The (insert epithet here) of TiVo

“TiVo will change your life.”

That’s the pitch delivered by TiVo zealots at water coolers everywhere, and it’s hard to argue with. Never watch commercials, never miss your favorite shows. And it’s true — you won’t miss them.

What they don’t tell you: not only will TiVo change your life, it will rule your life. Start up TiVo, and you’ll see a never-ending list of all the shows you have to watch. Three Novas, two Masterpiece Theatres, three classic films from the thirties, two nights of The Daily Show, an incessant parade of Trading Spaces episodes — it’s all there.

TiVo will record up to thirty hours of shows, which seems like a lot, until you see those shows you should watch marching down to the bottom of the list. If you don’t watch it soon, it will get deleted as TiVo records more and more things you’ll have to watch. You know you should watch that documentary on the forgotten beekeepers of the Holocaust, but wouldn’t it be more fun to check out Def Comedy Jam? As the “quality” shows sink to the bottom of your TiVo list, turning on the television becomes an exercise in guilt management.

Then there’s that “event” programming, like sporting events or must-see reality TV. I have to admit that my family has gotten me hooked on American Idol this year, but we have to TiVo it because it’s on past the kids’ bedtime. Now that Idol is front-page news, I have to avert my eyes when I pick up the newspaper each morning so it won’t ruin the surprise when we finally learn which Idol wannabe is eliminated. Last week, I screwed up though — I overheard a parent reveal the name of the week’s big Idol loser at my daughter’s softball game. The same goes for sports: If I’ve TiVo’d the big game, I must forcibly disconnect myself from reality until I get a chance to watch it a day or two later.

One thing that’s “great” about TiVo: you’ll never miss out on those big television events, like the infamous Janet Jackson boob flash at the Super Bowl. What’s more, TiVo will know you didn’t miss them: the next day TiVo execs revealed Janet’s “wardrobe malfunction” was the most replayed moment ever. They know. They know exactly how many times you replayed it, scratching your head and wondering — is that a nipple, or just part of her “jewelry”?

Isn’t technology great?

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