Ryan Chartrand

I moved into my new apartment two weeks ago and before I could even get my keys, I had a Charter employee whispering words like “400 channels” and “high-speed Internet” into my ear. Being the entertainment addict that I am, I slapped a twenty in the man’s hand and had cable television and Internet installed in five minutes.

Where the story takes a shocking twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat for the next 500 words comes not at the point where I fought off 50 ninjas to get to my room or where I made the greatest grilled cheese sandwich of all time. The twist lies in the fact that two weeks later, I haven’t watched a single nanosecond of premium entertainment television.

How could this possible be? Having a seemingly infinite number of channels at my disposal when I was 10-years-old would have been better than getting a new pair of M.C. Hammer pants. Yet, I now not only have no interest in being a couch potato, but more importantly, no need.

Sometime during my first night of sleep, my cable television box somehow crept up the stairs and with cat-like stealth jumped inside of my cable Internet box. When I woke up, every show I’d missed the night before had been ported onto the mysterious virtual world known as the Web. Not only that, but I kept seeing the words “free” as if it was a common word. That’s right, it was like an Oxy Clean commercial come true.

At some point when the world wasn’t looking, networks like ABC, NBC and CBS put not only previews, but entire episodes of their shows available online for free (Fox of course will take much longer to convince). We’re not just talking about bottom of the barrel shows like “Ugly Betty,” but heavyweights like “Heroes,” “CSI: Miami” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

And if free doesn’t fly for you, iTunes is still offering $2.99 episode downloads for all of these shows and more.

Is there a catch, you ask? Nothing you’ll be complaining about. Most episodes are broken into five parts with 15-second movie trailers tacked onto the beginning of each. That’s about one-tenth the amount of commercials you’d find in a normal hour-long episode. You also can’t download the episodes to your desktop, but I found no problems with streaming it on a busy afternoon.

So what’s next? Streaming the next “Harry Potter” film from the Warner Bros. Web site? Our good friends at Apple already have iTunes offering feature films for download, so who’s to say they won’t soon extend it to truly taking over the world?

How about watching bands playing in front of a wall to dozens of screaming cameras as you watch the concert from your monitor? Sure, I might sound like a technology-hating old geezer, but for the first time, I might have to agree with those loonies. At what point will we lose control of ourselves and let convenience rule our minds?

I’ve always been in love with the transformation of entertainment and its shift to the online world, but when I realized I hadn’t said more than “Hey, the shower’s cool,” to my new apartment roommates, I knew something was wrong. What point is there in huddling around one T.V. or one monitor to watch entertainment? It isn’t like the 1950s when “T.V. time” was the one time you’d find the family together (aside from dinner). Now Mom, Dad and the kids are squared away in their own media centers listening to their own playlists while watching their own shows and movies.

Whether it’s the headphones glued to our ears or the word “free” leading us wherever we go, I see a very different society awaiting us down the line. For now we might as well enjoy our convenient world and hope we still talk to each other when we’re 80-years-old and need help going to the bathroom.

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