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sit, tivo, sit
the good, the bad, the... spanish?
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)

My TiVo is a dog. I haven't figured out quite what kind yet. Jack Russell? King Charles Spaniel? Big, dumb, adorable lab?

Best guess?


(Thanks, all week, waitress, veal.)

Finally, finally buying a TiVo after lo these many months, I was thrilled to have it home. Nevermind that I let it sit in the dining room for a week before hooking it up and then took four hours to set up something the directions clearly indicated should take half an hour to plug in and less than an hour to configure. Whatever. The directions were nice and shiny but they apparently didn't count on the utter oddness of my television. Fricking inputs.

But this is not about my freaky, sad, small Sylvania television. This is about the TiVo. And the fact that the TiVo is, in fact, a dog.

The TiVo Settles Into Its New Home

Like any new puppy, the TiVo whines at night. (It's the fan.) That's not a problem. I've gotten used to it, and although the TiVo is not far from the bed, it's a soft whining. I would say that the TiVo likes to be near the bed, but attributing thoughts and feelings to the TiVo is dangerous, although it's so tempting to do it when...

The TiVo Is Magical and Wonderful

I pause live TV. W00t! I see that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is on, and although 10 minutes of the movie have already gone by, I can tape it from the beginning, because TiVo is awesome. The next morning when I wake up, I find that TiVo, based on the Eternal Sunshine experience, has grabbed me a couple more movies. One I don't care about, and delete, but the other is Dopamine, which I have wanted to see ever since it came out and just hadn't gotten around to. Excellent.

Then there are things I don't necessarily want to watch ("Law and Order: Special Victims Unit") but I can at least see why the TiVo would pick that out for me (season pass to "Veronica Mars," also detective-y.) The TiVo is trying to figure me out. Good TiVo. There are, of course, missteps, as it turns out that...

The TiVo Is Slightly Inexplicable

On the second day I come home, both the little green light and the little red light are on. Which means TiVo is recording something. So I point the remote, and am horrified to find that not only is TiVo recording The Big Bounce, it is doing so from HBO-Latino, so the entire movie is in Spanish.

Which I kinda speak, but not so well that I would want to watch a dubbed Owen Wilson vehicle in it. If I wanted to watch that movie in the first place. Which I don't.

Bad TiVo.

For the next few days, the failures and successes are all mixed in together. For starters, I figure out the "Thumbs Up" and "Thumbs Down" buttons, so I can start informing TiVo when I like something and when I don't. I figure this will help TiVo narrow down what it grabs for me. Also, I manage to set several more Season Passes, and can see that both of the "Lost" episodes airing in the next two weeks are ones I've already seen. I discover that "Rock Star: INXS" is on both VH-1 and channel 9, which I hadn't known before.

Good TiVo.

It grabs me a funny episode of "Gilmore Girls," and one ep from "The X-Files" before it got bad. The movie My Life Without Me? Good to have. The schlocky syndicated reality weeper "Starting Over?" Not so much. Then it finds something so utterly inexplicable on the list, my jaw drops.


I told you it was a dog. Which becomes even clearer when...

The TiVo Is Lonely

After another couple of days, the TiVo goes on a themed rampage. I come home to find it in the middle of taping a Discovery Channel special on psychic pets. It finds stuff about pets on channels I didn't even know I had. Then, when I delete the psychic pet thing, it comes back at me with "Amazing Animals." TiVo! Bad TiVo! Enough with the pets already!

It also tapes not one, but two episodes of "Animal Cops." Sadly, I'm pretty sure the cops of the title are human cops investigating cases that involve animals, and not the far more anthropomorphically amusing adventures of Lieutenant Patches and Detective Little Miss Calico.

So I laugh, and I delete, but it goes downhill from there because...

The TiVo Becomes Infuriating

"Monsters of Southern Rock?" Bad. Another episode of "Starting Over"? Bad. Hitler documentaries? Bad. Otras peliculas en espanol? Malos. Kirk Douglas? Bad. Michael Douglas? Even worse. And more f@#$(*ing animals!

