As we kick off E-Nirv, we’re giving brief assessments of each medium we cover, to give you, our valued readers, a sense of where we think the medium is going, what we like to see, what we don’t like to see, and so on.

So, that being said:

    Television

When broadcast TV came about in the late 1940s, doomsayers saw it as the end of motion pictures, while some thought it only a passing fad too expensive and too inconvenient for the public at large to be interested.

They underestimated the couch potato within all of us.Ye Olde Couch Potato

Today, TV is a vibrant industry, raking in billions of dollars a year in advertising revenue. While not replacing movies per se, it has done well to become an effective alternative to plunking down the now insane $10 and up for a film.

In our State of Movies address, we mentioned that the film industry has been taking a hit at the box office. TV is largely to blame for that. Here, then are our 3 key points regarding television’s success:

1. DVDs – VHS and *gulp* Beta-Max could only dream of the type of success that DVD sales have had with consumers. With the advent of hi-def, digital, and plasma televisions; as well as the popularity of home theater setups, families now can literally have a theater-like movie experience in the comfort of their own home. There are some things the home theater does not have that a movie theater does: that being expensive food, noisy audiences, and super high-priced tickets. DVDs for new movies are rarely more than $20 to buy(or $4 for a rental), and they are often out within months (sometimes weeks) of the original theatrical release. A bag of popcorn – $.99. Sodas for all – $1.50. Laying on the couch watching “Pirates of the Caribbean 2” as opposed to a noisy, crowded theater – priceless. Hi-Def DVDs and Blu-Rays will only enhance this experience for many. The home theater is here to stay.

2. Cable/Satellite TV – In the early 1970s, Home Box office began servicing several thousand households in the California area, promising movies delivered right to your living room. What a concept! How could any fledgling outfit hope to compete with the Big Three (Those of you younger than 30 may not know that years ago, there were only 3 networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC (or four if you count Sesame Street home PBS). Thirty years later, we have hundreds of channels to choose from, thousands of shows and broadcast hours. Cable and satellite are the two formats of choice, both with their positives and negatives. Still, their combined impact means TV has something for everyone. Meanwhile, each and every show must claw tooth and nail to maintain the now diluted ratings and the audiences behind them. Bad for them, great for us.

3. TiVo/DVRs – Digital Video Recorders (TiVo being the granddaddy) is the most beneficial addition to on-demand television viewing in the last two decades. Simply stated, it has transformed TV forever.

Let’s go through the history briefly. TV watching until the 1980s was
simple. You checked the newspaper or TV guide for when a show was on, and you watched it at that specific time. You talked about it the next day at work or school. It was an “at the moment” medium.

The 1980s saw the emergence of the video cassette recorder, allowing you to tape shows you couldn’t be there to see. An early 80s VCR
However, manipulating the complicated-for-some timer system (who remembers displays flashing 12:00am???) meant that most people still watched their shows on schedule and still talked about them the next day (hence the term “water cooler shows”).

The early 90s then yielded an interesting evolution: the VCR Plus+.
VCR Plus Logo
Basically, the VCR Plus+ was a service run by United Features it took each and every program on television and attached a serial number to it. Then, if you had a VCR Plus+ capable VCR, you simply typed in the number on your remote and your VCR taped it when the show came on. Not a bad invention, actually. It made TV recording more user friendly and less subject to error.

Then the TiVo.
Mr. TiVo and his Magical Machine
TiVo (or the DVR, more generically) changes everything. User friendly search and program by title/genre/keyword/actor/whatever; programming schedules updated for you via the Internet; and the capacity to store 20, 40, even 80 hours of programming without running out of room. That’s your TiVo in a nutshell. TV is no longer ONLY a “watch it at the moment” medium. The water cooler conversations may be a bit more sparsely attended these days as now people can watch their favorite shows when they want. Also going by the boards is mindless surfing through endless wastelands of programming. I don’t surf much anymore. On my TiVo at any given time is at least 10 hours worth of shows that I like but don’t have time to watch when they’re on (more on my favorite shows to TiVo coming up in our Reviews section). With a DVR, TV is more than ever an “as you want it” medium. Thank you, Mr. Screen with the little antenna.

And thank you for listening!

— Rob, Editor-in-Chief (The “Geeksinger”)

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