One of the advantages of having worked with, and thus become friends with, a gaggle of Bright Young Things at least a decade younger than I is that I am constantly exposed to all sorts of technological advances well ahead of anyone else in my immediate, more middle-aged, peer group. I was the first in my circle to become Instant Messenger-literate; I know how to find the coolest sites on the Web; and I will most likely be at the front of the bus, iPod clutched in my defiant hand, as I am carted off in chains to the Massachusetts State Prison for Music Pirates.
I was also the first person on my block to get TiVo.
The most disingenuous of my friends have turned up their noses at the Digital Video Recorder Revolution because they claim that they “don’t really watch TV.” They are SO lying! Not only do they watch TV, they watch really crappy network TV because they claim they don’t “need” cable. Ha. The rest of my friends -- the ones who admit to watching too much TV -- tell me they’re afraid that if they get TiVo they’ll become television slaves forever, which also indicates, to me, a kind of elitist attitude about the evils of television watching that has no place in my twisted little cable world of far-fetched courtroom dramas, violent prison antics, and ferocious police vigilantism.
As a result of my passion for all that is Comcast, I have embraced the Great TiVo Insurgency with boundless enthusiasm, even upgrading to digital cable so as to derive maximum benefit from my new Lifelong Companion.
So what’s so great about TiVo? I hear you sneer.
Well, for starters, TiVo is very accommodating. I can program into it the name of every actor I have ever had a crush on and it will find and record every upcoming movie or guest appearance he will appear in -- and even transfer the good (read:shirtless) parts to my DVD recorder for me if I want to keep obsessing over them in the years to come. Second, TiVo is dependable. Even on boring days, when it’s raining and there’s nothing good on regular TV, I can be sure that TiVo will always be there, offering up hours of personally tailored viewing entertainment. You see, TiVo is also intuitive. TiVo does not just record the shows you think you want to watch -- oh, no. TiVo anticipates what you want to watch based on your favorite channels, shows, and prior viewing habits. No more flipping through TV Guide for this lady. My TiVo does all the work -- searching, categorizing, and ranking its recommendations just for me!
And TiVo is easy. I spent a mere half an hour at 3 a.m. on a drunken Saturday morning setting up my system, attaching my TV, VCR, DVD player, and the rest of my home entertainment system with nary a stray cable. I was wired for sound, baby! I rapidly programmed in all of my favorite channels, Wish-Listed my wish-list (hee) actors, and scheduled all of my Season Passes with expert skill. Then I crawled into bed and drifted off into a wine-sodden slumber while my little TiVo began to do its magic.
I kept peeking at it as I shuffled around my house the next day, its keen red eye winking away -- at me, I was sure -- as it sifted through hours, days, and weeks of television listings in search of that ideal mix of inspired programming that would keep me informed and entertained for months to come. What would it choose? What wonders were in store for me? I couldn’t wait to find out!
I went out to dinner with some friends that evening, but of course I couldn’t concentrate. So I excused myself early and rushed home to my TiVo, clicking it on in breathless anticipation of the glories it held -- and gasped in horror!
The Golden Girls? Murder, She Wrote? LIFETIME FRICKING TELEVISION FOR WOMEN?
What the fuck?
I sat back, utterly flummoxed. Why did TiVo think I would enjoy these shows? What had I done to insult it? How could my treasured new best friend, the cute little gizmo in that festive purple and orange box, think so little of me?
A quick dive for my Viewer’s Manual and a hasty read-through of the “Thumbs Down” button rating process saved the day. TiVo is trainable. You can coax better recommendations from it by giving its suggestions a “Thumbs Up” or a “Thumbs Down” rating based on their suitability to your taste. I rapidly Thumbs-Downed every recommendation (giving an emphatic Triple Thumbs Down to Mother, May I Sleep with Danger, despite what had reportedly been a breakthrough performance by Tori Spelling in the lead role) and proceeded, once again, to go about my business.
I arrived home the next day, confident that TiVo had taken my feedback to heart and was now doggedly working to redeem itself in my eyes by selecting more appropriate viewing fare.
Scruples, The Thorn Birds, and On Golden Pond were gone, all right. But they had been supplanted by Howard Stern, The Man Show, and Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam. Yikes.
Okay, so maybe TiVo had overcompensated a tiny bit in its valiant attempt to regain my trust, but I was determined that, with a little loving guidance, my TiVo would eventually become the viewing soul mate I had been searching for my entire life. And, slowly but surely, I eventually got the recommendations to work better.
And, just like the commercials claim, TiVo has “changed the way I watch television.”
It began gradually, but I realize now that I have begun to care a little too much what my TiVo thinks of me. I wonder incessantly what it knows and does not know. I worry constantly that it won’t respect me. Did it sneer at me because I happened to catch five minutes of the E! True Hollywood Story before I suddenly remembered that it knew what I was watching and quickly switched the channel to Great Performances? Does it know that I am asking it to record all of the HBO reruns of Oz even though I already own every episode on DVD or VHS? Can it see me as I shamelessly weep during the final scene of Armageddon? (you know, the one where Will Patton’s little boy runs out from behind the jeep into his arms -- oh, shut up, you cry too!) Does it roll its red eye in disgust when I ask it to capture still another episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit even though I have yet to watch the dozen it has already recorded for me?
I now find myself driven to great lengths to impress TiVo with my discriminating television standards. I have added The History Channel, Bravo, and American Movie Classics to my “Favorite Channels” list and deleted Fox, the WB, and E! I now have a Season Pass to Masterpiece Theatre. I have watched scintillating documentaries about African Bees, breathlessly followed the travails of daring explorers in the Antarctic, and am well-versed in the vagaries of DNA research and its impact upon the Miracle of the Human Genome. I even lay awake one night in sweaty panic after accidentally clicking on Cinemax at Night, anguished at the prospect that TiVo would think me a pervert.
Yes, I’d have to say that, all in all, TiVo is enriching my life in ways that I never imagined. And, pretty soon, it’ll be enriching yours as well.
I read recently that there are currently only 700,000 TiVo subscribers in the country. We’re quite an elite little group. But that is not stopping TiVo from selling our viewing data to the Powers That Be at all the networks. Think about it -- a fraction of the television-watching populace will be responsible for determining the viewing options of the entire country! And I’m a part of it!
No more reality TV! Down with Jerry Springer! Regis Philbin will at long last be banished to that dank, dark broom closet in the basement of Rockefeller Center where he so deservedly belongs! And ABC will be forced to finally cancel The Bachelor and bring back The Job on MY say-so!
It’s all up to me.
I have the Power.
I am TiVo.