September 21, 2004

Confessions of a DVR Owner

As Americans go, I own a refreshingly low two televisions. One is in my living room and the other is in my office. But I do have a digital video recorder to go with each TV, both capable of recording up to 35 hours of television. It's a snap to download programs from the DVR to a video tape recorder or DVD (I own four functioning VCR's, including a beloved Betamax, but that's another story).

While I was working on deadline for my next book, I fell desperately behind on my television watching (how could I so misplace my priorities?). DVRs encourage you to record programs "on spec," so for example, I taped but did not watch a single episode of last season's The West Wing. I've heard that it was a poor season, but I've managed to avoid knowing anything about where the plot went. It was easy for me to avoid finding out about plot developments on The West Wing because my friends have long abandoned the show and the DVR allows you to fast forward through commercials and network promotions.

As I've already confessed, I'm a reality show junkie. As a pop culturist, I'm interested in watching even shows I don't like. While I find a bad sitcom or procedural crime drama excruciating to sit through, I enjoy watching "bad" reality shows. So I record every new one on spec. When I lose interest, I stop watching.

This year it's gotten crazy. I haven't watched one episode of Big Brother or The Amazing Race, not because I wasn't interested, but because I fell behind while I was working and watching altogether too many baseball games on television. As I write this, the finale of TAR is almost over (I'm recording it on my DVR, of course, while watching a recording of another reality show) and the finale of BB is in "the can."

I also subscribe to several television-oriented Internet mailing lists and news services. What are the odds of the results being spilled to me before I can watch ALL of the episodes of these shows? I'd say: pretty darn high. Pray for me.

Even if I manage to escape hearing about who won BB and TAR, when am I going to watch them? The DVR's make it easy for me to record each new show of the Fall season. I started doing this when I worked in television, and I used to be scrupulous about watching at least one entire episode of every new TV show, I've slacked off. I only made it through three minutes or so of a UPN sitcom premiere. Even masochism has its limits.