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October 4, 2015

TV 101: The Real Time View

by Jay Black, posted Feb 21st 2007 10:25AM
One day the ancients will look back at this little guy and worship it...Well, folks, I'm happy to say that you're here for the birth of something new. Unlike a human birth, though, there's no viscous discharge or long and grueling lawsuits over paternity. No, unlike a human birth, this is something to be celebrated!

That's right, you're here for the joyous birth of a new feature here at TV Squad: TV 101.

Just what is TV 101? Well, you're going to have to follow me over the jump to find out...

Before coming here to TV Squad and long before I was a full-time professional comedian, my day job was that of a high school teacher. So, when the lead bloggers and I started talking about a column, one of the names we threw out there was TV 101, in keeping with the spirit of my old job. (The other names we talked about: "Notes from the Greenroom" because I'm a comic and "Black Atcha" because my last name is Black and I have a love of truly ridiculous puns).

What I'm going to try to do here is write a humorous piece about television once or twice a week that will follow the format of a lesson. Don't get worried, though, I'm not going to go overboard with it. I don't want you to think that this is going to be like Aint It Cool News was in 1998. There won't be four thousand words about me waking up and preparing my "lesson" for the "class". The format is going to be very loose. And when I say "very loose" I mean I'm going to be as serious about it as the current administration is about the environment. There will be a little song and dance to keep up appearances and then it'll be business as usual. (And before you get all political on me regarding that last joke, keep in mind that I didn't say which administration I was referring to. I'm pretty sure that with the track record of both the Democrats and the Republicans, that joke will be fresh as long as there are people around to access the Internet -- which if the current administration has its way will probably be no more than three or four months, tops. See, I did it again!)

A few warnings before we begin:

1) All of these pieces will have a point, but my first goal is going to be to try and make you laugh. Why? Because mommy didn't love enough. It was either try to fill the void with the hollow laughter of strangers or start an emo band. I have no musical talent and a low tolerance for tight pants so... here we are.

2) These posts are going to be long. I'm married so every second I spend locked in my office banging out blogs for you people is another second I don't have to help with housework or listen to another one of my wife's neverending stories. Like a lot of men, I love my wife very much, I just need to hide from her as much as I possibly can.

3) I'm going to be extremely neurotic concerning your opinions about TV 101 blogs. When I spit out a Studio 60 review or a "The Five" list or whatever, I can take solace in the fact that your criticism is wrapped up in your feelings about the show rather than your feelings about me. TV 101, though, is pretty much a reflection of whatever is in my brain, so I'm predicting a negative comment (or thirty) will probably affect me a lot more than in my other posts. Even as I type this, I worry that I'm inviting more criticism for bringing attention to it. If you're wondering what the source of all this neurosis is, please direct your attention to point 1.

Okay, now that we're all clear on what this is and who I am, let's take a look at our first subject! We're gonna learn some new vocabulary. The Real Time View.

I'm not a religious man, but sometimes you look around at all the beauty in this world and you just can't help but see the eyes of God staring back. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about mundane things like the smile of a newborn or the love of a soulmate. I'm talking about important things. I'm talking about TiVo.

If you haven't joined the "tivolution" (and do I feel like a tool for using that word? Yes. Yes I do.) I'm not going to waste any space trying to explain it to you. As The Lovin' Spoonful once said, "I [could] tell you about the magic and it'll free your soul/But It's like trying to tell a stranger about Rock and Roll." Go out and get one already.

Those of us that have been converted know what a life-changing device it is. All at once, you're freed from the tyranny of the network scheduling executives. Remember when you saw the videos of all those German teenagers cheering as they brought down the Berlin Wall? Well, buying a TiVo feels exactly like that.

Even better than watching the shows that you want to watch when you want to watch them is the ability to skip commercials. The "boop...boop...boop" followed by the ads whizzing by feels magical. Really, I'm pretty sure that when that omnipotent kid from the Twlight Zone movie wasn't busy tormenting his family, he was using his powers to skip commercials. Well, that power is no longer the stuff of second-rate anthology movies. It's in the hands of the average consumer!

I'm so used to being able to skip commercials, I always forget that I can't do it with shows that are airing in real time. There's nothing more disappointing than watching something and not realizing it's live. When you press the fast-forward button, you hear an unharmonious "thump" and then a little part of you dies. It's not just me, either, this is something I've seen with my wife too. She'll press it a few times as if Tivo was just joking around the first time.

