Bliss Thru Shopping: TV or not TV, that is the question

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Shopping Siren has always adored everything about cable, from the corded remote control tethered to her childhood TV to the green slime slopped across Nickelodeon shows. 

My love affair with “Doctor Who” happened because of cable. So, too, my enchantment with cooking battles and Lifetime movies, ancient aliens and decorating shows in which neighbors wreck — er, transform — a room in each other’s house. (“Trading Spaces” is coming back!)

The one thing I haven’t loved: the monthly bill. 

Could I, I began wondering recently, maybe not have cable?

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I know! It’s like wondering about life without coffee. Or chocolate. Or air. The answer seems obviously and overwhelmingly bad.

But I have friends who cut the cord a few years ago and they seem mostly perfectly normal. So maybe it’s a doable thing?

Some people save money, I hear. Some don’t. Some just like being cord-free for the ability to mainline “Star Trek” episodes without interruption. (Commercial interruption. Dropping cable does not mean also dropping your children/pets/significant other who likes to chomp on popcorn with his mouth open.)

As TV premiere season kicks off, I have two resolutions: stock up on tissues for “This is Us” — toilet paper shreds when you cry into it, just FYI — and look into life without cable or satellite.

Let’s get this show on the road.

• Mohu Leaf 30-mile antenna, Best Buy, $39.99

Rabbit ears are so 1987. These days, the indoor TV antenna trend is for flat, light and paper-thin. Like, well, paper. Affix to your wall and get free HD channels over the air. The FCC’s searchable website shows it should be pretty easy for Lewiston-Auburn to get the usual suspects (local ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS and CW). Farther out? You could opt for the Mohu Leaf’s 50-mile, amplified antenna for $59.99. “The Big Bang Theory” is too important to leave to chance.  

Note: According to a store associate, the Auburn Best Buy’s last day is Oct. 28. No word on a closing sale, but Bag Lady and I will keep our eyes open. And our wallets out.

• Roku, Best Buy, $24.99 to $99.99

You can get a bunch of live TV channels through an online pay streaming service. (DirecTV Now, Hulu, PlayStation Vue and Sling are among the most popular. For Boston sports fans, Vue gets NESN.) Other services, like Netflix, offer movies and  non-live shows. But you’ll probably want a way to get all that from the internet to your TV. A smart TV will do it all on its own. Roku will do it for all the dumb TVs out there.

Devices range from the $24.99 Roku Express to the $99.99 Roku Ultra, with three others in between. Some look like mini cable boxes while others are just a thumb drive-like stick you slot into a port on your TV. All have their pros and cons, just like ice cream. Sometimes rocky road is just too rocky.

• Google Chromecast, Best Buy, $35

Another streaming device that plugs into your TV like the Roku. Except this one is a dongle that’s shaped like a single ear muff. I don’t know why. Maybe it works better. Maybe all of our cable boxes should have been ear muff-shaped all these years. Discs for the win!

• Amazon Fire TV Stick, $39.99

Another streaming device, this one with “Alexa voice remote.” I think that means a woman named Alexa will move into your house and her only job will be to change the channel on your command. I could be wrong. Pretty sure I’m not.

• TiVo Roamio, Marden’s, $111.99

The TiVo does a lot of cool things, but they all boil down to this: record shows to watch later. Back in the day, that used to be called a VCR.

Best find: Samsung Streaming Blu-ray player, Kmart, $59.99

A Blu-ray player that also streams shows and movies from the internet. I believe the very technical term for this is “twofer.”

Think twice: Insignia digital converter box, Best Buy, $79.99

If you’ve got an old-fashioned analog TV (older than 10 years, maybe. Older than 15 years, almost certainly), you’re going to need a digital converter to get free over-the-air channels from an antenna. However, you can get converters for about $20 or so elsewhere, and even less if you happen to spot a used one at a yard sale or thrift store. Nearly $80 seems a bit steep by comparison. But if you need it now, like right-now-today-hand-it-over, it’s here. New episodes of “Supernatural” and “Saturday Night Live” won’t be far behind.     

Shopping Siren’s true identity is protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who only watch Animal Planet and Food Network) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach her at shoppingsiren@sunjournal.com.

Roku Express Streaming Media Player, $24.99 at Best Buy. Because TV streaming has gone mainstream.  

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