The Ruttle Report - An Age of Entertainment Addiction

Remember VCRs?

Oh, hold on a second, I should probably do some due diligence and explain to any younger readers out there what I’m talking about.

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A VCR is a video cassette recorder.  It’s the machine that was all the rage before DVD players came along and eventually phased out the rectangular shapes of black plastic and film.  You used it to watch tapes, and you also used it to record shows on TV.

I can vividly remember all the little intricacies that were involved in setting up the VCR to record something if I was going to be out of the house.  First you had to have a fresh blank VHS tape, making doubly sure that nothing was on it that you or anyone else wanted to save.  Then you had to rewind it, because you didn’t want to risk the tape’s 120-minute length running out before your show was finished recording, missing that vital few minutes of a show or movie’s conclusion.  After that, it was time to align the TV with the VCR, which meant the TV had to be on Channel 3 for the VCR to operate.  From there, you browsed the channels on the VCR’s setting until you came across the channel you wanted to record.

After that, you were all set!  That wasn’t so hard, was it?  Oh wait, I think I’m missing the last remaining step – the one where you actually had to have someone hit ‘Record’ on the VCR just before your show was about to come on.  There, NOW you’re all set.  I should also take this time to point out that no one is to touch the TV for the duration of the recording process.  One false hit of a random button and the whole operation is in shambles.

Yes, we’ve certainly come a long way in our home entertainment options.  Back then, you had to work your way through an itemized checklist to ensure that you’d obtained a home recording.  Today, DVR technology (digital video recorder) wired into our cable and satellite TV boxes enables us to record multiple shows at once with just a couple clicks of a button.  You can even watch something else entirely while that other show records.  Amazing, huh?

But obviously, it isn’t just home-based TV technology that’s changing.  As far as entertainment goes, the decade now known as the 2010’s was really about one thing: the rise of the subscription-based streaming service.

When I say the word ‘streaming’, odds are you know exactly what I’m talking about.  There’s Netflix, which arrived on the scene as the big star and has largely remained the ‘top dog’ ever since, but there’s also Amazon Prime, and Hulu, and Crave.  Then there are the newer ones just carving their paths out now, like Apple TV (because Apple didn’t already have enough money, you see), and of course, the big one that everyone’s in love with right now, Disney+.

The growth of these services in the last ten years has resulted in humankind enjoying instant gratification; entertainment at your earliest convenience.

Hey, I’m certainly no stranger to any of these.  I’ve been a Netflix guy like you and literally millions of other people for years, and I also enjoy Crave, particularly because it has all the best shows that used to be on HBO.  And yeah, I’ll admit it, I broke down and got Disney+ thanks to one of those prepaid Mastercard gift cards that I’d been meaning to use.  I guess in that sense, I get to say that The Mouse House didn’t get MY $90 for the year!

But where are we going with all of these services?  Or are we already there as a collective people?

Think about it.  We’ve already become a society that has put higher importance on smartphones and computer tablets than on tried and true books and practical learning in the past decade.  That’s at least ONE screen – or more – that our eyes are glued to for hours on end on a daily basis.  With the rise of a new streaming service seemingly every few months (TV network giant NBC is launching one called ‘Peacock’ in the spring), it seems the plan is to keep people in their homes, eyes glued to either one screen or several, all the while paying various prices to stay on the collective bandwagon and pretend that it all actually means something.

Listen, I’m not getting on a high horse because I love TV and home entertainment myself.  In these kinds of arctic weather conditions that we’ve been having lately in what’s known as ‘the dead of winter’, sometimes there’s nothing like curling up on the couch with a good show or movie.

I just have a natural inclination to question whatever the next supposedly “amazing thing” is that was dreamed up by some billion-dollar corporation.

I think our lives could use more analog living instead of digital.

For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.

© The Outlook

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