"Leave It To the Real Beavers."

Although, when I first glance at that title, I'm not sure it's a show about animals at all. Previously, I'd fallen asleep to "The Comeback," and awoke around 3 a.m. to find that HBO had switched over from sitcom to, um, soft-core. When I groped (heh) in the dark for the remote, I pressed the button I thought was "guide" so I could switch the channel to something else. Only it wasn't "guide." It was "thumbs up."

Bad TiVo... owner.

(Two days after that, TiVo grabs me an episode of "Taxicab Confessions." I delete it.)

The TiVo Hits Its Stride

"The Making of 'Rome'." "The Making of Man on Fire." "The Making of Spider-Man 2." "HBO First Look: The Wedding Crashers." "The Making of Troy." "The Making of The Day After Tomorrow." "The Making of Collateral." "The Making of Big Fish."

Good TiVo.

TiVo and I Come To An Agreement

So TiVo brings me things, and sometimes I like them, and sometimes I don't. I have decided not to get too offended when TiVo grabs things that aren't to my taste, in return for the gems I wouldn't have found on my own: a special on Joan Crawford, "Anatomy of a Scene" off the Sundance Channel, extra episodes of "Veronica Mars" I wasn't aware of.

And it helps to remind myself that I didn't buy TiVo to record things I haven't heard of; I bought it to record things on purpose. So when I'm in the middle of watching "Rock Star: INXS" when my boyfriend comes home from a business trip, I can hit the pause button and run to the door to meet him, and still find out whether Suzie's rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" keeps her out of the bottom three.

It does. And her performance is so awesome I rewind it and watch it three times in a row.

Good TiVo.


Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry


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russ carr
9.5.05 @ 12:40a

Previously, I'd fallen asleep to "The Comeback," and awoke around 3 a.m. to find that HBO had switched over from sitcom to, um, soft-core. When I groped (heh) in the dark for the remote, I pressed the button I thought was "guide" so I could switch the channel to something else.

Er...and why not switch it OFF at 3 a.m.? You're freakin' addicted, babe.

dan gonzalez
9.5.05 @ 1:58a

I'm suffering a bout of '2005 College Softball World Series' recordings that I can only trace back to my voluntary recordings of the '2005 World Series of Poker'. One small bonus: College chicks, even jocks, are on average way hotter than almost any lounge lizard that plays poker for a living.

I guess I'll truly know that my Tivo is intelligently trying to tell me something when it records a Learning Channel special on the merits of tortillas as a primary form of subsistance for Central and South American cultures. Until then, I'll spank it into proper submission.

anya werner
9.6.05 @ 2:18a

I admit it. I love my Tivo. There. I said it. I really do.

jael mchenry
9.6.05 @ 9:58a

Russ: I like having the TV on to fall asleep to, and only particular channels are good for that. Infomercials in particular are extremely soothing.

mike julianelle
9.6.05 @ 3:03p

Why do you like "Making Of" specials so much?

jael mchenry
9.6.05 @ 3:16p

Well, it's a two-part thing.

One, I think TiVo grabs so many of them because they're ALWAYS on.

Two, I like to watch them because they're usually about 15 minutes long, so I don't really have to set aside time or anything.

They're good to watch if you're undecided about watching the movie. Man on Fire, I was pretty sure I didn't want to see, and the special confirmed it. The "I, Robot" one was interesting because they showed all the greenscreen fun (Alan Tudyk in a green suit!)

I noticed this morning that I have "HBO First Look: Just Like Heaven" to look forward to. I am not at all sure I want to see the movie (Ruffalo and Witherspoon have both let me down before, and horribly) so this will help me make up my mind.

mike julianelle
9.6.05 @ 3:23p

I don't watch those things a) because I don't care and b) because I don't want to be spoiled if I haven't seen what they're promoting.

tracey kelley
9.6.05 @ 4:29p

I like to watch "making ofs" after the movie.

