Hi mbb. I'm with you on this. Weird as it sounds in this day and age, we just didn't get a tv the last time we did a long-distance move. It's been a few years now and we do just fine. Our little one is 17 months old now and I prefer for her to grow up watching the occasional dvd, rather than being exposed to all the (as you say) crap tv shows and relentless advertising.
Having said that, I really am not a hard-core mom. I'm not preachy about TV - I just prefer to avoid it. And, hey, I would rarely judge another mom for what she lets her kids watch. I watched a TON of junk tv when I was growing up (I recall I had the entire tv guide memorized at age 12) and I made it just fine! So it's important not to be a TV puritan, too!!
Oh, I've found another great TV alternative. In addition to dvds, my daughter and I will watch short You Tube clips. They have GREAT classic Sesame Street and Muppet Show clips, plus everything else you can think of that's fun for kids (like Pixar stuff). This is a good (and free!) choice for people with preschoolers. Older kids, of course, will want to watch whatever their friends are watching.