The Time For Cable Cord Cutting Has Arrived

I’ve written a lot over the years about coming close to cutting the cable cord.  We’ve come close many times but pulled back from the brink.  Now, however, is different.  We’ve made the decision and will give up cable TV at the end of this week.  Soon, we will embark on a new journey as cord cutters.

First, a little history, though.

The cord has been on the chopping block since 2009.  At that time, I concluded that cutting the cable wouldn’t save us enough money.  Online video at the time was tempting, but just didn’t offer enough for the price.  One year later, I reevaluated cord cutting.  Then, the conclusion was that Netflix and our local library were serving us well, but still not well enough to switch.  (Perhaps in a moment of prescience, I declared: “I’d probably be safe to declare that we won’t cut it [cable] in the next year, but I wouldn’t be as sure about the next 3 – 5 years.”  Four and a half years later, and the cord is being cut.)

Two years ago, we moved closer than ever to cutting the cord.  Even though I figured that we would save a lot of money every month, the lure of cable TV content was too strong.  That, plus Time Warner Cable cut us a good deal.  As the deal was good for two years, this pushed the cable cutting decision out to this year.

And so we come back to the present day.

We received a note from Time Warner Cable letting us know that our current deal was expiring.  Replacing it would be a new deal that would cost us over $20 more for the same content.  Normally, this would be where we would tell them we wanted a better deal and they would provide one.  Instead, they held firm.  This *WAS* the better deal.  One representative even told us that the retail price of our package would be about $190 a month.  Just because you set a price for something doesn’t mean it’s worth that, though.  I’ve done my research and know just what we watch, what we can do without, and what it would cost to keep up with shows that we want to keep up with.

For quite awhile, I had been compiling a spreadsheet of the shows we watch, where we could get them online, and how much it all would cost versus cable TV.  They tended to fall within five different categories.

OTA/Hulu Plus

These shows were available for free if we hooked up an antenna.  Of course, cutting cable also means ditching our DVR so we would be stuck with tuning in when the station said to tune in.  If we were up with a sick kid when The Big Bang Theory was on, we could kiss that airing goodbye.  Luckily, most networks post their shows online and Hulu Plus could give us convenient access to these.  This way, if my kids want to watch the latest episode of The Flash, they don’t need to stay up past their bedtime.  We can just stream it a few days later.


Many shows are already on Netflix.  Often, this might mean being a season behind everyone else, but for many shows I can live with that.  Plus, we already subscribe to Netflix’ streaming video service so we’re good to go here.

Amazon VOD

For some shows, Hulu and Netflix aren’t an option either due to availability or my impatience to see the latest episode.  For many of these, buying the individual episodes from Amazon VOD is the path we’ll take.  Shows cost $2.99 an episode or $2.84 if you buy the whole season.  However, this pricing is for HD quality.  HD doesn’t matter that much to us.  Yes, we still have a standard definition set in the living room.  We’re keeping it until it dies.  Even when it does, we’ll likely replace it with a 32″ HDTV, not a huge big screen TV.  The standard definition content that Amazon offers should be good enough.  For the SD version of the episodes, we’d be paying only $1.99 or $1.89 if we bought the whole season.


Most shows are released on DVD after they have their season ends on TV.  For many shows, buying the DVD or Blu-Ray of the show just isn’t worth it over Amazon VOD or waiting for the show to appear on Netflix.  For other shows, buying the DVDs can actually be cheaper.  Take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example.  This Nickelodeon show has my boys hooked on turtle power and me constantly reliving my childhood years when I was hooked on the original TMNT cartoon.  There are 26 episodes in each season of TMNT.  On Amazon VOD, this would cost $49.14.  However, the show releases three or four DVDs per season.  The total to buy the DVDs is only around $35.  This means we can save about $14 by getting the DVDs instead of by buying the episodes individually.  Yes, we need to wait longer (in this case, about five months), but for shows that we don’t have a pressing need to see immediately, this is a nice option.


Watching cable TV is a lot like trying to get a small drink out of a fire hose.  You’ll get your small drink – along with a ton of other water that you really didn’t need.  When it comes down to it, there will be shows that we won’t care about after the cable TV cord is cut.  These shows will fade out for us, perhaps replaced by new shows available online and perhaps briefly brought back when we discover DVDs of them in our local library.  When it comes down to it, we have many options for video entertainment.  Cable TV is but one of many choices.  We could watch some purely online shows (like Tabletop from Geek and Sundry on YouTube), we could play some WiiU, or we could play with some fun apps on our tablets/smartphones (e.g. Minecraft).  This doesn’t even get into the non-video entertainment we can engage in such as tabletop gaming, playing with toys (a favorite of JSL who loves thinking up plotlines with his figures), or reading books.  In the end, there is plenty to occupy the time freed up by ditching some cable TV shows.

