Navigating Family Purchases: TV Edition

A few weeks ago, our television started randomly switching sources. We’d be watching a streaming channel when the TV would blip, and then we’d be looking at broadcast TV or the DVD player. At first we thought the remote had an issue, but after several sets of new batteries and a sternly worded conversation with said remote, we knew the end had come. After just one short decade, our television needed to be replaced.

What emerged next was a three-way tug of war. My daughter, husband, and I had very different views on our next chapter of TV ownership, but it went beyond personal preference. If nobody has ever written psychological profiles based on the struggle to replace a television, they should consider it. 

My husband, Walt, is a pragmatic technophile. He loves exploring new technology, but he’s not bankrupting the family to bathe in gadgetry. Still, the world of TV is one where technological advancement has been swift, especially in the decade or so since the last time we bought one. Smart features are seamlessly integrated, the pile of remotes has shrunk to one petite powerhouse, and HD is the norm. Most notably, the price of televisions has dropped tremendously, due to 

  • a proliferation of phones, tablets, and other types of devices that can also show content
  • the fact that television manufacturers can now make money from selling our data and serving up ads on the TVs
  • the increasing number of companies that are making them

As one might predict given the above, Walt wanted the largest TV we could fit through the front door. Technology had given the world the gift of the giant TV, after all. Why would he get something “small” like the 35” friend we were burying?

My daughter, Amelia, is nine years old, and she is very much attached to everything in her environment. My sweet, delightful daughter despises change. The idea of saying goodbye to the old TV was so horrible to her that she wouldn’t let us pull the plug at first, and we spent a week coming up with increasingly desperate ideas to bring it back to life. Finally, when there was no denying it was time to find a new television, she acquiesced. However, in her mind, the only way we could replace our old pal was with an exact replica. Even if we couldn’t find one with the thick cabinet or chunky backside, at least we could find one that was the same size. Also, we absolutely could not mount it on the wall. Was that too much for a small child to ask?

I fell somewhere in the middle. While I could certainly understand how technology had given us all televisions that look and act like gigantic iPads, when I reflected on how much we used our TV, it was tough in my mind to justify the expense associated with an extremely large one. Yes, prices have gone down, but I was more in the “spend less for the same amount of TV” camp than the “get more for the same price as before” camp. I also wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of it being mounted on the wall, but I was assured the wires would be hidden (spoiler alert: they are not). Then I veered off course and started looking at cabinets. I still hadn’t gotten over leaving my fireplace at our old house six years ago and saw an opportunity for one of those cabinets with the built-in electric fireplaces. 

We ended up with a television that, at 55”, is definitely larger than our old one, but not obnoxiously oversized for our family room. There was no getting around it looking different, but we’re keeping our beloved cabinet for now, so Amelia is pleased. She’s also loving how mounting the TV on the wall has expanded her viewing angles. Unfortunately, only after we already had a set of giant brackets and several holes in the wall did we discover the previous owners had packed insulation in the (interior) wall, so no wires in the wall, but in a win for me, we ordered something to make the wires neat and orderly. Finally, with the ability to cast content from other devices onto the screen, I have found several other uses for the TV: showing sheet music and dance files for Amelia’s theater practice, playing games, looking at old pictures, and even shopping online with the family. 

In the end, nobody was completely satisfied, and yet we were all happy. Even the cat is enjoying the top of the cabinet being empty—at least she will be again once we tie up the wires and remove the items piled in front of them to prevent her from frying her kitty brain. 

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