Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Alicia and i (clearly with nothing better to do) have decided to launch a myspace blog series of point-counterpoint arguments on various aspects of culture. the first in the series relates to the technology of tivo. alicia will take the affirmative position: why tivo is awesome; i will take the negative: why tivo is the worst.

I went home this weekend for Easter. Before arriving in Jeannette where we still enjoy the luxuries of extended basic cable, I stopped at my mom's house in Penn Hills. As we grilled hot dogs and drank Dr. Pepper, my mom's boyfriend Dale excitedly described to me the circumstances that led an English Premier League soccer player to do a series of backflips. He mimed the motion and then said -- "hey, i'll just show it to you." A series of water-drop sounding clicks through a menu later and we were watching the recording of the acrobatic feat of this spry young athlete from a week or so earlier. Dale then began reading off the values of the Tivo system: he could record any program he wanted, he could tell the Tivo which shows he liked and it would record them any time they played. The Tivo would even use its electronic brain to make educated guesses about shows you MIGHT like based on the ones that you tell it you like. Possibly most amazing of all, it enables you to stop and rewind up to a half hour back in a live tv show.

Sure, this seems convenient. I guess no one would rather fiddle with a VHS tape and make sure the TV is on the correct channel (the reason I have still never seen the final episode of Seinfeld). However, Tivo is essentially cheating. It blurs the lines between "sitting down to watch TV" and "sitting down to watch a movie or other form of entertainment not dependent on an outside schedule." Also, it can completely misalign your own schedule with that of the rest of the television-viewing public.

The whole point of watching on TV is the elusive quality the shows have. What's the point of releasing a tv series one week at a time? To get you to make it a point to sit down and watch that show. It keeps you coming back and in turn, keeps you seeing the commercials advertisers have paid to show. No one likes commericals, but without them, cable would be way more than $50 a month (which is outrageous anyway, but i digress). The point of Tv is telling yourself, "I'm going to sit down for a half an hour to watch One Tree Hill, and on the commercial breaks I am going to use my time wisely in such activities as walking to the kitchen to microwave some leftovers or go down to the washer to change the laundry, etc..." It is the existence of an external entertainment structure that you buy into. This is a different attitude than what one takes when they sit down to watch something pre-recorded. If I'm watching a movie, I've said to myself that I have two or so hours to kill. I do not watn to be bothered by commercials and if I desire to have a snack, I will hit pause. I will save the laundry for afterward because right now I am entertaining myself with the always lovable slapstick comedy of Jim Carrey. Tivo turns television into movies, which it is clearly not meant to be. If I am watching the Pirates game, I don't want to be able to stop and replay a questionable pitch. I will watch instant replays and/or suck it up because I missed it. Tivo sucks because it mixes these two separate entertainment options into a hodgepodge of viewer control.

And that gets me to what this hodgepodge creates: it throws the watcher off the schedule of everyone else's live TV viewing experience. For instance, I'm sitting here watching the Steelers AFC championship game. I'm waiting for Mike Vanderjagt to kick his field goal..he's lining up...he's doing that two step thing....the ball is snapped.... in the world without Tivo, I see the result of this kick with the rest of the world. However, in Tivoland, I stopped live action earlier to replay that awesome tackle made by Ben Roethlisberger. I said, I need to see that again! However, my live TV is now ten or fifteen seconds behind "real" live TV. So the ball is's in the air....and before I can tell if it's good, a car goes by outside, hootin' and hollerin. Unless it's the one Indianapolis fan in the tri-state area on this game day, the ending of this game has just been spoiled. Seconds later, after I already know the outcome, the ball flies wide right. This illustrates my second point: Tivo creates a viewer's own little entertainment world, misaligned from the schedule everyone else is on. It's like a little mini-version of time travel. After stopping for that one play, my live TV schedule is off for the rest of the night. Fifteen seconds doesn't seem like much but it adds up...ten here, five there and before you know it, shows are ending at five after like every channel is TBS or something. The essence of live TV is it creates a watching community: we're all seeing this as it happens. It may not seem like a big deal, but Tivo, my friends, Tivo = CHAOS. It's freakin me out, man. I don't believe in Tivo: it's cheating. Watch it with everyone else.

The end.

Did I mention I'm getting something like a B- in argument? And it's a comm class. Basically I suck.

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