So what will we save in the end?  This is hard to say as we don’t know exactly how many Amazon VOD shows and DVDs we’ll buy.  My best estimate, though says we’ll save $23 a month after paying for Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, and DVDs.  (I don’t count Netflix or Amazon Prime as we pay for those already and would have continued with them even had we kept cable.)  Now, this might not seem like much, but at this point it’s more the principle than the money.  We’re sick of paying more and more each month while the cable companies get more powerful.  There’s not much we can do about their ISP monopolies – our only ISP choice is Time Warner Cable and we can’t get rid of Internet – but we can opt to break free of the cable companies as much as possible and cut the cable cord.  I’ll definitely blog about our cable cord cutting experiences in the future – highs and lows.

Have you cut the cable cord?  If so, how did it go?  If not, have you considered it?

NOTE: The “No Cable TV” image above was made by combining HDTV by jgm104 and No-sign by skotan.  Both images are available from

Geeky TV Addictions

TelevisionFor the longest time, I actively avoided getting attached to television shows.  It seemed like every time I got hooked on a show, for example Pushing Daisies, the network would cancel it.  It didn’t matter if the show had a big following or was a virtual unknown.  If I began to watch it, it would get cancelled.  Despite my attempts to remain aloof to new shows, however, a handful of geeky TV shows have hooked me.

Arrow (CW)

I know, I know.  As a network, the CW seems more likely to air "teenage comedy/drama #73" then a geeky comic book show.  To be fair, Arrow does have more than its share of "young adult drama" (the characters aren’t teens).  Still, it tends to be tolerable and easily overlooked to see the journey of Oliver Queen from rich playboy to castaway to deadly vigilante to hero.  Oliver Queen is a spoiled brat/party animal who takes his girlfriend’s sister on the family yacht with him when the boat sinks killing everyone on board (including Oliver’s father).  For the next five years, Oliver goes through hell and emerges a changed man.  He’s on a mission to punish evil doers who threaten his city.  Along the way, he picks up some allies and makes some new enemies.

The Flash (CW)

Barry Allen is a geeky police forensic scientist.  He’s got a huge brain, but slow legs.  He’s also dedicated his life to figuring out who killed his mother and pinned the blame on his father.  His only lead: It was a man in a yellow suit who surrounded his mother with red and yellow "lightning."  Then a particle accelerator malfunctions and he gets struck by lightning.  Nine months later, he wakes up from a coma able to move at incredible speeds.  Unfortunately, the particle accelerator also creates other "metahumans" – many of whom decide to use their new powers for illegal personal gain and/or to hurt people.  Barry becomes the Flash to stop them.

If Arrow is a Batman analogue (vigilante not afraid to hurt people to enact justice), Flash is the Superman analogue.  He has a strong moral code and sees the world in terms of good and evil.  He wouldn’t dabble in "grey realms" to get the job done.  This show is more humorous (they actually name their metahuman opponents) and much lighter in tone than Arrow.

Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD)

After the Clone Wars ended but before a new hope emerged, there was a period of time when the Empire ruled the galaxy.  In this dark time, anyone and everyone cowered before their might.  Well, maybe not everyone.  Star Wars Rebels introduces a small group who are doing all they can to strike blows against the Empire.  They don’t have the might to strike directly at the Empire, but they can certainly can act as an annoying thorn in the Empire’s side.  It’s also helpful that their leader is a former Jedi.  Especially since they meet Ezra – a thief who happens to be strong in the Force.  Along the way, they’ll meet some allies, some powerful enemies, many new faces and a few familiar old ones.  All while trying to survive and stick it to the Empire any way they can.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC)

After the battle of New York City in Avengers, Agent Coulson lies dead and some dangerous technology is loose in the world.  So Nick Fury has a small team gathered to operate outside of most of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s red tape.  This team is led by Agent Coulson who had mysteriously returned from the dead.  As the show progresses, not only do they pursue a mysterious enemy who always seems to be one step ahead of them, but they deal with repercussions arising from the events that take place in Thor 2: The Dark World and Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier.

I missed this one when it first aired.  I forgot to set my DVR and wound up a few episodes behind with no way to catch up.  I eventually wrote this series off as one I’d probably watch "eventually."  When it showed up on Netflix, I happily devoured season one, amazed at each twist and turn.  Every time I was sure which way the show would head, it would turn and head in a different direction.  As the series came to a close, though, I realized that season two was too far along for me to view the beginning.  So here I am again needing to wait until they repeat the season or until season 2 hits Netflix.

