Monday, April 20, 2015

First World Problems

There was a time not too long ago when television watching happened at the actual time a show was aired on a channel.  There was no recording it and watching at a later time.  There was no catching it online or on-demand.  As far as we knew, that was something that might happen on the Jetsons.  I have vague memories of watching Little House on the Prairie,  Dukes of Hazard, or The Jeffersons as a family, and we had to be sure we were ready to watch them on their terms, not ours.  If you missed it, you missed it!
Being from the VCR generation though, most of my first memories of television was the newfound freedom of recording one show on television while watching another show, or even better, recording while not even home.  It opened up a whole new kind of television watching experience.  My dad was the King of the remote control.  We watched what he watched, so the idea of being able to record other shows on a VHS tape and watching them when he wasn't home was nothing short of a miracle.  And speaking of watching television when my dad wasn't home, the VCR allowed my mom to get my dad out of the house even when a game was on.  The idea of watching the game when he got home AND fast forwarding through the commercials was very appealing.  Except, of course, when he learned the outcome of the game before he watched it.  That would set things back a a step or two.
Anyhow, the VCR was how we recorded television shows for many, many years; well into the early 2000s.  Even though DVD players came out in the late 90s, recording television was still done with the VCR.  There were recordable DVDs players, but they never really "made it" having been glitchy and quite pricey.
TiVo was the next new invention that took over some of the work recording television.  It was a device separate from the television or VCR or DVD player.  It wasn't something I ever purchased and thankfully the DVR became a staple or added feature to the cable box, allowing for recorded television without the use of any additional device.  The first one I ever received with my cable service allowed for one additional show to be recorded while watching another show, just like a VCR.  However, as the technology improved, three shows could be watched and/or recorded at any given time and on multiple televisions hooked up to the same cable service.  The memory in the devices wasn't very large though, so you still had to watch your recordings in a timely manner in order to not run out of room.
About a year and a half ago, after changing from the cable company to a satellite company, a whole house DVR was installed on my system.  This DVR generally still records up to three shows at any given time, but if the shows are network shows they only count as one recording.  Therefore, with three network channels and two additional channels, this thing has the ability to record/watch 5 shows at once.
And that's where my problems begin.  The ability to record television means nothing when you don't have the time to watch it.  Throughout the year, television that I have recorded and not yet watched goes back anywhere from 2- 5 months.  I tend to only watch an entire program on the weekends and even then, it might only be one, maybe two, leaving me with a plethora of shows building up.  School breaks allow me to make a bit more of a dent in the content, but never catches me up completely.  This spring break was no exception.  In late March, the shows caught up on were advertising for Black Friday and Christmastime specials.  I looked forward to holing up in the art room and tackling the DVR recordings.  The second day into break however, the DVR started freezing and stuttering and pixelating anytime a recorded show or live television was played.  The first few days, I told myself it had to be my internet connection acting up due to some windy/rainy weather we were having, and powered through with trying to chisel away at the hours of recordings.  As the first week continued, it was clear that it wasn't the internet connection but the DVR box itself.  The DVR box that if I called to replace it would mean I'd lose all the recordings...FIVE MONTHS OF RECORDINGS!
I finally broke down and called the satellite company who walked me through all the reset options (which I had already tried) to no avail. They sent me a new box and the old one would have to be sent back, and there were no options to get the recordings off of one box to the other.  I lamented my frustration to some friends at a party that evening and was reminded that the recordings would be "OnDemand".  "Oh, that's right," I thought.  The shows could be found on the Satellite's service, and I could catch up that way.
But catching up that far back is turning into more of a challenge than I thought,  Some shows only offer the most current 2-3 episodes OnDemand.  My satellite company doesn't offer some of the channels OnDemand due to contract terms with networks.  Some networks offer the shows online, but many of them also only offer the most recent episodes; all this leading to not being able to make that planned dent into the recorded shows.  But the thing is, that is frustrating me to no end.  Why in the HECK do these networks offer shows OnDemand or online, but not ALL the episodes?  What are people supposed to do when they miss one or one doesn't record due to a conflict or they forget to set the series or a million other reasons?  Do they want people to just stop watching, because that is what is going to happen if I can't catch up without missing an episode?  And why aren't ALL my satellite channels offered OnDemand?  And WHY can't the cable/satellite companies figure out how to save/move recorded shows from one DVR to another.  I plugged in the new box and every single one of my settings and series timers transferred from one box to the next.  It doesn't seem like some impossible feat to get the recordings to transfer!
Trying to put it into perspective by remembering it was just 30 years ago that watching one show at one time when it aired was the only way to watch a program.  Now, many shows are available at any time which increases our expectations, often going beyond what is actually possible.  At this point, I've spent entirely too much time thinking about television - more time than I spend even watching it actually.  First world problems, indeed!


