Woke up this morning, missed `Sopranos' again

March 30, 2006|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,SUN COLUMNIST

It comes over me often these days, an empty feeling accompanied by a sense of inferiority, of not belonging.

The shrinks don't have a name for it. You won't read about it in JAMA. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta doesn't even classify it as a disorder.

But I can tell you it's real, as real as the nose on your face.

And it'll eat you up if you let it.

It's HBO Envy.

And for the millions of Americans who suffer from it -- many without even basic cable, never mind the fancy premium channels -- just picking up the remote every day is a struggle.

For those of us who live with HBO Envy, Monday mornings are the worst.

Go into any office in the land on Monday mornings and the people with HBO are standing around chatting excitedly about some cool show they watched the night before.

If you happen to walk by, they might even politely include you in the conversation. ("Hey, how 'bout THE SOPRANOS? Paulie Walnuts shooting those Colombian drug dealers? Was that nuts or what?")

Then it gets awkward.

With a nervous smile, you stammer: "Um, well, I didn't actually catch that ... "

Even before the words are out of your mouth, everyone is thinking: Oh. Right. He doesn't have HBO.

Then the room goes silent and everyone gives you a pitying look, as if what's sinking in is: Oh. Right. He's homeless.

For anyone with HBO Envy, the last six or seven years have been especially hard.

Look at all the terrific shows we've missed: Oz, Sex And The City, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood.

And for what?

For another stupid Survivor rip-off?

For that dopey show with Howie Mandel where they make deals?

For -- that's it, I'm officially getting sick -- The Apprentice?

God help us all if that's what we've been watching.

But what's the alternative?

Until a season's worth of The Sopranos or Curb Your Enthusiasm or whatever comes out on DVD, many of the HBO-less are reduced to asking people who have HBO to tape shows for us.

Do you know how humiliating this is?

Do you know what this does to your self-esteem?

Oh, I wish you could see this pathetic ritual take place in my own workplace, where a very nice young woman tapes The Sopranos each week for three men -- yes, including me -- who would lie, cheat and stab each other in the back to be the first to get the tape from her.

Up to this point, those of us with HBO Envy have not elicited a great deal of sympathy from the general public.

Instead, the attitude is: Look, pal, you want HBO so bad, don't be a cheapskate.

Quit whining and pony up the extra money to Comcast or the Dish Network or whoever and just get it.

Oh, I wish it were that easy.

See, some of us have been emotionally scarred by HBO, and we haven't gotten over it.

Let me share my own family's story, won't you?

You see, once upon a time, we had HBO. Yep, had it for years.

There was only one problem: No one ever watched it.

Except to see the occasional heavyweight boxing match or a comedy concert or movie on Saturday night, no one ever turned to HBO.

Finally, in the late 1990s, my wife and I looked at each other and said: "Why are we paying this extra money for HBO when nobody's watching it?"

So we got rid of it.

Our timing, once again, was terrific.

Within months, HBO introduced Sex and The City and then The Sopranos, which only became the hottest, most talked-about show on TV.

And suddenly HBO was trotting out all these other cool shows, too, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, The Wire, great stuff you couldn't see anywhere else on TV.

So why don't we just sign up for it again?

Easy: because we're not stupid.

Because we know the minute we start paying for it again, HBO will go right down the tubes.

All the good shows will disappear.

Instead of Tony Soprano whacking other bad guys, we'll get Donald Trump freaking out young people with that lacquered hair.

Howie Mandel will get his own drama series.

They'll axe Deadwood and replace it with My Name Is Earl.

So we'll just do what we've always done.

We'll lust after HBO from afar.

It's so much easier this way.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.

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