Monday, January 18, 2010

Now back to our regularly scheduled program

If only that were true! Do you remember, when we were kids, the television schedule was predictable? Shows started in the fall, took a break around the holidays, resumed in the spring, then did reruns in the summer.

There was order and rhythm and predictability. The "Wonderful World of Disney" was Sunday at 6:00 pm. (Bad timing for those of us at church nearly every Sunday night. I was one of those kids who prayed to get sick on the weekend.) On Saturday nights my dad and I settled in with our bowl of popcorn and watched "Mannix." And when I had a favorite weeknight show, I had extra incentive to be on my best behavior and have all my chores done, so the privilege would be allowed.

We kids also learned to snitch our parents' newspapers near the end of each month, particulary October and November. There would always be an issue that included a schedule for the TV "events" scheduled for the next month. Maybe there would be a "special movie presentation" or you wanted to make sure you did not miss "Rudolph."

You had a few favorite shows that were worth watching and could set your schedule by them. And no one tried to watch them all. In fact, someone who watched television often was accused of spending too much time in front of the "boob tube."

Now the TV schedule is just nuts. Shows start in the summer, the fall or the spring. Or they have a "pilot" teaser and then actually start months later. Or the series kicks off on one night and then runs regularly on a different night. (Or at least it would be regular, it there were no award shows or athletic events or "urgent" political messages.) A show might have four episodes and then skip two months. Or switch time slots. Or switch networks. Or disappear. And the reruns start while the new episodes are still going.

Thank goodness for DVRs. We (that would be my husband) can set the DVR to record a particular show or a particular series, with or without repeat episodes. We can watch favorite shows at our convenience. If there is a new series that might be interesting, we can wait to see if it is going to continue before watching the stored episodes. If it's a bust, then we haven't wasted our time.

Depending on a DVR does have its drawbacks, though. A game in front of your show may go into overtime and throw the timing off. If that happens, and you did not pay attention and adjust the timing of the subsequent recording, you have to watch a truncated show and read an on-line summary for the ending, wait to catch the episode on a rerun, or watch it on the computer, having to sit in front of a small screen and wait through commercials.

Then there is the mild dismay of forgetting to record something or having the DVR break. That happened to us last week, losing all our recordings. But we are so overloaded now with choices, I can't even tell you what we had and will now miss.

Watching TV has become a job, it's wearing me out. A few years ago I dropped out of watching the long complicated series like "Lost," "Heroes" and "24." I don't want to have to think that much, or fret over missing a key episode in a continuing story line. I'm going back to a simpler approach. I am picking a few favorite shows to keep up with, shows that if I miss an episode, it's no big deal. I'm going to watch "Chuck," "Psych," "Glee," "Royal Pains," "Community," "America's Got Talent," and college basketball. That looks like a lot of shows, but with today's year round scheduling, they don't all have the same season. Every now and then I'll add in something new or take something out. If I'm missing anything important, let me know.

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