he wasn't a blowhard or a bully. He was a journalist who took his job seriously, was always prepared, and never shied away from asking tough questions. It will be hard to imagine the remaining election season without his contribution. I was able to watch this past weekend's moving episode of Meet the Press, hosted by Tom Brokaw, on my computer. I was also able to watch nearly 40 clips of thoughts and remembrances carried on MSNBC.com. I had one of those traditional, after-a-tragedy-strikes "TV moments," only on a new medium – my computer screen – thanks to the Internet. Although I missed the TV moment in real time, I did not miss the moment, and I did not miss the TV.

I'm still sitting on the fence about renewing my cable subscription, but my legs seem to be dangling on the jumping-off side. Let's see how I feel after next week.


More TV on the Internet

Clay Nichols of the Austin-based DadLabs.com reported that the DadLabs crew returned from a five-day excursion to Stockholm, Sweden, where they got "to see first-hand the most dad-friendly place on earth." Hosted by Baby Bjorn (a manufacturer of baby products), the DadLabs team met politicians, day-care center staffs, and fathers who have experienced Sweden's progressive, pro-family policies. The trip culminated with a meeting with Bjorn Jacobson of Baby Bjorn. Nichols reports that tons of video was shot while on the trip. The Sweden episodes of DadLabs will begin appearing in July.

Sharon Marie Ross, formerly of Austin and now a professor in the Television Department at Columbia College in Chicago, was kind enough to drop me a note to let me know that her new book, Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet, will be published in September. This is one of two book projects Ross has in the works and was the focus of her graduate studies in the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas.


Local News

Earlier this month, KEYE-TV began broadcasting its secondary channel, Retro Television Network, at 42-2 over the air (cable channel 1532). RTN airs TV classics like Leave It to Beaver and Get Smart and also rebroadcasts its locally produced morning news program from 7 to 9am. KEYE is the only station in town with a digital network for its related programming, according to KEYE press materials. RTN airs 24 hours a day.

Chronicle colleague R.U. Steinberg (aka Mr. Smarty Pants) reports that he has been able to watch RTN because he already has an analog-to-digital converter box – way ahead of February 2009, when those with analog-only receivers will go dark. He also reports that he can watch KEYE's weather channel, something unavailable to regular TV viewers or cable viewers without the full-blown cable package. Aha! Maybe that will be my next experiment – to get a converter box and see what that TV-watching experience is like.

As always, stay tuned.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

TV on the Internet, Hulu, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Tim Russert, DadLabs, Clay Nichols, Sharon Marie Ross, Retro Television Network

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