How I Quit YouTube and Learned to Love to Read TV

Question of the day: Are you still a couch potato if what you’re doing on that sofa doesn’t involve channel surfing with a remote control, spending hours watching videos on YouTube, or simply napping? What I mean to ask is this: Do couch potatoes read, too?

I had to give up YouTube for 18 days.

My final three weeks in Australia, I undertook a very special experiment and weaned myself off of YouTube. Actually, I ditched it cold turkey. No, it wasn’t by choice or for health reasons but purely a matter of economics. I moved into an apartment in the St. Kilda suburb of Melbourne that came with everything (AC, washing machine, dishwasher, balcony with a view) but Wi-Fi. While that might sound like the end of the world to some (and at first it did to me), it wasn’t.

For AUS $69 (which, at the time, translated to about US $65), I bought something called a wireless broadband modem, plugged it into one of the USB ports on my laptop, and a few short steps later — voila! — I had an instant Wi-Fi connection. (Note to frequent travellers considering Australia: Most hotels charge an enormous surcharge for an Internet connection, so it’s worth your while to invest in an Optus or Vodafone modem upon arrival.) I couldn’t believe I was online without any cords or an internet box in sight. Oh, the power of modern technology! There was a catch, though: My modem came with 2GB. I wasn’t sure what that meant until the sales guy explained that it was enough power to keep me online for a month, but if I was addicted to YouTube I was going to have a problem.

Now I’m hardly hooked on YouTube, but I do depend on it to keep up with my four must-see U.S. TV programs — Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live, General Hospital and All My Children. Watching one hour of video on YouTube, I was told, would eat up so much data, that by the time I made it through a few days worth of episodes, I’d probably have to plop down AUS $30 for another 1.15GB.

I am clueless when it comes to GB and MB and MSG and so on, and maybe that guy was being a total alarmist, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. I had to give up YouTube for 18 days. So what was a guy who is so hooked on daytime soaps that he spends each day looking forward to the hour when the latest episodes are finally uploaded to do? I turned to soapcentral.com, my favorite soap website, which offers snappy daily recaps of each episode of every soap, free of judgement or snippy Greek-chorus asides.

I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it did. Though I never stopped missing YouTube, I learned two important lessons: 1) Reading is fundamental. 2) Things probably weren’t so bad back in the pre-TV days when couch potatoes had to catch their favorite programs on the radio.

I’ve spent so many years with some of these characters that it was easy to imagine how they looked delivering their lines. And the major upside was that I no longer had to suffer through bad acting, superfluous flashbacks, and the characters on Days of Our Lives trading those cliché soap looks while delivering their cliché cliffhanger dialogue. “Now why don’t you tell me what’s really going on?” Cue soapy music. Ugh, Lord, take me now!

When Sami finally confessed to Rafe that she knew who shot E.J. (she did!), it actually had more impact free from those daily flashbacks of her pulling the trigger, her shifty, suspicious looks that all but scream, “I’m guilty! Come on, arrest me,” and that slightly constipated look that Galen Gering (Rafe) has in pretty much every scene he’s in. In fact, it was such a juicy, soapy moment, I couldn’t wait to get to the next paragraph. I do wish I could have seen Melanie bitch slap Chloe to next Tuesday, though. (Note to writers: Didn’t anyone tell Melanie that you shouldn’t hit a pregnant woman?)

Over on General Hospital, the Lucky-as-Ronan O’Reilly storyline wasn’t any more interesting without sound and vision (couldn’t the writers come up with anything better to honor Jonathan Jackson’s immense talent?), but at least it wasn’t rendered unwatchable — er, unreadable — by all the barely intelligible Irish accents. And reading that all of the men in Port Charles are fawning all over Brenda while their women worry about losing them to the Aphrodite of daytime is a lot better on paper, since Vanessa Marcil-Giovinazzo, the actress who plays Brenda, is lovely, but she’s neither as young nor as drop dead gorgeous as the writers would have you believe. What I mean to say is that she’s no Angelina Jolie. (Sorry, Vanessa, I love you anyway. Keep up the good work.)

Now that I’m back in Buenos Aires, and my online activity — and by extension, my YouTube viewing habits — have returned to normal, I can once again see everything I was missing. I got to witness the expression on Dani’s face when she realized that her presumed dead mom Tea is alive on One Life to Live’s Friday cliffhanger. I watched, uncomfortably, as Greenlee, on trial for murdering her husband David “Dr. Evil” Hayward, kept looking over her shoulder at Ryan as if to tell the jury, “Convict me now!” Maybe she’s been taking notes from Sami over on Days on how to appear guilty as hell (though unlike Sami, she’s not). There was no Erica Kane on Friday’s AMC episode. She’d been offscreen for months, as portrayer Susan Lucci took her real-life extended vacation (which included a guest appearance on Hot in Cleveland, which, frustratingly, is hard to find on YouTube), but I read her return last week.

I also read somewhere else that Lucci is looking younger than ever. I don’t see how that’s possible, but then again, like AMC‘s poor, blind Angie Hubbard, I didn’t see anything on the show in weeks. And if I’m supposed to buy what happens on The Event, which airs during prime-time in Australia, I guess anything is possible. People call what goes on in daytime soaps unfathomable, but The Event demands as much, if not more, suspension of disbelief. Thankfully, I got to watch it on TV because some things have to be seen to be believed. TC mark

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