Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gold Star to the DVR


Rating 2-19-13

If I haven’t said so before, let me go on record right now as saying that I am imminently grateful for the invention of that wonderful little box known as the DVR.  I mean, I had a VCR back in the day, and then I even had a DVD recorder.  But for a television junkie like me, you just can’t beat the DVR.  Pausing live programming, rewinding to catch a line you missed—or one you just have to hear again.  It’s great.

But, of course, the best part is the relatively painless way you can record the shows you that air in your absence, or when you’re watching something else.  No difficult tapes or discs to deal with, always worrying about whether you’ve got enough storage space left to hold tonight’s programming.  No rewinding or fast-forwarding to just the right spot to find the beginning of the program you want to watch first.  Just a handy box, that knows what time your favorite shows come on and keeps them in a nicely organized list so that you can watch whichever one you choose.

Image courtesy of digitalart at

But one of the other benefits is that it helps avid viewers like myself sort of prioritize what’s important and what’s just something to pass the time.  I think of it as a Delayed Value Recognition machine.  You see, there are plenty of programs that I’ll watch if they happen to be on, though I might not enjoy them enough to actively seek them out or watch them on purpose.  The thing is, though, if you happen to be at home every time those shows are on, you might not be able to easily recognize them for the ho-hum program they are, because they’re enjoyable enough while you’re watching.

But, the key is, if you record something for later viewing, how long does it sit on the DVR before you actually get around to watching it?  Of course, there are a lot of variables.  Life does get in the way of television, no matter how much you might prefer to lose yourself in a particularly exciting episode of something or another.  But, when you do find time to start cleaning off the machine, which ones do you go for first?  Answering that question lets you recognize the value of what you’re recording.  When the episodes start piling up, unwatched, always playing second fiddle not only to life, but to every other program on the list, then the show clearly doesn’t hold much value to you. 

Last season, the DVR helped me realize that NCIS: LA wasn’t really all that valuable to me.  I was still recording it because I’d been watching it from the beginning, and, as an NCIS fan, I really wanted to like the spinoff.  And, honestly, the show is fine.  But “fine” doesn’t make me run for the DVR to get caught up on what’s going on with the characters, so now I don’t record it anymore.  I suppose I might still watch it now and again, if I happened to be sitting home on a Tuesday evening with nothing better to do, but I don’t feel deprived not watching it.  I recognized its value to me.

Now, I need to make that same decisions about another show, and maybe more than one.  Last fall, when the new television season began, I was excited about the new show, Vegas.  So, I added it to my DVR list and hoped I’d be impressed.  But you know what?  I haven’t seen it yet.  My trusty box records it faithfully, just as I asked it to do, but tonight it recorded the 15th episode, and I haven’t even seen number one yet.  That’s fifteen hours of television I need to get through, assuming it’s a good show, of course.  But, really, how important is it to me if I haven’t even bothered to tune in once?  I’d have to vote for “not very”. 

The converse is true, too.  Shows that I might’ve thought were just something interesting to pass the time, I find myself going to first when there’s a recording available.  Most recently, Elementary.  Sure, I knew I was enjoying it, but it hadn’t quite seeped into my conscious brain that the show had become must-see TV for me.  But episodes never sit around long; in fact, I usually watch them the same night, once I’m home and settled.  When I see it on the list of recordings, it calls to me.  The DVR strikes again.

So there you have it, the joys of the DVR for a television junkie— time-shifted viewing, skip the commercials, and Delayed Value Recognition all in one convenient box.