Either way, nothing sucks more than having to watch something with commercials when you're so used to living without them. TiVo actually makes it so you don't want to watch stuff live anymore. A lot of times a show will come on that both my wife and I want to watch and we'll pause it, go make popcorn (or run upstairs to the office to "blog" or whatever the hell it is I do up here), then come back to the show when enough buffer has built up that we can watch the whole show without being burdened by ads.

All this has got me to thinking that the best compliment a TiVo owner can give a show is to give it The Real Time View. Quickly defined, The Real Time View is when you love a show so much that you're willing to sit through commercials (like a commoner) because you can't even wait ten minutes to build up a TiVo buffer.

For me, the shows that get the Real Time View are: Lost and sports. That's it. Everything else can wait.

It's a short list, but both of them have, I think, essential qualities that make them Real Time View worthy. In the case of Lost, it's an addictive serialized show that is harder to shake than heroin (at least for me. For those of you that have made the claim that the show has lost something in the last season and a half, well, you might have a point. But ask any heroin user, once you're addicted, even bad heroin is good heroin. Until, of course, you die. Maybe this was a bad example...)

I'd guess that serialized shows make up a good portion of your own Real Time Views. Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, even Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy fit the bill. When a show is all about "what happens next", you really can't wait to find out "what happens next."

As for sports, they're a communal activity and the only way you can be a part of that community is to give it the Real Time View. Besides, it's hard not to feel like a lame sitcom character telling people all day not to ruin the end of the big game for you. You might as well handcuff yourself to your worst enemy in a botched magic trick or get two dates for the same dance.

DVRs are going to become ubiquitous pretty soon (what does ubiquitous mean? It means every man, woman, and child on the planet will be able to freeze frame the next time an aging super-star pops her nipple out, that's what it means) and when you have a whole hard drive of fast-forwardable video waiting for you, it's going to take a special show to get you to actually sit through commercials. Before the network system completely breaks down and we're left with whatever Internet scheme replaces it (we're just at the beginning of a bold new world in which the networks are going to find all sorts of futuristic ways to suck money from our pockets), we're going to see the Real Time View shows held up as the gold standards. Because How I Met Your Mother is a good show, but I've never seen one of the commercials they run with it. Those stupid commercials with Peyton Manning or John Mellencamp they ran during football games this season? I've seen those about forty million times. Eyeballs on a commercial is a valuable and increasingly rare thing.

So I put it to you guys: what shows do you give the Real Time View to?

(Oh, and before I go, here's a special teaser for next week's column -- NEXT WEEK: The House dilemma).

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Sports are the only events I watch in real time now. Even so, if I have something going on a Sunday morning, overlapping the 10AM football game (on the west coast), the TiVo gets used to buffer the game, and hopefully I can finish by the games end.

Even our favorite serial shows get buffer. Everyone in the house knows that 24 starts at 9:18 (or 8:36 when they give us a double dose).

As for the cable company's box vs. TiVo for the previous poster, the main differences are interface and reliability. The TiVo interface is very intuitive and elegant, by comparison to the Moto box. Further, the Moto box is kinda buggy; when I had one, it would frequently fail to complete a recording. Nothing is worse then getting the first forty minutes of a program, to never see its conclusion. God bless bit torrent.

February 23 2007 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a DVR junkie. I don't watch anything live. Every day, I record about 12 hours of programming. I then watch it in double-speed mode on my DVR, skipping the commercials. It takes about 5 hours to watch the 12 of programming.

There was a problem with my cable service this weekend, so I couldn't record things and I'd run out of taped things to watch. I ended up watching "real" TV and it almost killed me. I kept trying to make the people talk faster, to pause them, to skip commercials, to go back and see things I missed again. It was horrible. I was interested in the show, but I seriously couldn't bring myself to finish watching it. Is there a 12-step program for people with DVR addictions?

February 22 2007 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

my husband recently relented and let me replace the busted set we had in our bedroom. i bought a 26" hd lcd tv.

the living room has a 32" sd flat tube tv. the living room has lost its lustre for me.

unfortunately, though, the tivo is attached to the sd tv. so for me, it's a decision of tivo vs hd. the shows that tend to win out for hd viewing (hence, live viewing) are

grey's anatomy
prison break

until the hd series 3 tivo comes down to a reasonable price range, i remain torn between two tv's. i do feel much like a heroin addict, trying to scrounge up enough cash for the better heroin (hd series 3).

i can't tell you how many times i've reached for the tivo remote in the bedroom to pause while i get a beverage, only to remember that i can't pause the darn hd lcd. sometimes, i even make a sorrowful boop-boop-boop sound to console myself.

