Film critic Tom Shales once referred to a Batman sequel as a “wanging, clanging calliope from hell”. I often get the same impression from television ads, as I fumble for my remote’s ‘mute’ button before the onslaught begins. Yet every once in a great while, an ad will rise above the white noise and actually transcend the fetid swamp of commercial television. Consider the magical 90 seconds of Oreo’s “Wonderfilled” ad that debuted during a recent episode of Mad Men.
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I know I should feel a deep sense of shame, but I don’t. I haven’t watched MTV in years. None of their self-celebratory awards shows tempted me even a little, and the rest of their “reality” programming made me wonder what I’d ever seen in the network in the first place.
But then came Jersey Shore. I figured anything that got so many people so upset had to be worth checking out. Within the first 15 minutes of the first episode, I was hooked.
See, I’d spent some of my formative years on the Jersey Shore, visiting my grandparents’ weekend home when I was a kid, and spending a week there for two straight summers with high school friends. Maybe we were too wrapped up in being skate punks looking for girls at the time, but the stuff that went on at the Jersey Shore on MTV didn’t seem at all familiar to me. I’d like to pretend it was this societal disparity that caused me to continue tuning in, but the truth is much less savory.
As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I am currently enjoying a three-month free trial of HBO and various other premium channels, which probably explains the predominance of HBO and Showtime series in my writings. If you don’t want to pay for premium channels and can’t convince your cable provider to give you a free trial (give it a try one day), then, well, I was going to apologize, but you probably aren’t reading this blog.
Anyway, I recently DVR’d the first season of HBO’s Hung. I remember reading primarily negative reviews when the show premiered, so I set the recent marathon to record out of a somewhat morbid curiosity. Much to my surprise, I found Hung to be an extremely enjoyable viewing experience. The leisurely paced first season chronicles high-school basketball coach Ray Drecker’s attempts to dig himself out of a financial and psychological hole by becoming a prostitute (or, as his wonderfully clueless pimp Tanya Skagle deems him, a “happiness consultant”).
Can we take one second here and remember life before Tivo? In some ways, things were much simpler. If a show was on and you wanted to watch it, you watched it. If you wanted to watch it later, you stuck a tape in your VCR and maybe, if you were really, really serious about things like this, you learned how to program it (although most people just hit record and hoped for the best). Sure, there were some advanced features toward the end (and I’ll be honest—at one time I had four TVs in four different rooms with four VCRs attached to them… a story for another day), but for the most part, life was simpler.
However, now we have Tivo. And Tivo is no longer a new and strange entity—my mother has Tivo—so I am not going to waste time listing the many ways in which life with Tivo is superior to the barbarism of the VCR era. Tivo not only does away with the need for physical tapes, but it also provides various methods to categorize the shows that you have recorded. You can categorize by series, by genre, by channel, by date… but that is just not quite enough. What I propose is a system that gets at the real categories of items on my Tivo. Because when I click on my Tivo menu and look at my list of shows, here is what I see…