I still am not convinced I need TiVo. We talked again this weekend about dropping the extra channels, 'cause they still don't seem worth it. If we had a mongo cable/sat package, however, we might reconsider, because at least TiVo helps you find the good stuff.

michelle von euw
9.6.05 @ 10:26p

My TiVo was obsessed with "Starting Over," too. And Spanish, but more Telemundo than HBO Latino.

Still, TiVo is freakin' brilliant. Good TiVo!

anya werner
9.7.05 @ 6:37p

My husband is obsessed with anything "behind the scenes" including all those "Making Of"s. For some reason, whether he cares about the actual thing or not, he wants to know how it was made. Yes, he is addicted to all the Discovery channels. And the food network. And ESPN. And, once he actually watched a behind the scenes expose of the Brady Bunch with me. Don't tell him I told you. He hates the Bunch.

I never used to watch them, but they have started to grow on me.

I am grateful my Tivo lets me watch the other stuff when I finally get a chance at the TV. Um, did I mention we have a cable company DVR on one TV and a Tivo on the other? In general the Tivo is better, but the cable co. one allows us to record 2 shows simultaneously and records in HD. Okay, I've probably shared too much.

jael mchenry
9.7.05 @ 7:00p

No, no, it's all part of the topic and part of the sharing. As one of my friends wrote me in an Email, "Welcome to the only way to watch TV."

I think TiVo started getting me the "Making Of" docs because it's pegged me as picking/watching quite a few documentaries. So it keeps trying to educate me.

It hasn't taped me anything off the Food Network yet, and I LOVE the Food Network. Maybe I should get a season pass to "Good Eats." Then again, I've only got a 40-hour unit.

anya werner
9.8.05 @ 11:53p

Um, should I mention that we once had our entire Tivo filled with "Good Eats" and I think we watched all of them?

Even better, a couple weeks ago, I caught part of a documentary about Alton Brown.

I will admit that we have turned OFF the auto-record feature on the Tivo. It was just too scary, especially since we have several kids shows we routinely tape for my daughter.

Has anyone ever watched "Lazy Town". Yes, it is a kids show, but it has the former (male) natl gymnastics champ of Iceland in a spandex suit running around...

lucy lediaev
9.9.05 @ 9:55a

but it has the former (male) natl gymnastics champ of Iceland in a spandex suit running around...

...and your daughter follows the story line and you follow the spandex suit running around.

joe procopio
9.9.05 @ 11:21a

Now we're getting way off track but I can submit that my wife has a secret crush on Greg Wiggle.

jael mchenry
9.9.05 @ 11:53a

Anya -- I looked at "upcoming episodes" of Good Eats last night and was frightened. It's on a zillion times a day! Also I can't remember which ones I've seen and which I haven't... apparently "The Egg Files" is a 5-part series or something.

I did set it to snag an upcoming Iron Chef America.

anya werner
9.9.05 @ 11:55a

Greg is the cutest Wiggle. We mommies have to take whatever exposure to good-looking men we can get. I mean, when you're choosing from Barney, Elmo and a Wiggle...

jael mchenry
9.9.05 @ 12:35p

See, these are the things no one ever tells you about motherhood.

russ carr
9.9.05 @ 12:50p

I bet he has to shave between his eyebrows to avoid turning into Frida Kahlo.

jael mchenry
9.9.05 @ 1:45p

He's the cutest one? That picture makes him look like Adam Carrolla.

michelle von euw
9.9.05 @ 1:51p

Like Anya, I had to turn off the Auto-Record function on the TiVo -- there were way too many Amazing Races & SVUs over Labor Day weekend. Now I kind of miss the suprise of finding the 1983 Notre Dame/OSU game or four episodes of Third Watch on my Now Playing list.

I would say something about Greg Wiggle, but as the girl who uses TiVo to induldge her crush on Tim Calishaw, I really can't talk.

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