February 22 2007 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Heh. I do something similar with blogs. If you grab the addresses of
the ad hosts they're using and put them in your /etc/hosts file (or
whatever the windoze equivalent is) as aliases for the localhost
address, you don't have to see those ads anymore.This is especially
gratifying on sites that no longer post the whole article in their
RSS feeds, instead giving a teaser with more "after the jump".

February 22 2007 at 8:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watch The Office either live, a few minutes later to skip commercials, or that very night. Which is as real time as you are going to get in my household. It doesn't really matter since we (my roommates and I) watch each episode about 3 times before the next comes on. I sometimes watched Top Chef live, and I usually watch Friday Night Lights live or soon after it's on. Nothing else is worth it. (Except, after I just now finally caught up - entirely - with 24, I may be watching that live as well.)

February 22 2007 at 1:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One of my biggest addictions is my Tivos. But unlike you, I have turned the sounds off immediately. I couldn't stand the "boop... boop... boop" noise. My niece came to visit onetime and wanted to know why my Tivo didn't make noise and how could I not love the "boop" sound.

I have to say it's rare that I watch a show in Real Time other than sports. You have to watch sports live but it's nice that you can pause when the phone rings and not miss anything. In the past, Buffy was appointment tv and the early seasons of Gilmore Girls. For my husband it was 24. But we prefer a buffer so my husband doesn't mind if I want to watch Oprah if it means we will start 24 about 20 mins late to skip the commercials.

I believe I bought my first Tivo in either 1999 or 2000. My vcr broke in Aug, right before Sept sweeps and I had to do something. So I decided to try out the Tivo I had been reading about and I have been addicted ever since. My only problem is I find I watch much more tv now than ever before because of how easy it is to record things at all hours. You get addicted to zipping through commercials and when you don't have anything to watch on your hard drive, it's like DT's. hehehe

February 21 2007 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You were a high school teacher? Hopefully not of English. Maybe you taught at one of those crappy urban schools that no "decent" teacher wants to go to becuase of the risk of being killed. Was the faculty comprised of you and a few Teach For America recruits trying to get a book or screenplay out of the experience?

Anyway . . .

No one can "try and" do anything (i.e. "my first goal is going to be to try and make you laugh"). What you meant to say is that you will "try to" make us laugh. Admittedly, this particularly misuse of the language is one of my greatest pet peeves, but, that aside, such a blatant gramatical error certainly detracts from your efforts to make us laugh or react with anything other than irritation. Please do not use the "its just a blog" excuse. You are at least a semi professional writer, employed by AOL now, apparently, so basic grammar rules should be followed.

Wait, maybe that was the joke. A former high school teacher with a lack of understanding of basic grammar. Ha Ha Ha.

February 21 2007 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you David. I guess I will have to find a Tivo somewhere and try it for myself to see if the UI actually makes that much of a difference. I don't really have any complaints with my cable company's setup. If there is a program I want, 2 clicks either record that program or setup a series recording. The Tivo Recommends sounds interesting but I don't know how often I would use it.

The only real complaints I have with my unit is that sometime I will hit a button and the device won't react. I'll think the couch got in the way and hit it again or hit other button and nothing and then about 2 seconds later, it will process all of the clicks and I'll end up 4 channels past where I want to go. I thought it was my harmony universal remote but I switched back to the OE unit and it does the same thing. Annoying when it happens, but hardly a deal breaker.

February 21 2007 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For those of you like Andy (#20) who are wondering why TiVo is so much better than your cable company's DVR, here's a helpful review: http://www.epinions.com/content_320656477828

As I once discussed my a local cable tech, only TiVo users know how bad cable company DVRs are. If your first DVR is a cable company DVR, you're so happy that you can pause, rewind, and "easily" record TV that you don't think anything out there is better. Well, TiVo is.

February 21 2007 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There is nothing that I watch in real time view anymore. All my shows (and there are a lot of them) get started 10-20 minutes if I'm watching that same night. I'm out of the house on Mondays so I'm pushed back a bit because of that, but even if I was home 24 would be starting at 9:15. If I can catch some of a Bruins game (yes, I'm the one watching) I'll put it on pause for about 15 minutes as well.

February 21 2007 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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