A few years ago my son was home for a prolonged visit and convinced me he couldn’t live without DVR for our TV. I had fought it for quite some time before giving in, not wanting to throw any more cash down the voracious Time Warner pie hole.
I have a hard time saying no to my boy.
So Chris taught me how it worked and for a while, it was just a novelty. Gee. I can fast forward past commercials. Nice.
Then one evening there was a show someone had recommended to me that was on past my bedtime. I know that makes me sound like a seven-year-old, but I like to go to bed early. Oh, well. I decided to record the show and thus began my free fall into . . . DVR HELL.
I quickly surmised that I could record programs 24/7 and watch them later, at will. I could follow “House Hunters International” from Budapest to Dublin, catching up on late night episodes while taking a lunch break. Lean Pocket in one hand and remote in the other, I could scroll through the guide and click “record” on every program of interest, saving them to watch later whenever I felt like it.
I discovered a passion for competition that I didn’t know was in me. I explained to Chris that “Project Runway,” “Next Iron Chef” and “Next HGTV Design Star” are my equivalent of Sunday football. He had a hard time buying that, but my argument is that it’s actually far more varied and interesting than professional sports. Here’s my take on football: guy throws ball, guy catches ball, guy runs for a few seconds, some other guys jump on top of him. “Play” is stopped, and then they do it all over again. Big whoop.
For a while I watched skinny little girls try to out-pose each other to become “America’s Next Top Model,” and (mostly) skinny little guys lip sync for their lives in “Rue Paul’s Drag Race.” Then I discovered the ultimate in disgustingly mesmerizing and time-sucking reality genres: the REAL HOUSEWIVES.
I started out with “The Real Housewives of New York City.” I was captivated by the whining drama between Bethenny and Jill, by Ramona’s “turtle time” dancing and crazy eyes, by the Countess’s ill-advised disco crooning, and by speculation about Simon’s true sexual orientation. Before I knew it, I also was addicted to the bosomy blondes in Orange County and Beverly Hills, not to mention the political powder puffs prancing and preening through Washington, DC. (New Jersey and Atlanta were too much, however – even for my now-compromised taste in entertainment.)
Eventually I had to go cold turkey with the Housewives. It was like turning my back on a train wreck. But when I found myself occasionally tuning into “The Millionaire Matchmaker” and “Toddlers and Tiaras,” I had to admit I was in deep doodie.
I stopped doing anything in my free time except watching TV. My life was torn between Bravo, TLC and HGTV with occasional forays into programming on Lifetime and the Food Network. And back in the land of drama, I was recording and trying to catch up with every “Grey’s Anatomy” that ever aired (since it came on after 9:00 pm, you understand).
I had become a kind of TV crack whore.
Thank you, son. Thank you very much. Chris knows he created a monster and even begged me to drop the DVR service when he was home over the holidays. I’m too far gone now to even consider it.
I am trying to give up the truly stupid choices and have gone back to reading, but I will never, ever turn my back on “The Next Food Network Star.”
I will not give up PBS, which I can rationalize since watching a show where the people are speaking with an English accent always makes all Americans feel smarter. I subscribe to that theory 100% and am therefore not only allowed but am encouraging myself to continue with any episode of Masterpiece Theatre (hurray for “Downton Abbey!” hurray for “Call the Midwife!”), “Doc Martin” and “Miranda.” And Rick Steves is on PBS, and Burt Wolfe, and watching travel shows is always educational, right?
I can’t bring myself to give up “Say Yes to the Dress,” either, by the way. I hope Chris will marry one day and I will need to be ready to be the perfect mother-in-law-to-be, sitting sweetly and being supportive, if I am lucky enough to be invited to join the hunt for the perfect gown. What I have learned: don’t venture an opinion until you’ve looked at the bride’s face to see if she loves what she’s wearing. It’s her wedding, not yours. Just smile and tell her she looks beautiful if she’s in love with the dress – even if it makes her look like a gigantic cupcake.
I will never stop recording and watching “Fashion Police.” Joan Rivers has to be one of the funniest people alive and I may even become a Joan Ranger. I have been a huge fan of “What Not to Wear” since it began years ago and don’t even suggest I forego “Master Chef” or “Next Top Chef.” Not happening.
As I see it, reality television and DVR hasn’t been all bad for me. I’ve learned some new cooking techniques, not to mention understanding why I need to look for structured jackets when I’m clothes shopping. I made a padded headboard for my bed and know where to look for a reasonably priced apartment in Berlin, thanks to HGTV. And now that I have a second TV downstairs facing the treadmill, I can work out while learning how to make restaurant-quality entrees at home, courtesy of Ann Burrell. Yum.