Television is a nasty beast. It eats your time, saps your money, and distorts reality. You need a TV guide.
That said, I’m going to be your guide– not to tell you what to watch– but how to watch what’s on TV. Remember this axiom:
Television these days has 500 channels and nothing’s on.
We may say that, we may believe that, it may actually be true, but, guess what? We watch TV anyway.
A few years ago we did something in the McElfresh household that our cable TV company loves (they get more money), and advertisers (who usually pay the freight of producing and delivering the entertainment on TV) hate.
We got a digital video recorder. A DVR.
It has changed how and when and what we watch on TV, and the changes are for the better. These days, we have the privilege of selecting from any one of a few hundred channels, recording the selection and watching the aforementioned selection when we want to watch it.
I’ll repeat that. We watch what we want and when we want to watch it.
Growing up as a kid in the hill country of Missouri, we had two and a half channels. Nearby were NBC and CBS affiliate stations with a decent signal for the TV’s antenna.
From time to time we could pick up the ABC station in St. Louis, hence the two and a half channels.
Then along came cable and a couple dozen channels and better reception. Then the technology improved and expanded and television today, including satellite TV, offers hundreds of channels.
Still, there’s nothing on. Mostly.
Back to the DVR. For about $10 a month, the local cable company rents us a digital video recorder (don’t do the math over a 10 year period– it’s scary). It’s a VCR-sized box that records incoming cable onto a hard disk drive, similar to that found in personal computers.
Unlike a VCR, which requires extra tapes to record more television, the DVR holds about 40 hours of TV. A remote control is used to control recording and playback, plus the stop, pause, rewind, and fast forward features.
By using an onscreen guide, we can select which television programs we want to watch, set the scheduler to record each one automatically at any time of any day.
Then, when we’re ready to watch television, there’s always something on (what we’ve recorded) that’s worth watching. Mostly.
The DVR is sufficiently intelligent to be able to record two television programs simultaneously. Or, record one television program while you watch another.
The DVR has changed our viewing habits in a few very basic, paradigm-shifting ways. First, we select what we want and are never forced to watch what’s on now because now is when we have time to watch.
Second, since the DVR records the television program, during playback, we can pause the program for bathroom breaks, snacks, or a nap.
Finally, did I mention fast forward? Just as fast forward speeds up playback on a VCR, so it does to a television program recorded on a DVR. Hence, and here it comes, the big revelation– no TV commercials.
Clicking fast forward three times and waiting about 12 seconds gets us through all the commercial breaks and back to the program. It’s fast, simple, accurate, and reduces television watching this way.
A 30-minute TV show becomes about 22 minutes. A one hour show becomes barely 40-minutes. A two hour movie on TV becomes about an hour and 20 minutes.
See how cool that is? Watch what you want, when you want, and as fast as you want.
That’s how to watch what’s on TV.