Pat Clark

March 6, 2014

Pat Clark: Television joy, thy name is DVR

Would it be so wrong to have watched Sunday night’s 31/2-hour Oscar telecast in under two hours? To have seen full musical performances only from U2 and Pink? To have suffered through not a single montage?

Would it be so wrong to have watched Sunday night’s 31/2-hour Oscar telecast in under two hours? To have seen full musical performances only from U2 and Pink? To have suffered through not a single montage?

Well, if it’s wrong, I’m fine with not being right – mostly.

There’s a guilty little part of me who knows I should have listened to every speech from every person who made it onstage to accept a little gold statue – from the star-bright acting winners to the unknown sound editors and short film creators.

Yet, in the Oscar moment from my couch Sunday, the more impatient part of me gleefully utilized the fast-forward button on the DVR remote to its fullest capacity.

Bad entertainment editor. Bad.

But that, friends, is what the DVR, one of the greatest creations in history – up there with the wheel and fire, as far as this TV addict is concerned – allows us to do.

It’s not that I blew off the biggest night in Hollywood. I just opted to watch only the good parts, or at least the parts that I suspected would be good. If the acceptance speech for best costume design was the night’s best, I’ll never know.

But I watched everything Ellen Degeneres did and said – pizza for the stars, Twitter-busting selfie, correcting John Travolta’s butchery of Idina Menzel’s name after her performance (although I heard only the first few notes of the song itself. Sorry, “Frozen” … let it go).

I listened to all the glitzy presenters stammer through their teleprompter yammering (because, really, watching the world’s most beautiful overpaid people look like buffoons is part the joy of the Academy Awards, isn’t it?). And I would never miss the “In Memoriam” tribute.

But, to be honest, it was late by the time I could watch the show. I didn’t want to be up until 1 a.m. on a school night because of dull speeches and silly film montages that the telecast could do without, anyway.

Again, the joy of the DVR.

Which brings me to a story that crossed the wires recently, an essay of sorts by a New York Times writer who decided to go DVR-free for a spell to recapture what TV watching was like in the stone ages. You know, way back at the start of the millennium.

“Albatross, thy name is DVR,” he wrote.

My brain still struggles to compute that string of words.

“It is the thing that turned TV into homework, ruthlessly cataloging my failings in the form of a queue that never dies,” the author opined. “... Stumbling onto oddball TV used to be one of my great pleasures, but the urge to keep up with too many shows necessitated a recording tool that allowed for viewing flexibility, and then that same tool, by constantly reminding me how behind I was, became the thing that made life the most inflexible.”

What language is this guy speaking, anyway?

People, people, the DVR is our friend. It’s our technological saving grace. It’s what assures us that there’s always something good available to watch on our televisions, no matter what time of day or night. It gives us a chance to view far more shows in less time than we ever could otherwise – and all at our own convenience.

Then, of course, there’s the whole skipping-the-commercials thing. Albatross? Please. I’d wear my DVR around my neck like a piece of fine jewelry if it was small enough.

Sure, I get what he’s saying about having shows saved for weeks, sometimes months, before you get around to watching – or finally deleting them unseen, as things often go. But I’d never have seen the History Channel’s miniseries “The Bible” last year if I hadn’t stored it on the DVR and watched it on quiet viewing nights months later.

Now, having seen “The Bible,” I’m looking forward to “Son of God,” playing at movie theaters, since the film is an extension of the TV series.

I don’t always have time to watch “How I Met Your Mother” on Monday nights. But I can store three or four on my beloved little black box and have mini-marathons, devouring them all on a late weekend night when everyone else has gone to bed.

My son has homework most weeknights, but we can find time together later to catch up on the previous evening’s “Sleepy Hollow” or “King of the Nerds” (don’t ask). Such time spent with him over a common enjoyment is lessening as he goes deeper into teen-dom, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

And we haven’t even touched on the whole rewind thing – did Ellen DeGeneres really just make that joke about Liza Minnelli to her face? Let’s go back and revisit that Oscar moment, shall we?

Or the pause feature that lets you stop the action while you chase down the dog after she’s made off again with your slipper.

There’s so much about the DVR to love. Give it up? Let’s just hit fast-forward on that drivel.

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