Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Channel Master: TiVo Is the Gift That Puts Good-And Bad-TV at Your Fingertips. (Cool Stuff)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Channel Master: TiVo Is the Gift That Puts Good-And Bad-TV at Your Fingertips. (Cool Stuff)

Article excerpt

There's a new man in my life. He has no eyes to speak of, a crooked smile, and two droopy antennae. He may not be that handsome, but I'm hooked on his love all the same. His name is TiVo.

Like its primary competitor, Replay, TiVo is a digital video recording system that functions in many ways like a VCR only about a million times better. For example, thanks to TiVo, I'm able to keep track of my favorite show, Once and Again, even though its schedule gets shifted around more than a go-go boy's midsection. Thanks to TiVo, if the pizza man shows up during Queer as Folk, I don't miss a single Sharon Gless protein-supplement joke, even if I'm watching the live broadcast: TiVo automatically saves the last 30 minutes of whatever you're watching, so pausing live TV is a breeze. Thanks to TiVo, I can transfer a show to a VHS tape for a friend and actually offer sound and picture, something I've successfully done with a VCR maybe twice in my life.

It works something like this: The unit is installed between your cable system (or antenna) and your TV. It's also connected to your phone line and once a day calls TiVo headquarters to download upcoming television listings. (This service is $9.95 a month or $249 for the life of the unit.) To record a show, you simply enter the title with the easy-to-use remote, and TiVo will track it down. Want to record Will & Grace every time it's on? Click on the "Season Pass" option.

But wait, there's more. Once it gets a handle on the kind of shows you dig, TiVo will start saving things for you on its own. I found this feature a bit creepy until the night I came home from a lousy date to find TiVo had managed to record the E! True Hollywood Story on Carmen Electra. It also allows you to program in key words--for instance, gay, lesbian, pageant, awards, Melissa Etheridge, Ricky Martin, Kristy McNichol, jockstrap fashion show--and TiVo will automatically record programs that have these words appear in the description. Though I've yet to come across any program involving a jockstrap fashion show, I figure Jenny Jones has to get to it eventually. And TiVo will know.

(I'm apparently not alone in my programming choices: Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist for TiVo--yes, that's really his title--tells me, "When we survey our users about what key words they use, gay is always in the top 10. It's right up there with baseball and movies: adult.")

All this is not to say that my man TiVo doesn't make mistakes. For example, it thought the Popstars finale was only a half an hour instead of an hour, so I missed at least 50 of Ivette's crying jags. Then there was September 11, when my roommate and I were glued to Peter Jennings, and TiVo flashed the message "TiVo would like to change channels and record Mama's Family." Not today, TiVo, but thanks.

If you've caught the commercial, you've seen how delighted a roomful of jocks became when TiVo let them replay key moments of a ball game. The mood was exactly like that in my packed house on Miss America night when we must have watched Miss District of Columbia twirl the baton with her mouth about 15 times. It was a happy, happy time.

In the front of the TiVo manual, it says, "Because life is too short for bad TV." I say life is too short to miss the bad TV you love. …

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