Helpless, Damp, and Warm

TiVo LogoThese days when I’m watching my stories, they all start out with the reminder that I could be watching them in glorious High Definition. Why wouldn’t I? I blew a ton of money that could’ve otherwise gone to a charity on a television that was state of the art for at least two weeks after I bought it. And DirecTV makes entering the HDTV generation easy!

Well, easy if you buy a $600 HD DVR with TiVo. And a two-year service agreement. And the additional antenna to pick on-air HD signals, which because of an FCC ruling, satellite providers like DirecTV can’t duplicate. And you may or may not be able to get the $200 rebate on the DVR if you’re an existing customer; I’ve asked four different people (including a confused woman on DirecTV’s call-in customer support, who didn’t know what I was talking about and had to read the website along with me).

And you may or may not be able to find a unit other than through the company directly, as I discovered when I went to two separate Best Buy stores (I wanted to use a gift card, to help soften the blow) and finally was able to chase down somebody to answer my questions. They didn’t know the answers, and it was irrelevant since they were out of stock on the DVRs and weren’t expecting any more.

Because of the break-up between DirecTV and TiVo, they’re now pushing their own separate brand of DVR. But only for the regular models; they’re still selling the HD version using the TiVo service, until they can come out with their own HD equivalent. But they have just launched a new satellite to support MPEG-4 broadcasts of HDTV — which the current HD DVRs can’t work with. So if you buy one now, you’re spending 400 to 600 bucks on something that isn’t guaranteed to be compatible with the service that may or may not launch sometime this year. Possibly.

I looked into EyeTV and other ways to use a computer as a DVR, but haven’t found one that works with satellite providers. Plus the only computer I could spare is the mini, which isn’t fast enough to record HDTV.

The whole business is just giving me flashbacks to when my brother would chase me down the hall, tackle me to the ground, and tickle me until I peed myself. It’s at the point where even I have to take a step back and just say that the whole business is ridiculous. A stupid amount of effort and money for something as dumb and frivolous as television.

In other entertainment frustration news: I lost interest in “24” sometime around the middle of the third season, and I didn’t watch any of last season. But I’d read that the premiere of season 5 was spectacular, not to be missed and all that, so I set it up to record. When I got back from LA and settled down to have my socks metaphorically blown off by the gripping adventure, I found a “partial recording” of the last 30 minutes of the two-hour premiere.

I started trying to piece together what had happened, and as far as I can make out, the TiVo decided to record “Iron Chef” and “Harvey Birdman” over the first hour and a half of the premiere. Except that I can’t find those recordings; they only show up in the recording history. It’s almost like the TiVo knew it’d done something bad and was desperately trying to cover its tracks. I still can’t tell what happened, since it’s supposed to be set up to avoid stuff like that. I can only guess that it’s upset about the whole DirecTV deal and is lashing out at me. All I’m saying is I don’t need my DVR giving me no lip.