Column, Movie Diary

Cutting the cord, an overdue move I don’t regret

By Dom Cioffi

I’ve finally reached the point where I can no longer justify paying for cable television. It just doesn’t make sense with my current viewing habits.

I know some people will find that decision harsh given how much television the average American watches, while others will be tempted to say, “What took you so long?”

I pay for a mid-range cable package that affords me all the popular channels with a few extras thrown in. I don’t know the exact number of stations I have access to, but it’s in the hundreds. I’ve been paying for this package for years, renewing it yearly without much thought or concern. But it’s time to change.

Personally, I rarely watch television. There’s not one cable show I tune into weekly and I’m not a fan of any of the theme stations like HGTV or the Cooking Channel. The only thing I watch is sports and that’s generally when the big games or events are on, like the World Series or a major golf championship like The Masters.

My wife tunes into the news channels nightly to stay on top of things and occasionally turns on the Hallmark channel when she cooks. Other than that, she’s also a non-watcher. 

Then there’s my son, who watches nothing on cable because he’s addicted to Netflix and Hulu and the multitude of sitcoms that repeat on those services in perpetuity. 

So, when I really think about it, I pay over $200 a month to access the roughly five channels we occasionally watch. When that fact hit me, I knew it was time to change. 

I’m not sure what direction I’m going to head in but there are several services out there for a quarter of the price that can give me everything my family needs. I’ll still hold onto my Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, but the cable bill has to go.

One of the services I’m considering is YouTube TV. I’m not thrilled about giving Google any more of my time and information, but the service seems robust and reasonably priced.

In fact, I sort of blame YouTube for ruining my history with cable television.

Several years ago, I downloaded the YouTube app to my iPad so I could look up guitar lessons online. This simple maneuver changed everything for me. Now I could sit in my living room with my iPad in front of me and my guitar strapped around me and learn endless songs from online teachers.

Now, that’s all I do at night. The TV sits on the wall untouched while my wife sits on the couch next to me watching her own iPad. 

I’ll practice my guitar for an hour or two and when I’m finished or taking a break, I tend to scroll through YouTube videos. I love having access to historical videos and educational channels and have more than a few times lost myself for hours jumping from video to video. 

One of the channels I visit periodically is called “Soft White Underbelly.” The channel is the brainchild of Mark Laita, a professional photographer who began to interview homeless people he encountered in order to tell their unique stories. He posted these video interviews on his YouTube channel and people began to watch — in droves, not only because the characters were immensely interesting but also because his interview style is so disarming. Eventually, he started to interview a broad range of individuals, from hookers and pimps, to addicts, gang members, and dealers. 

Currently Laita’s channel has over 1,200 interviews and over 2 million subscribers. At times, it’s not the easiest thing to watch, but it gives these people a voice, while also giving the viewer an insight into how damaged and desperate people can become when their life circumstances are derelict.

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And if there is one theme I’ve noticed through the multitude of videos I’ve watched on “Soft White Underbelly,” it’s that 99% of the people interviewed were abused or neglected as children, which makes their stories especially painful. 

This week’s film, “A Quiet Place II,” has children featured prominently. But while they are initially the victims of some otherworldly abuse, they eventually become poignant heroes. 

Building on the success of the first film, this sequel follows the Abbott family as they try to survive after extraterrestrial aliens turn Earth into a feeding ground. 

I love a good science fiction film, but they tend to lack in believability. Both “A Quiet Place” and “A Quiet Place II” deliver on this point and many others including acting, an intriguing storyline and the prerequisite shock moments that send you jumping out of your seat. 

Check this one out if you want to immerse yourself in a hellish reality for an hour and a half. It’s ridiculously fun and well worth the anxiety.

A piercing “B+” for “A Quiet Place II.” 

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]

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