Michael Chabon ponders this question
in his latest (web available) column in Details with his usual lyricism and a nostalgia for the bad television of his pre-cable youth.Owning a television connected you to an invisible world of forces that no amount of dials and wires could control. But in order to encounter them, to rise,or sink, to the level of consciousness required to propel you into that kingdom of ghosts and snow, you needed first to be bored—acutely, hopelessly bored.You needed first to experience the endlessness of a single minute watching a gray professor expound the teachings of Heraclitus on Sunrise Semester.
I don’t know if contemporary children can attain that kind of bored satori. My own kids often advance grandiose claims in this regard, but I’m obliged,by experience and parental statute, to doubt them. And even if they were capable of such feats of consciousness-altering tedium, our new television setwould not permit them to explore secret wavelengths and phantom signals. There are no ghosts, I’m told, with HDTV. I’m not sure, in the end, if this issuch a good thing. Maybe there is no mystery, no transcendence, without the spur of tedium.
As someone who didn't get cable (not even a clear PBS) until eigth grade, I mostly read the TV Guide as if it were porn, salivating and fantasizing over the cartoons, sitcoms, and hours of wrestling I would watch if I lived within city limits. Which is to say I don't think my boredom did for me what it did for Chabon.