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Silver Threads: The confusement of TV watching

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

When my brother-in-law and his wife visited us last year from California, he taught me a much simpler way to fast-forward through commercials on the TV shows I’d taped — oops, recorded — and get back to the program I wanted to watch. I’d been pushing three or four buttons for this maneuver, and can now move along with two.

If you’re wondering what the heck I’d been doing — I can’t explain it; otherwise, no help would have been needed. My husband’s brother is 16 years younger than he is, no spring chicken at 67, but a retired Silicon Valley microchip designer. And a very valuable technological resource for us, especially since the grandkids down the street are increasingly unavailable as a private geek squad. One is away in college and the other is busy with who knows what — he’s a teenager; enough said.

Anyhow, I haven’t tried to adjust our television set in any way since Martin was last here: I wouldn’t dare go into the “menu” for fear of screwing something up. When an 80-something friend of ours recently came up with an idea for viewing those “Masterpiece Mystery” programs featuring actors whose English accents you can’t understand, I had to put it on hold.

The friend — who proved that octogenarians can offer terrific technological advice — said to watch the shows with those captions for the hearing-impaired running across the bottom of the screen. That’s an idea I can’t wait for my brother-in-law to put into play, but it won’t be any good for the half-dozen ones I’ve already taped — er, recorded — will it? You can’t add something to material already in your CRV — no, that’s parked in the driveway — I mean your DVR, can you? Oh, well.

I first wrote a column about dealing with our TV set when we bought it about the same time got started, and things haven’t improved — they’re even worse. To be fair, it isn’t totally the fault of the equipment; it’s the crazy lengths to which the television industry has gone, even in two years.

Back in the very long ago, TV series were presented on three networks and a “season” consisted of about 32 shows running weekly from September through May. I’ve been watching “Twilight Zone” episodes on my Kindle and was surprised at the number of episodes offered in 1959-60.

Well, you know what a “confusement” the TV schedule is now, with dozens of choices even if you subscribe only to basic cable. Shows begin and end with no link to the calendar, there’s “streaming” and Netflix and Amazon and whatever; if you don’t read every word that Dave Walker writes, you’re a lost ball in the high weeds.

It doesn’t really matter. I foresee the day when I’m doddering and perhaps won’t be watching TV at all. As long as they keep on shooting scenes for dramas mostly in the dark, turn the music up so loud you can’t hear the dialogue, and shoot series that would be shown to better effect on a big theater screen, I’m sure I’ll lose the ability to enjoy.

It’s a pity. My family was so excited to get our first, 9-inch screen television set back in the ‘40s. Heavy snowfall or not, we loved it.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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