I thought I’d ask for comments on this piece. It’s not ready to send to the contest yet, but it is in a first-drafty sort of chape.
Remember, this is a Robert Benchley pastiche intended for the essay contest that the Benchley Society runs every year. So the thing is–is it Benchleyesque enough? Is it funny?
How to Watch TV
Last year God (or somebody even more powerful) decreed that my old rabbit-eared TV was no longer worthy and that broadcasters must go all-digital. This meant we could no longer receive anything but an Albanian drum circle and a station that ran The Knute Rockne Story on a continuous loop. Soon I couldn’t take even one more for the Gipper, so we had to get cable.
1000 channels and nothing to watch! But the cable box came with a Digital Video Recorder. Forget that VCR flashing 00:00 as it tapes the wrong shows with perfect ease. The DVR records multiple programs simultaneously! We never have to miss an episode! We can skip commercials! We don’t have to surf-and-settle when we have every episode of Three’s Company on tap!
You can also “replay” live TV. During the World Cup, I had to take a phone call and missed some excitement. “Just run it back,” said my four-year-old. But instead of hitting the back-up arrow and getting to see it all in reverse, I erased the LiveBuffer (turning it into a DeadBuffer). “The game is gone,” cried my kids. I consoled myself by waiting for commentators to intone their explanations of what I’d just seen and running the footage back and forth so we could laugh at their speeded-up head-bobbing.
With this, I’m never really the master. Whenever the DVR decides to, it changes channels to “capture enhanced content,” meaning long infomercials and promos that it DEMANDS I watch. It insists I press THUMBS UP or THUMBS DOWN on things my thumbs are indifferent to. It uses this knowledge to sneakily record things it believes I’ll like, such as The Knute Rockne Story. Once you realize it’s judging you by the recordings you set up, you start trying to impress it with National Geographic specials and British sitcoms. It sees through this and gets “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and every re-run of “Bewitched.” While I’m sleeping it captures movies that it wants to see and deletes the “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” episode I haven’t watched yet to make room. It has no shame.
Warning: your children have access to ALL recordings. Do not record off the Playboy XXXX channel if you don’t want your five-year-old asking, “Why don’t you ever wrestle naked with the pizza delivery man, Mommy?”
The list of saved programs I still haven’t watched is miles long, but I don’t have to feel guilty, because when they “expire,” the DVR will cheerfully erase them. Every rose has its aphids.
Next: 3-D TV! I can’t wait.
(If you don’t know who Benchley is, he’s worth getting to know. He’s also the _Jaws_ author’s grandpa.)