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Thursdays are going to kill me

by Joel Keller, posted Oct 26th 2006 1:07PM
Old VCRI am going to admit something to you fine readers, something that I'm not very proud of, but need to put out there:

My name is Joel Keller. I write about TV. And I don't have a TiVo.

In fact, I don't have any DVR; I have my reasons. But I do have two VCRs. Up until now, that's been more than enough; even with all the good shows that have premiered this year, I've been able to effectively timeshift and watch every show I've wanted to watch.

But after NBC announced its schedule shift yesterday, I have determined that Thursdays are going to kill me.

Between NBC and ABC, there will now be six shows that I will want to watch that night: Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy, Earl, The Office, Scrubs (my favorite show), 30 Rock, and ER. And, because I review both Grey's and Betty for this site, my ER-watching hour is when I need to write.

Actually, the night tires me out already, since I tend not to watch Betty until Friday morning; the one week I tried to watch and review both it and Grey's in the same night, I went to bed with a splitting headache.

So, you're saying: two VCR's, two networks... no problem! Right, but then factor in sweeps super-sizing, World Series games, and NFL Network games, which are set to start in November, and you can understand why my head might start to pound. The way things are going, I'll be watching Thursday's programming well into the weekend. I just hope I don't fall behind.

There's absolutely no reason why this many quality shows (remember, Survivor and CSI are also Thursday staples) should be on during the same night. Does NBC really think that Scrubs and 30 Rock are going to get any ratings against the #1 (Grey's) and #2 (CSI) shows in the country? Why not put those shows on Tuesday night where they may have a fighting chance to get respectable ratings (Anna agrees with me on this)?

Anyway, trying to keep track of all this stuff is going to drive me nuts. I think I may finally break down and get a DVR so it can just record all this crap for me automatically. Anyone have any recommendations? Do I go TiVo or cable-box DVR? Should I just rig an old PC and make that a DVR? Let me know in the comments.

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SuperDave Smith

As a long-standing time shifter, for years I have run two VCRs for recording shows and one more for watching the tapes. But when one of my recording machines started to break down (tuner problems), I was shocked to find that, out of 8 stores visited, I could only find two different brands of VCR for sale! So I have decided to make the jump to a hard-disk DVR, like it or not.

Yes, you can still get VCR/DVD (playback only or DVD recorder) combo units, but the first thing you will notice is that a DVD cannot hold as much as a videotape. I normally record on 8-hour tapes, although I have some that go up to 10 hours. A DVD-R or RW will hold a maximum of 6 hours of programming (at a quality similar to or slightly inferior to a SLP tape recording), so the hard drive is almost a necessity if you don't want to spend all your time switching disks. This also gives you the TIVO-style "pause live TV" capability.

December 27 2006 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I recommend a visit to eBay to purchase a 50xx or 4xxx series ReplayTv. Not only does it record your shows automatically, but it will also skip commericals automatically. No need to exert yourself and press the 30 second advance button. Also, the models of ReplayTv I've mentioned also have the WONDERFUL Internet Video Sharing feature. Example: I was trying 30 Rock on for size and recorded the first few episodes only. I decided I liked it but forgot to ask my ReplayTv to record the entire season. 15 minutes into the show last night I realized I hadn't recorded it. I logged on to a wonderful ReplayTv user group and asked if someone could send me the show. Through the magic of the Internet and Internet Video Sharing, 2 hours and 15 minutes later, the show was sitting on my ReplayTV ready to be watched on my TV. The monthly rate is $12.95 for your first unit and $6.95 for any additional units up to 5 total.

Whatever you decide: TiVo, ReplayTv, Cable DVR, PC (ReplayTv also offers a PC Edition on their website, though I know little about it because it doesn't have the automatic commercial skip and Internet Video Sharing, so I don't want it), I highly recommend the advancement from VCR to new technology just because keeping track of tapes was always a nightmare for me. Having something else do the organizing of my shows for me? Priceless. Good luck.

October 27 2006 at 12:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeff smith

Joel first you cry about NFL games being on so late now youre crying about how hard it is to record your shows....YOU WRITE FOR A FREAKING TELEVISION WEBSITE!! YOU DONT HAVE HBO OR TIVO???? i agree with aphallatosis maybe you shouldnt be on this site.

October 26 2006 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Allen Mendelsohn

Uh Joel, I hate to break it to you, but there is no difference from having a dual tuner TiVo and 2 VCRs - you can still record 2 and watch one. And given TiVo and other PVR's penchant for missing the last couple of minutes of shows that end at 10:02, whats the point?

October 26 2006 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Don M

Yikes! I just checked the Tivo subscription prices on their website after I recommended it to you. They've gotten a lot more expensive since I was a customer. Wow.
If those prices are a stretch for your budget then I'd recommend going with the cable company DVR box or making your own. Keep in mind that the cable company might charge you for the box and a separate fee for the DVR capability - ask questions so that you can make an informed decision.

October 26 2006 at 4:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Don M

I use the cable company's Scientific Atlanta 8300HD DVR and it works pretty well. Nothing can compare to the Tivo's software, though. However, dual tuners and HD capability made it an easy choice for me. I also run a single tuner BeyondTV box on my computer in the basement for recording my daughter's shows and stuff that I want to put on DVD. I saw a pretty decent deal on the Tivo website the other day so you might want to check there first. I'd plan on budgeting around $100-150 annually if you do the Tivo or Cable box method and around $150 once if you choose to roll your own dual tuner BeyondTV box.
Good luck!

October 26 2006 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would recommend using a PC with a video capture card. I have an old pc (at least 4 years) run Mythtv or even Winxp and get a large hard drive. If you have a cd/dvd burner or some sort of portable player, you can transfer the shows over to that and watch them during any downtime at work

October 26 2006 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Aren't you the same dude who doesn't have HBO?

No Tivo. No HBO. Maybe you should be writing for a blog about cooking or women's fashions, you know, something you're more familiar with.

October 26 2006 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

FORTUNANTLY I don't have to work tonight so I'll at least be watching something. But I have Azureus with RSS Feed setup to auto download all of the shows (the ones I miss, and the ones I may want to watch again). Then I can play them on my computer but I have S-Video out so I can output it to the tv. So it's just like watching it (usually better quality) on my tv. Works great.

October 26 2006 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually, since you'd be using it (at least partially) for "business purposes" (you DO get paid for these reviews, right?), you should be able to write off the part of your dual-tuner Tivo purchase equal to the percentage of TV you watch for TVSquad compared to personal viewing, right?

October 26 2006 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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