Substitute the internet for your TV
-- by Daniel Punch, M6.Net Web Hosting
I have fond memories of waking up early on Saturday mornings and softly tiptoeing out to the family room to watch early morning cartoons when I was in elementary school. Then in high school I became more interested in the action-oriented TV shows in the evening. A little while later, I found that I just didn't have the time to dedicate an hour or so a day to sitting and watching mindless entertainment at a given time slot, and so I no longer watched TV at all. Gone are my days of watching those humorous cartoons and ridiculous heroes every week.
I recently discovered the online film scene, though, and it's fantastic. Short films, up to about 20mins in length, just posted online for all to download. Many of them are better than the professionally produced, high-budget TV shows that stream so liberally to your TV box. Every one is a labor of love, so even when the production values aren't high you know that someone has poured themselves into the product, which brings satisfaction beyond that of watching some stale TV show now into it's 19th series and just churning out the money makers.
Cartoons were my first port of call. It's been a long time since I've been awake and free early enough in the morning to watch some animated entertainment (and besides that, the cartoons on TV now are largely trash). A friend introduced me to my first online cartoon, the enormously popular and hilarious Homestar Runner (http://www.homestarrunner.com). This site is fantastic. There are longish cartoons and games, with new ones being added every now and then, but the main reason to visit and continue to return is a lovably vicious character named Strong Bad. The creators of the web site answer roughly one email a week using this character that basically insults people in the most hilarious ways possible. It's all quite family-friendly and is more than worth a bookmark.
More animated wonders and filmed entertainment can be found at Atom Films (http://www.atomfilms.com), which has become a free service recently. Also worth a look is Ifilm (http://www.ifilm.com) that offers the lower-bandwidth streams of films for free. Be slightly wary here though as there is an uncensored section and occasionally some videos will show up on the main page that aren't entirely family-friendly. These two sites showcase hundreds of short films, from animated to live action, from musical to martial arts. They host music clips and film festival winners as well as some non-professional but often still high quality work.
For the action fans there are a number of 'Stunt Crews' out there, risking life and limb for the sheer giddy thrill of looking really cool on tape. They'll have you wishing you were just half as talented as they are. One particularly active and talented group goes by the name of The Stunt People (http://www.thestuntpeople.com). They have a large number of videos available online, most running for about 20mins and almost all of them jam packed with martial arts and tricking entertainment. Of similar style, although not quite as stunt-oriented, are Jabronie Pictures (http://jabroniepictures.com/). These films all contain some violence and occasionally some coarse language, so you may want to screen them before showing them to younger children.
There are those who claim that TV can be used to keep up with the events unfolding in the world, the people who watch the news when the 'Simpsons' is on the other channel. For those socially minded folks, a quick search for 'News video streams' reveals a large number of pages, such as http://www.humanitas-international.org/newstran/streaming-tv.htm that contains a large list of streams, providing news updates on demand.
So if you've got a little downtime and there's nothing on TV, try shifting on over to your computer and basking in the wonderful entertainment provided by many talented people who just want to share their creativity. Or, keep yourself current with happenings around the world. It's fun and free. What more could you want?
Daniel Punch spends far too much time looking for free entertainment on the internet.