Agent Carter (ABC)

I had heard that Agent Carter was coming to TV, but to be honest wasn’t too interested.  After all, she isn’t a superhero or part of a team of secret agents.  She was just the woman Captain America loved during the war, right?  How wrong I was.  After Captain America "died" and the war ended, Agent Peggy Carter found herself working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve – and by working, I mean she’s been regulated to performing secretarial chores while her co-workers make demeaning comments about how women can’t do "the real work."  Agent Carter puts up with it, never letting it drag her down, but when an old friend – Howard Stark – gets in trouble and calls on her to help, she takes him up on it and works to unravel the mystery.

I love how Peggy Carter works the system on the sly, manipulating the men and their prejudices for the advantage of her investigation.  For example, in one meeting – where she is deemed "not essential" – she shows up seemingly to serve the men coffee.  They see this as "a woman’s normal behavior" and thus don’t suspect that Peggy is only there to gather intel.  Agent Peggy Carter is smart, tough, and relies on nobody.  She’s equally at home figuring out where the clues lead and in a fist fight.  She might not be a super soldier, but she’s a hero all on her own and I can’t wait to see where they take this show.


We’re definitely living in a golden age of geeky television.  What television shows are you hooked on?

NOTE: The "Hi-Def Television" image above is by bnsonger47 and is available from

Television Eras Ending And Beginning

TelevisionLast week saw the ending of one geeky era and the beginning of another.

First the ending.  For the past ten(?) years, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci have been entertaining and enlightening us by busting myths alongside Jamie and Adam on Mythbusters.  They brought life to the Hwacha, showed that the Ewoks really could crush an AT walker with logs, and proved that you really can catch a greased pig.  Now, however, the announcement has gone out that the Mythbusters will go in a new direction – or, rather, and old one.  In the beginning of the show, the focus was on Jamie and Adam.  Now, Kari, Grant, and Tory are leaving so the focus can move back to just Jamie and Adam.

This might wind up being a good thing.  Perhaps, fewer myths will be tested but with more depth shown per myth.  Or, maybe they will just cram more fluff into each episode to fill the time left vacant by the loss of "the Build team."  Given how good they work together, I’m hoping that Discovery Channel gives them their own show.  I’m not sure what they could do, but I’m sure there’s plenty of topics that they could cover involving science and requiring interesting builds.  Whatever they do, though, I wish them luck and can’t wait to see them in action again.

In happier news, a new era of geekiness began on Saturday night.  That’s when Peter Capaldi officially began his reign as the madman in the box on Doctor Who.  Yes, Capaldi has now begun his turn as the twelfth Doctor.  Though, depending on how you count, he might be the thirteenth Doctor.  It’s all very wibbly-wobbly.  Without giving too many spoilers, I found Capaldi’s first episode good, but uneven.  It’s hard to get a handle on a Doctor’s first episode post-regeneration.  As each Doctor regenerates, he takes some time to get to know what kind of person (Time Lord) he is.  So we can’t quite tell from the first episode how the new actor will be.  With Matt Smith, it took me until his fourth episode before I accepted him as the Doctor.  I did, however, think that the first Capaldi episode was a good "bridge" between Matt Smith’s Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

NOTE: The "Hi-Def Television" image above is by bnsonger47 and is available via

News Avoidance

tee-veeThe news today is filled with grim stories of wars and tragedy.  Every program seems to rush to be the first to show some new horrible act or to demonize someone for acting in a certain way.  Every time you think that the news can’t get any worse, yet another awful event occurs.  This would be bad enough on its own, but thanks to the 24 hour cable news cycle, news shows seem to feel as though they’ve got to extract every last ounce of story out of each event.  And then, when the event is bone dry and can’t possibly have anything new and insightful added to the discussion, they’ll begin to speculate on who causes the event, who will act in what manner thanks to the event, or how this event might be repeated in an even more horrible manner soon.

Lately, I seem to have a low tolerance for watching the news.  I keep informed about the bare facts of what is happening in the world, but I can’t stand the constant onslaught of people reporting on and/or commenting on the constant onslaught of bad events in this world.  I seem to recall being able to withstand the news a lot more years ago.  Now, though, I actively avoid any and all news programs.  While in past years, I might have scoffed at "puff piece" or "human interest" stories, I now welcome them as a respite from "yet another senseless tragedy that we plan on graphically covering for the next 4 hours" coverage.

More than the "light news", though, I find myself retreating into fiction.  I’d much rather delve into a good book or fill my brain with a TV show or movie than see the latest developments and speculation regarding some recent calamity.  Maybe the news is just getting worse, maybe I just over-empathize, or maybe my free time is just too precious to fill it to the brim with catastrophe and suffering.  Perhaps I just prefer a "reality" where some superhero can come swooping in to save the day instead of politicians swooping in to cash in on and argue over a tragedy while nothing gets fixed.  (Sort of like this Dork Tower comic.)  When I do decide to watch a "news program", I’ll often enjoy The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report.  At least there I get my news soaked in comedy, not tragedy.

