Good night and good luck with TIVO

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

My granddad used to call it the idiot box 30 years ago. If he reappeared alive today, television would be a foreign thing to him.

On my day off this week my wife and I (history buffs both of us) purchased the movie “Good Night and Good Luck” on pay-per-view through DirecTV. I recorded it on TIVO so we could watch it at our convenience and replay it if we wanted.

Just reading the description of how we viewed this movie, shot in black and white about newsman Edward R. Murrow and the early days of the news business at CBS, is loaded with irony. At the end of the movie Murrow is taken down by CBS executives and bemoans their decisions to retask TV programming toward entertainment instead of news.

We’ve come a long way, just over my lifetime, in television choices. When I was little we had a portable black and white TV and I remember the novelty when my Uncle Jay set up a color set at my grandparents’ house.

Today my wife and I have four TVs. In the living room it takes four remotes to run everything and in the bedroom two. We have a DVR, DVD/CD player, VCRs and satellite TV boxes. You have to be on the right channels and have the right components powered up in the proper order to get everything to work correctly. But it does work.

The neatest technology recently has been our TIVO. It’s a digital video recorder (DVR) system that we got through our DirecTV satellite subscription. It blows the video cassette recorder (VCR) in the weeds, primarily because I can scroll through the menus on the DirecTV and then just press record on the remote to get my program recorded. I never did get the hang of programming a VCR.

The TIVO also has another cool feature called “season pass.” When you take out a season pass the machine automatically finds that program and records every episode as it comes on, whether weekly, daily or occasionally. This allows us to have our choice of whichever one of 10 episodes of “Law and Order” were on that day. I also never miss a single episode of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” or “Elk Country Journal” with Wayne Carlton. If the Denver Broncos play the early game, it’s no problem if the preacher goes into overtime, we’re recording it. I don’t have to get up at 5 a.m. to see “Imus in the Morning,” it’s recorded and ready to turn while I make the coffee.

Another feature of TIVO is it will actually take note of your viewing habits and go out and record programs that it thinks you might like. The usefulness of this feature is in question based on what it records, however. My wife has decided the machine is probably Mormon, judging from the selection of programs we get off the BYU network. We don’t know why it thinks a home without children needs Disney children’s programs either. It hasn’t taken it upon itself to record any of the exercise channels for us, but at least that would make sense if it did.

Satellite TV has changed our viewing habits more than anything. My wife has become a right-wing radical from watching Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and all the other wackos on FoxNews. She balances that out by watching the British science fiction series “Dr. Who,” however.

Besides “The Dog,” which by the way is on A&E, the arts and entertainment channel, I love the History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic and TVLand. We’ve even had a few favorites from time to time on the Food Channel. Network TV has moved way down on our list though. We might be the only family in America who hasn’t seen a single episode of “American Idol.” I only watched a couple of episodes of “Survivor” one season but that was because I had actually met one of the contestants.

Based on my viewing choices today, Murrow might have been right about our need to be informed and not just entertained. I’m just looking for both in the same program now.

Karl Terry is managing editor at the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at
356-4481 ext. 33 or e-mail: karl_terry@link.freedom.com