The downside of TiVo -- Marc Bernardin laments about television's latest advancement


The downside of TiVo

My relationship with my TiVo started out like a dream. A few hours after cracking it out of the box, it revolutionized the way I experienced TV. No longer did I have to juggle the same five VHS tapes, wondering what was on them, watching as the image quality degraded to something resembling tapioca. Nevermore did I have to hope the timer was set and the cable box was on the right channel. Missed shows were a thing of deepest antiquity.

And it was good.

I preached the Word like a DVR evangelist; after all, it changed my life in a very real way. My first TiVo came close on the heels of my first child, and saved episodes of 24 and Buffy kept me company during early-morning bottle raids. The second kid came with a second TiVo. But then the kids outgrew our 3 a.m. appointments, leaving me less time to watch banked programs. I had to work harder to find time to catch up. The tacit promise of DVRs — ”Record whatever you want, and watch it whenever you want” — is exactly what ended up biting me in the arse. My eyes were bigger than my, well, eyes — and my free time was shrinking like it just got out of a pool.

As the networks rolled out their fall slates this year, I set season passes for the new shows that looked like they might not suck. And the episodes piled up. I monkeyed with the DVR settings to squeeze out every last byte of recording space. I even victimized my kids by pruning their TV (”They don’t need five episodes of Dora the Explorer…it’s the same damned story every time!”). And then, finally, I just deleted the shows I couldn’t find time to watch — adios Moonlight and Cane, and you’re on the chopping block, four episodes of Bionic Woman — to make room for other programs I probably wouldn’t watch, either.

As a result, I feel the shame of a kid who didn’t do his homework, and those little yellow dots on my TiVo Now Playing menu are like the harsh glare of a disapproving teacher. DVR allows you to procrastinate, and we’ve all learned the hard way that procrastination never leads to accomplishment. It’s infinitely easier to watch one hour of TV than to buckle in for 12, and now when it gets that far gone, I just pull the plug. Then I promise myself that I’ll buy the DVD boxed set. Which I do. Lo and behold, season 2 of Rome is sitting on my shelf. Still in the plastic.