Watching TV is harder than it looks

I know you all will be amazed by my technological genius when I tell you this, and I really hope you don’t think I’m bragging. But when I was a kid, we got this incredible new device in our house that literally changed our lives.

You had to use a series of cords and cables, all connected in the correct sequence to your television set. Then, if you could figure out how to push several buttons in the right order you could actually record the shows on TV and watch them later. I’m not kidding.

The thing was that no matter how many times I tried to explain this to my parents, they could never figure out how to program the VCR. I finally came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t possible for people over the age of 40 to do this.

“Make sure the TV is on channel 3,” I would explain. “Now change the channel with the buttons ON THE VCR. Set the timer, and click record.”

I think my parents’ brains started to wander off onto other things right after they heard me say, “Make sure…” The truth was, they knew I would do it for them. So why even bother to learn?

Recently, I have discovered the awful truth that no kid living in a grown-up body ever wants to hear. I have become my parents.

Here’s the thing.

Other than the few years that I devoted my life to the TV show, “LOST,” I really haven’t regularly watched TV for about the last decade. Oh sure. I’ve wandered around the house while other people were watching “Sesame Street” or “Jo-Jo’s Circus,” but it’s rare that I actually sit down and stare at the big black box in our family room.

I’m still not even sure how this happened, but recently, I have incorporated two television shows into my life. I was worried at first about how I would possibly handle the commitment. First, I would have to memorize the times and channels that these two shows were on.

One of the shows, “American Idol,” requires three hours of viewing each week. The other, “Once Upon a Time,” is a one-hour commitment. Add them together, and I feel like I’ve got myself a new part-time job. This doesn’t even include the amount of time involved to go on Facebook and Twitter to see what people are saying after AI, or go on the OUAT web site to research hidden clues and mysteries.

Now, the problem that has come up for me is that I have had some scheduling conflicts making it impossible to watch these shows live. The other thing I’ve discovered is that watching TV shows these days often involves a lot more than a television set.

Before I started watching TV myself, I wouldn’t even pay attention when the other people in the house turned on all of the gadgets and devices required to watch something. This came back to bite me when everyone was gone but me, and the toddler was demanding to watch Barney.

We don’t have cable or satellite, so most of what we watch on our TV set comes in through Netflix. I called my husband at work and begged him to walk me through the steps required to turn on the XBox or the Wii, find Netflix, search for Barney and press play. As long as no one turns on the stereo system so the sound goes through the receiver instead of the TV, I am proud to say that I can now operate Netflix totally on my own.

The toddler sits in her little pink princess chair cheering me on in delight, as I navigate through the A, B and Y buttons on the X-Box to find her purple dinosaur. I feel like I’ve just conquered a new level of “Prince of Persia” when I’m done. (I have no idea what video games cool people play, so I just threw out the name of my favorite from 1995 to try to impress you.)

The toddler joyfully squeals, “Barney! Found! Barney! Found!” when I’m done. I can’t tell if she is shouting because she really loves Barney that much or if she is just proud of her mama for actually navigating the XBox menu.

Now, my latest accomplishment is figuring out how I can watch a TV show after it has aired. I was convinced that because we only have a TV antenna that it wasn’t possible for us to use TiVo or a DV-R. I secretly loved this belief because it was a great excuse for why I would not have to learn how to program another box connected to our television set.

I recently learned this might not be true. But whatever the case, we don’t have any device in our house to record TV. My poor deprived children have never experienced the excitement of hitting play and watching their favorite cartoon a day later. If it’s not on Netflix, they are out of luck.

Last night when I got home from small group, I probably spent two hours trying to find some way to watch the episode of American Idol that had just ended. I searched the AI web site and YouTube and blog after blog trying to find even the tiniest video clip of Hollie singing “Rolling in the Deep.” A few weeks ago, I know I had stumbled upon a web site that had the video up right after the show. I wasn’t so lucky last night. I finally gave up and realized I would just have to wait until morning.

Sometimes it amazes me that I can build a web site, record movies on my phone, and download books onto my iPad, but I have no clue how to watch television.

When I got up today, I was convinced my iPad would be my best bet for TV viewing. I have successfully downloaded the ABC media player so I can watch OUAT one day late each week. Surely, I could figure out how to watch AI. Nope. I would need Flash to watch the performances on the AI web site so it wouldn’t work on my iPad.

This would require desperate measures. I would have to plug in my old laptop to get this to work. I’ve now invested about 2.5 extra hours into this week’s TV viewing, and I still haven’t seen the whole show. Oh, and that doesn’t even include writing this blog post about it.

We don’t have a TiVo in our budget for a while, so I guess I will just have to be patient. Being a part-time TV viewer is a new skill for me, but at least I now know the steps required to watch my TV show a day late.

But then I keep having the same thought. Could it be that maybe… just maybe… we still have an old VCR somewhere in our basement? 😉


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  1. You do NOT live in the same town as Phillip Phillips?!? Did you write a blog post about this and I missed it?? Do you go to the Phillip Phillips viewing parties?? Now I can say that I read the blog of someone who lives in the same town as Phillip Phillips. haha!

  2. It's true!!! We've got signs all over town, and everyone's really excited! For as tiny & totally remote as this place is, Phillip is actually not the most famous person from here – the country singer Luke Bryan and the Giants star baseball player Buster Posey are both from here, too. Something's in the water!!!

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