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My living room has three TVs and is the harbinger of human evolution

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Every day on the internet, new micro-trends emerge, only to become old news five minutes later. In Polygon’s new series The Next Generation of Everything, we’re looking at what’s blowing up in the worlds and fandoms we follow, and what the latest shifts say about where Extremely Online life is going next.

There is no right time to tell someone your living room has three TVs. They always have questions, they give weird looks — depending on your job, they may even ask you to write about your whole “TV situation.”

To curtail confusion as much as possible, it’s easiest to just say “I have three TVs in my living room” as soon as it might come up. So hey: I have three TVs in my living room. And you should, too.

Why three TVs? How did I become so powerful?

My living room’s TVs sit in a triangle formation. Two main TVs sit next to each other, mounted to the wall. A third TV sits above those, forming a pyramid of viewing pleasure. An entertainment center sits on the floor, also centered between the two primary TVs. The left TV is mine, the right one is my wife’s, and the middle one is, currently, for watching Hell’s Kitchen.

It’s a perfect setup, and even given unlimited funds and space I’d change very little about it. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Getting to three TVs was a journey.

3 TVs hanging on a wall in a pyramid shape Photo: Ryan Gilliam

When I was a recent college grad and bachelor in 2017, I didn’t even have a TV. I watched shows on my computer’s second monitor, and ate my meals while sitting a foot away from my screen. Like an adult. But when Jamie, my girlfriend (and future wife), started hanging around, I converted my apartment’s unreasonably large closet into an entertainment center for us, complete with TV and an astoundingly uncomfortable Amazon loveseat.

When Jamie moved in, I quickly discovered some limitations with the single TV setup. My wife and I both love playing games and watching a variety of things, and importantly, we love doing them at the same time. My first tactic was recommending Switch games that could divert attention to the mobile console and net me some TV time for the games I wanted to play. Eventually, we set up the laptop on our ottoman so we could watch our favorite shows at the same time. The system was good — I played on the TV, Jamie was on my Switch, and my laptop streamed our favorite shows — but imperfect.

When we moved to our next apartment, I needed a change. I did some research and soul searching. I didn’t hesitate to make a drastic change, but I didn’t leap at the greatest opportunity either. I mounted two TVs right next to each other on our longest wall, and we situated our couch right in front of them. The effect was transcendent: I could play through Sekiro while Jamie cleaned up her 140th hour of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. But even with our two TVs, it didn’t take long to break out the ottoman laptop so Twin Peaks’ mysteries could unfold in the background.

Something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it …

The answer was another TV. Two weeks before lockdown here in Kansas City, Jamie and I bought and moved into our first house. And in our new home, we found a living room space with a wall just big enough for our dream: the Triforce.

Along a 12 foot wall, nearly 8 feet away from our couch, I replicated our two-TV setup from the previous apartment and slid the entertainment center into place. And just above the two TVs, centered perfectly between them, I placed our laptop replacement — a slightly smaller 40-inch flatscreen.

It’s been nearly a year, and not a day has gone by where all three TVs don’t see some use.

The price of power

In this case there is a literal, dollar-sign price to this setup, as well as a metaphorical one. The cons are limited, but they do exist.

One problem I ran into was the difference of cost versus quality. It was important to us to have TVs that looked like they belonged together. Our primary TVs are the same size and they match — only a year apart, with two versions that have no visual differences. Our top TV is slightly smaller but also the same year. All of them are TCL smart TVs, so there’s brand unity as well.

Convenience is currently more important to me than quality, but if I were to upgrade these TVs, it would be very difficult for me to only choose one — lest I destroy how my already ridiculous entertainment setup looks. This would obviously be very expensive, and it’s a plunge I won’t be taking for some time.

There’s also the cost issue of buying three regularly priced, decent televisions.

Then there’s the sound problem. We have our entertainment TV (the top one) hooked up to a soundbar, and we both play games on our own TVs using the built-in speakers and subtitles — we both already liked using subtitles, so this wasn’t an issue for us. We had to play with the mix a little, and I don’t use the entertainment TV when I’m playing something story heavy like Yakuza: Like a Dragon or The Last of Us: Part 2, but the system works for most games.

The biggest issue with my TVs is actually the remotes. You can use any TCL remote on any TV, which is great, as I’m frequently losing at least two of our four. But it also means that turning the power on for one TV turns them all on. Or trying to navigate to Hulu moves every TV menu. I’ve figured out the perfect angle to nail only the top TV, and then I have to use my phone to control my own TV. This is something I live with and could probably solve through a third-party remote, but as we inch toward paradise, it’s also obnoxious.

“Why do you need three TVs?” is easily the question I get most. And by the time I’m done explaining, I see another convert to the Church of Three TVs walk away.

If you’re into video games and your partner or roommate is also into video games, you relate to the struggle of wanting the TV so you can do your thing. It can be pretty frustrating, but sharing is key to being a good pal. But what’s better than sharing? Not having to share at all.

Our setup is specifically designed for us. Because I can play 90% of my games in the living room, I spend way more time with Jamie than I would hooking my games up in my office. We hang out together for hours after work and I still get to play almost everything that comes out each year. The third TV gives us something to experience together, even when one of us is playing a game the other couldn’t care less about. More than anything, my TV setup has been an awesome catalyst for spending more time with my wife. And when I weigh the pros and cons, that’s all that matters to me.

The setup specifics

3 TVs hanging in a living room in a pyramid shape Photo: Ryan Gilliam

If you’re looking to replicate what I have — and why wouldn’t you be? — here’s everything we’ve got hooked up to make this setup work:

  • 2x TCL 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TVs
  • 1x TCL 40-inch 1080p Roku Smart LED TV
  • 3x Mounting Dream TV Wall Mount with swivel and tilt
  • A Sony soundbar
  • However many game consoles you need. If you both like games on the same console family, keep in mind it may be worth picking up two consoles — the family sharing on the PlayStation is very good, so we have two PS5s in our house
  • An entertainment center wide enough to not look super weird between two TVs — for the record, our entertainment center extends about midway into each TV and it looks normal. We have it centered under the smaller of the three. Ideally, you should be able to fit your consoles inside, which isn’t easy given the hulking behemoths currently on offer from both Sony and Microsoft

And that’s it. We do have some nice game artwork by an artist called Crowsmack adorning our walls — in case guests weren’t sure if we were nerds or some sort of at-home secret service workers — but that’s purely optional.

To make the setup work, you really just need a bit of cash to invest in your entertainment and a partner who is either excited (or only slightly annoyed) by this ludicrous idea.

With my ingenious setup, I can’t promise you’ll have a pain free time, or that you’ll love the weird looks you get from friends and coworkers when they see what you’ve done. I can’t promise people won’t gossip about you, or that you won’t become the talk of the town — although you should be, you earned it.

I can promise you’ll never go back to that shared TV lifestyle. And for that, I guarantee you’ll thank me.