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Are You Done with This Program?

When you look at your Tivo queue, what do you really see?

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...


These are the shows that you record but you really don’t want anyone to know that you record and that you would never admit to anyone that you watch. You know the new Melrose Place that “no one” is watching? How about Million Dollar Listing? Do you have any VH1 shows in your queue? Am I the only one still watching The Hills?


These are the movies that you recorded awhile ago because you noticed that you suddenly had all the HBO channels and were not sure why. You weren’t sure how long it would last, but you read some pretty good reviews of Changeling when it was at the theatre… and, you know, how bad could Bride Wars possibly be…


These are the shows that never stay in your Now Playing list for more than 24 hours. These are the shows that you devour. Mad Men, Lost, Dexter, The Office... I can proudly say that no episode of House has ever lasted on my Tivo for more than 24 hours. These are the shows that you start watching 15 minutes after they start so you can catch up by the end. When you travel, you can usually delete these shows upon returning home because you watched them live at the hotel.


These are things from PBS or the History Channel that sounded really compelling when you heard about them on NPR, and that you felt really proud to be adding to your queue. And for about a week you looked at them with a real sense of accomplishment. Now it is three months later, and an entire season of The Real Housewives has come and gone, and poor Ken Burns is still sitting there, judging you.


These are the shows that someone recommended to you and that are just never going to happen. But when your friend asks if you watched it, you can say, with satisfaction, “I have it on my Tivo but I haven’t gotten to it yet.”


These are the political speeches, the World Series games, the election coverage, and the “special television events” that you record out of a misplaced sense of duty. Of course, you end up hearing so much about them before you get a chance to watch them that it starts to feel like a huge waste of time. You pretty much got the gist of that three-hour debate in the two-minute synopsis on CNN the next morning. Even Saturday Night Live falls into this category most weeks, as you can just catch the Digital Short on Hulu.


Ah, Labor Day. You stopped watching CSI when Laurence Fishburne joined the cast. Oh, wait, they’re airing the entire season on Monday? All you have to do is push “Yes”? Alright…


There is nothing more satisfying than deleting a show from your Tivo. It feels so good to just send it to the ether. To make things easier, Tivo itself wants you to delete the show. It asks you: "Are you done with this program?" And then, in case you were wavering, it makes its stance clear: "If you delete it now, there will be more room for programs to be recorded." You have plowed through that episode of Ugly Betty, and you now get the satisfaction of deleting it from existence. I will only make one point about these shows: perhaps your relief in deleting them might be an indication that you should not be watching them in the first place? Just a thought.

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