by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Last week, Apple announced that, with its newest iPods, you can download TV shows. That’s right. For the low, low price of just $1.99, you now can watch the most recent episodes of “Desperate Housewives,””Lost” or select other ABC programs simply by downloading them into your iPod. The advantage, as the advertising boasts, is that you now can see your favorite shows whenever you want.

It’s a funny phrase, “whenever you want.” It reminds me of when Holly Hunter accuses William Hurt of declining ethics in “Broadcast News.” She says, “You totally crossed the line,” and he says, “They keep moving the little sucker, don’t they?”

It’s the same with “whenever you want.” You think you get it. But then that little sucker moves again.

For example, I’m sure whoever invented the VCR was figuring you now could watch your favorite programs “whenever you want.”

And whoever invented TiVo really must have figured he’d cornered the market. After all, you actually could watch the start of a program while the finish was happening live. Talk about “whenever you want!”

But they keep moving the little sucker, don’t they?

And now you don’t even need a TV set.

No time to waste

Now “whenever you want” means on a bus, on a plane, in the office or in line at the bank. Whenever you want, you can stick those little white buds in your ears and you can watch Eva Longoria or Teri Hatcher or those beautiful, sweaty people lost on an island.

I keep waiting for the day that you can see your favorite programs while you sleep. All you do is press a button and your own boring dreams are replaced by “The West Wing.”

To be honest, it’s happening already. What used to be time to think, to talk, to imagine – yes, even to

daydream – now is seen as “wasted minutes” that could be better filled, meaning another episode of “The Sopranos.”

There is no premium on quiet time. Quite the opposite. Standing in line, sitting on a train, riding in the backseat – that’s all time you could spend watching those important programs you missed. And what were you doing when those programs were on?

Probably watching other programs.

Always the boob tube

What we’ve created here is a world that can tune out reality – every minute of the day. Check pro athletes as they leave a locker room. Half the guys have their ears covered in giant headphones, swaying to their private music, looking blankly at fans as if they were scenery.

Check out an airplane, with so many people on headphones or mini-DVD players, the flight attendants’ most frequent sentence is no longer, “Something to drink?” but, “Excuse me! Hello?”

When we were kids, we used to tease our grandparents about their addiction to soap operas. Who watched TV during the day? Only old people or housekeepers, right?

Now we’re grown, and, apparently, we are more eager to sit in front of a screen than our grandparents ever were. We’ll watch “SportsCenter” for breakfast, “Oprah” for lunch, “CSI (pick a version)” for dinner, and now – thanks to iPod – pretty much anything else any other time of day.

It is hard not to “ooh” and “ahh” at such technology. But those words should be followed by a few more. Like, “what for?” Even the people who invented TV programming back in the 1940s never thought about going all day and all night. They went to a test pattern, presumably because it was understood that certain hours were for entertainment and certain hours were for the rest of life.

Now, all of life’s a stage and each of us merely here to watch the players. Anytime we want.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or “The Mitch Albom Show” is 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read recent columns by Albom, go to


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!