Finally got the TiVo

About a month ago, we updated our pre-recorded home TV viewing experience by replacing our non-descript DVR with a TiVo device. Why we did this, I’m not sure. But with my wife and son pulling vigorously for the upgrade, it left just me and the cats as potential opposition, and I can’t count on those ungrateful layabouts for anything anymore.

The cable guy showed up to perform the installation and a few other moves that looked more like purity rituals than anything else, and that same day we were watching TiVo.

Like anything new, I hated it. For several days, I literally could not turn on the TV. There are three buttons near the top edge of the remote — labeled “TV Pwr,” “TiVo” and “Live TV” — and you’d think any one of these might allow electricity to surge into the mechanism, bringing me a world of education, entertainment and the closest thing to delight you can summon on a flat screen. I eventually learned that “TV Pwr” was the button of choice, unless I wanted to watch something pre-recorded or I wanted to switch from watching pre-recorded programming to something live. I now have this written on my hand.

As I’ve used TiVo more and more, I’ve developed fact-based opinions to replace the superstition I felt in those early days and weeks. I’m still not sure I see the big advantage over our old DVR. It still won’t allow you to insert yourself into sitcoms as the wacky next-door neighbor, and it won’t allow you to expunge Glenn Beck from the face of the planet with a gentle press of the “Death To ___” button. Still, I think I do see some plusses, along with some minuses and a few greater-than-or-equal-to’s, and I’m now able to enunciate these:

A thing I like about TiVo:
No longer do I have to struggle with the proper verb to use when I want to say I’ve recorded a show. “I TiVo’d it,” I can now say, and everyone knows what I mean. No more “I DVR’d it” (huh?) or “I digitally video-recorded it” or “I recorded it digitally on a video recorder” or, worst of all, “I taped it.”

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
It doesn’t have a clock! Sure, you can push a few buttons on the remote to get the time to show on the screen, but the box itself has no LED constantly displaying the current time. I never realized how much I depended on that little clock to know where I stood in the time-space continuum while I lazed on the sofa in front of the television. As much as I enjoy watching “Seinfeld” reruns, I could be in the mid-nineties for all I know. In an age when every electronic device from toasters to vibrating marital aids have a clock, I find this to be a serious flaw.

A thing I like about TiVo:
It has more storage capacity than my old DVR. I can now watch all five hours of NBC’s “The Today Show” all seven days a week, and still have room to record A&E’s “Intervention” series, which I hope will eventually feature friends and family forcing a loved one who watches too much “The Today Show” into rehab.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
The remote control is shaped in such a way that it’s impossible to tell simply by feel if you’re pointing it in the right direction. Half the time when I’m trying to fast-forward through commercials, I actually have the thing pointed at my abdomen, which causes my digestion to seriously backup and give me a raging case of heartburn.

A thing I like about TiVo:
There are four colorful buttons spanning the beltline of the remote labeled “A,” “B,” “C” and “D”. I like these for two reasons: they remind me of M&Ms, and they help me recall the letters of the alphabet when I have the occasional forgetful spell. (Once I get started singing “The Alphabet Song,” musical memory takes over and I’m back on track well into the S-T-U-V range). I assume these buttons also have another function, but I haven’t watched the tutorial yet, and doubt I ever will.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
All those stupid sound effects for every function you perform. If I wanted to hear Little People cracking their knuckles incessantly, I’d go to a midget convention.

A thing I like about TiVo:
The logo is cute. It looks like a pregnant insect with Seal-like ritual scarring on its face.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
The pause button only holds the action for 30 minutes, whereas my old DVR lasted an hour. This disrupts one of my hallowed weekend traditions of waking up, turning on and pausing ESPN while I eat breakfast and read the paper, then un-pausing and enjoying sports highlights uninterrupted by commercials. The breakfast/newspaper routine takes about 40-45 minutes, so now I’m compelled to rush through my granola and obits (now, with 30% more dead people than I knew ten years ago) at a most unrelaxing pace.

A thing I like about TiVo:
In the dark, without wearing your glasses, with a little imagination, the remote control looks like a large chocolate bunny. It does not, however, taste like one.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
I hate the ghostly overprint describing dozens of unwanted details about the show you’re getting ready to watch, if only all that pointless type would get out of the way. It lingers way beyond its welcome. I doubt I’m going to enjoy “Secret Millionaire” any more just because I know I’m watching it in 720p. And I already know I can’t enjoy it any less.

A thing I like about TiVo:
It has a capital “V” in the middle of its name. Ever since BellSouth pioneered the “intercap” concept back in the 1970s, it’s always made me feel better about companies who employ this technique. They’re doing their part toward maintaining environmental sustainability by abandoning unnecessary spacebands.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
It lists episode names in quotes, which is fine if there is an episode name. If there isn’t, it quotes whatever details it happens to know about the show. Though I might be more likely to watch Jimmy Fallon if the episode is called “Howard Stern, Author Sarah Vowell, music by William Shatner’s Pants,” it doesn’t add much to my anticipation of “The CBS Evening News” to see that tonight’s show features “News.”

A thing I like about TiVo:
I like the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons, but I wish they’d also include a raised middle finger I could press every time Donald Trump appeared on the screen.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
The button that allows you to go back to the last channel is located at the very bottom of the remote and is for some reason labeled “enter.” You can’t hold the remote and press the button with the same hand without the risk of dropping it down your pants, which is a very real issue when you spend a late night switching back and forth between HBOZ and Showtime Undressed.

A thing I like about TiVo:
It suggests shows I might like based on a history of my viewing habits.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
It thinks I like “The Real Housewives of Harden County, West Virginia”.

A thing I like about TiVo:
It only adds a mere $6.95 a month to my cable bill.

A thing I don’t like about TiVo:
My total cable/wireless/phone/internet bill now runs in excess of $600, which doesn’t seem like a lot when you look at the details of your 23-page invoice and see there are thousands of charges on there but only a few that are more than about 37 cents.

Another thing I don’t like about TiVo:
It won’t allow me to see into the future.

Another thing I don’t like about TiVo:
Somebody keeps taping yoga shows, and it’s not me.

Another thing I don’t like about TiVo:
The type on many of the buttons is way too small. I had the urge the other evening to be teleported to the modern zoological park about 70 miles south of my hometown, so I pressed the “Zoo” button and the only thing that happened was that the picture on the TV zoomed in.

Another thing I don’t like about TiVo:
I have the feeling that it’s watching me back.

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