  1. I stopped giving a hoot about TV when I lived in London and couldn't be bothered to buy one. Then though I'd binge when I visited someone. In fact it caused a few break-up with GF's back then. I'm using GF loosely btw.
    Still I have it running while I'm in the house, all the time. But I'm not really watching it. It's more like the way we listened to radio in the past.
    With your issue. What's ticking you off most ?. And do you really care. And do you really need a facility to run 5 telly's if that's what you can do. That took me a bit to work out btw. I have 'free to air' satellite I rigged up myself, but it's only for one TV/room.
    I suppose you'd be run out of that town on a rail if you ditched the TV.

    1. Yah, I use it as background a lot of the time, and if were actually watching it as often as it was on this wouldn't even warrant a blog post. What has happened with television in the last 5-7 years, maybe even longer if you look at the premium cable channels, is that cable has opened up the genre of television beyond mindless, situation/soapy shows to real quality, even more than what movies are doing these days. The problem, in my case, is that I can't multitask while watching those shows and there's never time to just watch/it's very hard for me to just watch. If these were network shows I'd wave my hand at them and say, "whatever" to missing 5 episodes. They're so predictable it won't really matter, but the cable shows are interesting and missing out on even one episode would be like not reading 3 or 4 chapters in a, say, 10 chapter book.

    2. What'd piss me off would be that I'd paid for them.

    3. Ya know, they all get you in the end. When I changed over from cable to satellite (service) the price seemed much more affordable. But after the honeymoon period their prices have slowly jumped and they don't have near the contracts for OnDemand as the cable company does. It's all so silly too. Complaining about tv shows?!?! Who has time for that!
      I meant to ask this morning. What is free to air satellite?

  2. I can relate to so much of what you're saying!

    TV for me has had ups and downs over the years. Of course as a kid, it was the big antenna outside that enabled us to receive all three networks. In college, I went a few years with no TV and really wasn't bothered by that. It was later that cable arrived (along with 500+ channels) and I got hooked again.

    I still have my ups and downs with it. I've learned (partly the hard way, when we had to give up a box filled with recorded programs) that if something wasn't important enough to watch in the first week or two, then it really wasn't that important to watch period. (for me, at least)

    TV for us is satellite (our only option) and we have a DVR, but only (!) can record three things at once. These days, I only record a few things on a regular basis because I found if I record too much, it becomes a burden trying to find the opportunity to watch it all. Sometimes recording a program is just a backup measure, in case I don't get home in time or whatever. Unfortunately (or maybe not), with our set up, catching missed shows online is not an option. It's why we do Netflix via the USPS rather than streaming.

    1. Oh netflix! I have an account for that that I use for school. People are always telling me, oh you need to watch this or that, but I just can't add anything to my list of shows.
      The 500+ channel thing is appalling isn't it. Even worse, is we're all paying for it and probably watching/using such a small portion of it. Just last week I was looking at my account for the service trying to figure out how to finagle some monthly savings now that I have a car payment :) and noticed that I'm paying for 120 regular channels and 3 premiums (each with 4-5 of their own channels) and I watch maybe 20 of those channels on any type of regular basis. But they don't offer any other options for the channels I want. It's such a racket!!!!
      Your process of deciding to watch or discard is a good one.

    2. It really would be so much nicer if the cable/satellite companies let us pick and choose, a la carte. But, for them...that wouldn't be cost effective.

      My husband won't pay for the premium channels like HBO. He found that they tend to run the same few movies over and over each month, so it's easier to just watch for the "free preview" weekends. I guess if he was into any of the special shows (like True Blood, etc), he could get them from Netflix. We pretty much just use that for movies, though.

      If it were left up to me, we might not have TV. I can get my news from my phone/laptop (or my newspaper, if I don't mind it being "dated") and anything other than that is just entertainment. I mostly watch food related shows (competition) and even those have lost some of their appeal since I switched diets.

  3. All Europe's countries have State TV stations. And all States have areas that have little or no terrestrial signal due to mountains. So, Free To Air from a satellite is vastly cheaper than putting up a mast in every place that has gray signal. And everybody can get it if they have a dish. Voila, FTA. Remember we have 540 million people in what are your southern civil war States.

  4. I remember back prior to VCR's....and cable....we got channels 2,4,7, 11 and 13. I read a lot of books while babysitting because it was pathetic viewing after 11 p.m. And it was Laurence Welk on New Year's kids' babysitters had it so much easier!

    I don't watch too much TV but just last year we stepped into the 21st century and got DVR with our I love fast forwarding through commercials!

    Tomorrow ends my spring break! And then just 35 days until summer vaca! How about you?