Wednesday, June 15, 2011

10 Great Things about the DVR

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Even though it's June and the bulk of original programming in the US is not in full force, the DVR still saves the day often for many of us. Maybe you only watch a couple shows that run new episodes in the summer, but there are so many other things going on in the warm months that don't happen the rest of the year, it's easy to miss a new episode of a favorite show. As someone who knew how to program the VCR at the age of 7, recording television has been vital to me for more than 20 years. Today I thought I'd share some of the wonderful things that the DVR has done for me in hopes that you'll use yours more seriously.

10. DVRs are popular. I'm not the only one who has become accustomed to the luxury of the DVR. As I mentioned back in January, over 43 million homes in this country use a DVR. I'm not alone, and although I don't have numbers for how this number has increased over the past few years, I'm not really under the impression that people are ditching the ability to be free from watching everything live!

9. TV watchers who enjoy a lot of programming can cut down their overall time. Now, don't get me wrong, I sometimes become as engrossed in the commercials as I do in the show being punctuated by those ads, but when I have a lot to watch it's helpful to fast-forward. A 30-minute show can be cut down to 22-23 minutes... doesn't sound like a big help. But, if you need to catch up on 4 hours of recorded programming, you can watch it in 3, which makes a world of difference to reviewers and critics.

8. What did s/he say? Since many (I'm not sure if they all do this) DVRs keep tabs on what you're watching, you can rewind at any given moment - even on a show you're not recording. So, if you miss a joke or want an instant replay or just want to take a second look at an outfit, it's just one button away. Not long ago, in a rerun of The Golden Girls, my husband and I thought we heard Sophia say someone was a "tool." Since we thought this was a more recent insult, we replayed that phrase three or four times before we were certain of the words being said, which we probably wouldn't have believed if it had not been for this DVR feature.

7. Shows to sleep by. Because I review so many of the shows that are in first-run, catching up on episodes just before bed doesn't normally work for me. And scrolling through the on-screen guide isn't something I generally like to mess with when I'm sleepy... plus I get frustrated when there's nothing on. It's become a custom to have my DVR record a few shows that have long been in reruns. That way, I have something to watch before bed that I enjoy, but I've seen it before so I don't get too involved. I personally recommend comedies, but you could do this with anything, really.

6. Many cable networks have Eastern and Western channels. So, an 8pm show may run at 5pm on the Eastern channel and 8pm on the Western one. If you get home at 6pm, you can watch a freshly-taped show with dinner before it even airs live for most of your neighbors and friends! This also helps with those situations where you want to record several things at 8pm - you may be able to get TLC and ABCFamily shows to record in their Eastern slots and then FOX and CBS in the Western slots (which are the only options for broadcast networks)!

5. Is it a new episode this week? There are a lot of things that affect when new episodes air. Pre-emptions occur because of political events, sports play-offs, holidays, and a number of other things. This means that it's not always easy to know if there's a new episode of a show this week or not. Yes, you can check out any number of websites, but if you're already in front of your TV, you can just take a look at what's scheduled for the week, and if the DVR notices a first-run episode of a show, it'll show up - in my opinion this is quicker and easier than looking online.

4. Sports. I'm not an NFL or NBA or NHL fan, but man oh man do I love my NCAA football! While I'll always make it my priority to catch my alma mater's games, I love to catch the games of several other teams in the conference, plus a few others I just like to watch play. And that's not even considering major rivalries (Army/Navy, anyone?) that may conflict with my games. Yes, you can catch the major plays in recaps and such, but there's something thrilling about being able to see whole games (or quarters, at least!) that took place at the same time as your favorite team's match-up! (Note: make sure to set your DVR to record past the set ending time - you never know when overtime will happen!)

3. You can keep your favorite episodes on retainer.
If you're in a really bad mood because it was a rough day at the office or you're lonely on a weekend night, you can have something uplifting just a few clicks away. Yes, it may be a bit of work to have your DVR regularly record Friends reruns and then go through and erase the ones that you don't love to death, but I personally find it easier than having to go to the shelf, guess what season the episode is from, pull that box down, figure out what disc you want, then pop it into the DVD player and select the desired episode.

2. You no longer even need to be home to set-up a recording!
Well, at least with my current service. I spent Christmas in my hometown last year, which ended up being about a 10-day trip. and while very little new programming airs around the holidays, I thought I had checked my scheduled programming like a hawk before I left. Then, on the plane to Florida I read about a holiday special I wanted to see. Knowing that I can't count on setting aside television time when I'm with family, I was able to log onto our account and schedule the recording, which I was thrilled to see upon my return to California.

1. Multiple shows at once. I've had a DVR with several different companies now, and my current situation is by far superior. With a VCR I thought it was cool that you could record one program while watching another. My first few DVRs could handle two programs at once (and I could watch a third in another room), which was handy, except on Mondays and Tuesdays when I wanted to watch more than that. Now, I can record four programs simultaneously, which handles all of my needs wonderfully, and even allows my husband to keep up with his favorites, too! I hope that this ability catches on with other companies, though I have had a conversation with an installer for a competing company who was shocked that I truly utilize the option to record 4 things at a time on a regular basis.

So, what do you think? Do these reasons stand up for you? What additional things bring you joy over having the technology of the Digital Video Recorder in this day and age?
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