Do you enjoy watching the news or do you find yourself avoiding it?

NOTE: The "tee vee" image above is by ceba and is available via

How The Simpsons Tempted Me To The Dark Side

the_simpsons_dvdDisclaimer: In the following blog post, I’m going to mention doing things that aren’t legal.  I want to just clarify from the outset that I haven’t done these things, I’m not condoning these things, and I’m definitely not going to give step-by-step instructions on doing these things.  So if you came here looking for instructions of this nature, you’ll be disappointed.  Also, any comments that give/link to instructions or link to programs to do these things will be removed.

For the most part, I’m a law-abiding citizen.  I like staying within the legal lines.  My "criminal record" would be a boring read – if it weren’t nonexistent.  So when it comes to obtaining movies and TV shows to watch, it should be no surprise that I do things the legal way.  I stream from Netflix, Amazon VOD, record using my DVR, purchase DVDs, or rent DVDs from the library.  I never, ever download the videos in those less-than-legal manners that the copyright owners haven’t approved.  Recently, however, I was sorely tempted.

A couple of weeks ago, while walking through a local store, we saw the new line of Simpsons Lego minifigures.  Of course, my boys wanted them.  They didn’t care that they had never watched a single episode of The Simpsons or that they wouldn’t be able to tell which one was Bart and which one was Milhouse.  All they cared about was that these were new Lego minifigs.

I decided that perhaps the time had come to introduce my boys to The Simpsons.  I pulled out my DVD copy of The Simpsons: Season 1 (a present from B years ago and yet still shrink wrapped).  We watched the first episode and my boys were hooked.  They quickly got through the rest of the first season.

This was where we hit a wall.  How would we get the rest of the seasons for the boys to watch?  The Simpsons is no ordinary TV show.  It has been on the air for 25 years and has amassed five hundred and fifty episodes.  We could purchase each of the DVD sets for seasons 2 to 24, but that would cost over $460 – way too expensive for our bank account.  If Netflix had them available, we could stream them from there, but sadly there isn’t a single episode on there.  They aren’t available via Amazon Prime either.  Amazon’s VOD service has some of the episodes, but not all.

This leaves me with two legal options.  First, I could take them out from the library.  We actually wound up taking Season 2 out of the library, but only got to keep it for four days (two days plus a renewal time of two days).  That was only enough time to watch one of the four DVDs in the set.  We could have kept the set out longer and paid late fees ($0.25 per day), but at that rate we would have needed to pay $3 per season or $69 to watch the entire set.

Alternatively, I could subscribe to Netflix’s DVD streaming service for the duration of our Simpsons watching time.  Given that it would have taken us about 16 days to get through a set, we would have needed to subscribe to Netflix’s DVD streaming service for just over a year.  (This is assuming no downtime of needing to wait for the next disc to arrive.)  This would cost about $130 – even more than the library option.

Clearly, there is no easy, inexpensive way to watch The Simpsons from the beginning to the present episodes.  Or is there?  While I haven’t actually done it myself, I do know in theory how to download items from less-than-legal locations.  If I really wanted to, it wouldn’t take me long to get rips of the DVDs on my computer for the boys and I to watch.  I might even be able to do it in such a fashion as to avoid detection by the companies that watch for people illegally sharing files.

Still, I might slip up and be found.  A fine of even $750 per episode (the minimum fine for a copyright violation) could still work out to over $350,000.  At that rate, we might as well buy all of the DVDs – a hundred times over.

On the other hand, there are sneakier ways of pirating material.  Take the library, for example.  Taking the DVD out from the library is completely legal.  Once it is time to return it, it goes back and we can’t watch it again unless we take it back out.  What if we ripped the DVD though?  We would then be able to watch the episodes at our leisure.  I could even assuage my conscience by telling myself that I’ll delete the episodes when we’re done with them and that it’s just an "extended library loan."  My chances of being caught doing this are virtually zero.

So what is stopping me?  My children.  I want to set an example for them.  If I believe that downloading copyrighted material without authorization is wrong, then what kind of lesson would I teach them if I bent my moral rules for the sake of convenience?  Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult.  Sometimes doing the right thing means going without something you really want.  It can be very easy to shrug off your morals and take "the quick and easy path."  The dark side did tempt me, yes, but I refused to give in.  We’ll watch The Simpsons the slower, but legal way of library rentals.  I just wish the content owners would license The Simpsons to Netflix so that my boys could view it in an easier, but still legal fashion.

NOTE: The "Simpsons DVD" image above was taken by me of our Season One DVD set.

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