overthinking the idiot box

May 2, 2005

A chronicle of that most co-dependent of relationships: a girl and her TiVo

Bride of TiVo
Saying Goodbye is So Hard To Do

by Liz Shannon Miller

Everyone has their own style of TiVo management. A friend of mine is ruthless in her approach — only programs she intends to watch are recorded, and each is immediately deleted post-viewing. At the other end of the spectrum are my dad's two TiVos, stuffed to the gills with computer-generated recommendations, movies that sounded interesting at some point, and every episode of Two and a Half Men (not because he's a huge fan of the show, but because he likes reading Chuck Lorre's vanity cards) — normally a tidy man, he's a pack rat when it comes to DVRs.

I tend to aim right down the middle, deleting nearly everything after watching it (maybe waiting a day or two in case a friend's tape ofLost or Desperate Housewives got screwed up by the VCR gods), but occasionally snagging movies or shows that I don't want to watch immediately, but still want to keep around. This tends to make for a very orderly Now Playing section, but then there's the stuff that I just can't bring myself to delete, even at the risk of losing TV that I actually want to watch. What programs manage to have such staying power? Funny you should ask.

Angel's "Smile Time": On my absolute worst days, when all hope seems lost, I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have the promise of bad-ass puppets with swords always nearby. I'm not the first person to ramble on and on about how fantastic this episode is. But I may be the first person to have mastered the art of getting right to "It's time to kick your puppet ass all the way back to HELL" in three seconds.

Late Night with Conan O'Brian, Thursday, August 14, 2003: The 2003 blackout that cut out power to the entire Eastern Seaboard united communities, inspired fear, and forced the majority of late-night television into reruns. Holed up in his studio with no make-up, no lights, and no guests, he did fifteen minutes of hilarious commentary on the city without lights, before cutting to NBC's rerun backup. But those fifteen minutes were the sort of live, totally unrehearsed television that you see so rarely — as Conan goaded his hippie-haired announcer, sitting in the Richter position on the couch, into doing the show-opening spiel, I realized that for the first time in a long time, I was watching people, not personalities, interacting on a talk show.

Battlestar Galactica, Season 1: I've seen every episode at least twice, but I still can't get over how good this show is. Thus,I have every episode saved on my TiVo — not because I constantly rewatch it, but because not having this show in my possession would make me feel a little more insecure. I mean, what if I needed a reminder of how delightfully amoral Baltar is? What if I forgot how cute Starbuck is when she winks at a prisoner? What if I started dating someone who hadn't seen it? I'll delete this as soon as the DVDs come out, I'm sure. But in the meantime it sits there, ready and waiting for that magical day I turn off my phone, shut down my modem, load up on podcast commentaries, and curl up with thirteen hours of the best sci-fi of the past five years.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes: Directed by Billy Wilder in 1970, this movie keeps showing up on TCM, and given that it's one of my favorite directors doing his spin on one of my favorite fictional characters, I'm more than obligated to watch it. But it's not Wilder's best film; it's a bit slow, a bit lacking in his famous wit, and thus I'm inching my way through this movie, scene by scene, my TiVo keeping a bookmark of my progress. It has its moments, definitely — what could be better than Holmes ducking an aging opera diva's request for impregnation by claiming that he and Watson are "long-time companions," especially when Watson finds out about it mid-can-can with the Russian ballet corps — and I have no intention of giving up anytime soon. But neither do I have the need to power forward. Thus, the demon lure of the TiVo is made clear. Comfort and stability. TiVo will always be there, loaded up with my favorites, constant companion...

As long as the power stays on, that is. Which is why I keep Conan around — to remind me about that.

Email the author.

Return to Vol. 1, Episode 3.