I was interviewing Cary resident Keith Bliss for a real estate story I was writing when he casually mentioned he and his family hadn’t watched TV for three years.
“What?” I asked. Surely, I’d misheard him. I mean, what about “Modern Family” or “The Middle”? What about “20/20” and, dare I say it, “Kitchen Nightmares”? There’s just something about Gordon Ramsay yelling that is oddly relaxing on a Friday night. Probably because I’m not the target.
Of course, I didn’t say any of that. A television ban is admirable in this day and age and also, in some ways, unimaginable, so I told Bliss I wanted to write about it. And he agreed.
Keith and Gioia Bliss live in Cary and have three kids: Carter, 8; Cameron, 6; and Sawyer, 3. The family gets Netflix movies through its Wii system and also has access to traditional DVD movies, but no television channels, cable or even a rabbit-ear antenna.
“Keith decided we were watching too much TV. Actually, I think he was watching too much TV,” said Gioia Bliss with a laugh.
“It wasn’t that I was watching too much TV,” counters Keith, “But there was nothing on TV that we couldn’t do without. It was really a waste of money and time that our family simply didn’t need.”
The square-headed babysitter was officially fired.
“Getting rid of the cable boxes and remotes was a great feeling,” Keith continued. “The goal was to not have TV shows and commercials as background noise ever again in our household. It’s extremely distracting, even though most families don’t notice it. When it’s not there anymore, you notice the actual conversations in the room are a lot more interesting.”
That might sound like a “duh” moment to a lot of people, but how many of us under a certain age have ever gone more than a day or two without television? It’s become so habitual that many of us even use the TV to fall asleep because the sound of silence is deafening. I used to do this myself, but I finally broke the habit after my son was born and silence became a rare and magical gift.
With kids, the TV habit isn’t fully ingrained yet, fortunately, and Keith and Gioia said their kids didn’t even notice when they pulled the plug at their house three years ago.
“We had a kindergartener, a 3-year-old, and our baby was born two weeks later,” said Gioia.
It was the grown-ups who missed it.
“With our first two newborns, I was used to sitting in bed at 2 a.m. nursing the baby and watching DVR’d shows,” Gioia said. “That transition was tough. Now, every once in a while I miss it – especially during football season. I like the sound of football in the background.”
The couple does occasionally stream sports and a few shows to watch on their laptops, which can plug into the television.
“They’re very specific shows, and we have to want to watch something to turn over the laptop to television versus computing,” said Gioia.
Keith added: “The kids play with their toys, read, play outside, go find their friends and drag them out of their houses, because we tell our kids they have to play outside. Seriously, we’re just putting them in the same environment we were used to when we were kids, and they don’t even notice. ”
Over the years, Keith and Gioia thought the kids might really push for TV, but it hasn’t happened.
“They understand,” said Gioia. “They still get to watch things, so they aren’t doing entirely without. And they watch at their friends’ houses.”
I honestly think my son and husband could go without television more easily than I. The funny thing is, when I was in graduate school and working and busy being a new mom, that’s how I did it all. I rarely watched television. Now I find myself white-knuckling at the idea of giving up mean Gordon and lovable Brick Heck.
Gioia urged me to “Just do it!”
Keith chimed in: “You can always get it back. Think about when you’re on vacation and by the end of the week you aren’t watching TV. You’re more in tune with your family. Just turn everything in, unplug and tune into your family and everything else around you.”
I’m thinking about it. Once we get into summer reruns.