Friday, August 11, 2006

"Civilization, Please."

I drove to my cable company yesterday and swapped my 6-year-old old box for a brand-new dual-tuner digital video recorder (DVR). I'm not a television person — but I had a good reason and this was a great deal, so I couldn't resist.

This fall, my two favorite screenwriters will both have shows on primetime television: David Mamet's The Unit, and Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Trouble is, even if I could plan my life around TV programs, I wouldn't want to; and even if I wanted to, NBC has decided to pit Studio 60 against Monday Night Football. I'm a writer and I love Sorkin's scripts — but I'm also a guy, and that means I watch football. This is problematic.

Enter the dual-tuner DVR. I can watch one channel while I'm recording another, or I can record two programs simultaneously. In other words, I can watch Monday Night Football while recording Studio 60 — or, perhaps more likely, I can spend my Monday nights ensnared in dull and tedious tasks while saving both programs for the mythical free time that I would have during the weekends in some parallel universe.

I suppose I risk crossing the line into astroturf if I add that my cable company, Comcast, employs telephone representatives who can actually answer questions — like how to override the preprogrammed remote or how to activate the auto-tune feature — without consulting a manual, or if I mentioned that subscribing to this feature cost me less per month ($9.95) than TiVo ($12.95) without signing any 12-month contract. That's OK. I like Comcast — and when I like a product or company, I don't mind lapsing into the occasional advertisement. That's what "word of mouth" is all about.

Actually, the only risk is that I'll become a TV person. I avoided installing a CD player in my car for years because I was afraid I'd be tempted to carry irreplaceable CDs on long trips and they'd get baked inside the car by summer heat. I'm not crazy about the idea of postponing TV programs for my free time; I think possibly the most poignant advice for Americans is to seek elevating recreation, and I think television probably ranks near the bottom of my options in that regard. But Sorkin and Mamet constitute two exceptions in my book, so I've allowed myself this indulgence — and I'll just have to exercise restraint to keep from recording General Hospital.


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