Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The DVR Generation

Whenever a commercial comes on, both my kids, aged six and three, almost always say "dad, can you fast-forward it?"  At this point I usually get irritated, because not only do they ask me to fast-forward every damn time a commercial comes on, but they get all disappointed when I tell them I can't because it's live television.

Is DVR ruining my children's generation?

There's an entire generation of people who are not going to know what life was like before DVR.  Now some of you might be saying "Jack, TV is not that important anyway, and it rots your brain.  So why are you making a big deal about this?"  Sure, TV is not actually important, and it probably is eroding people's minds.  I'm sure some parents think I'm horrible for even letting my children watch TV.  But seeing as how there's a giant ass number of people in the country who regularly watch TV, I think that it does have a meaningful impact on society.

Before DVR, if you wanted to record a show you had to do so with a VCR.  The quality would be shitty, and the tape would degrade over time after continuously overwriting everything week after week.  If you weren't the recording type, then you had to be sure that you were at your TV whenever your favorite show came on.  If you missed a new episode of whatever you liked to watch, then that was it.

Think about how long you had to wait to see that episode, or if you would ever see it.  If you were lucky, there'd be a couple of months where they'd show the re-runs from that current season, but you generally had to wait several months before they started showing re-runs.

Now-a-days, there's virtually no such thing as "missing," a new episode of your favorite TV show.  A shit ton of people have DVR, which means they can digitally record whatever shows they want and watch them at their convenience.  It doesn't take any fiddle-fucking with a VCR or whatever, just a few buttons on your remote control.

Oh, you don't have DVR?  Well chances are you've got an internet connection that's at least half-way decent.  You can go to just about any network website and watch all of their shows' latest episodes for free.  There's also hulu if you're looking for a one-stop-shop for all your TV viewing needs.  Although a lot of the cable networks like A&E don't put their shows on hulu or their websites, they do usually put the latest episodes on an OnDemand through the cable company.

Do you see what this means?  We've got an entire generation of kids that don't ever have to wait for their TV entertainment.  They never have to worry about watching at a specific time on a specific night.  It's like a safety net for TV.  Why be on time when you can just watch whatever you want at your leisure?  Not only that, but they'll rarely ever have to sit through more than 30 seconds of commercials.

There's no anticipation.  There's no being forced to sit at the edge of your seat, begging for the plot to unfurl.  They'll never appreciate television the way we had to.  For them, the world will be a place in which all they have to do is fast-forward through the shitty parts, and one in which they don't have to worry about failing because there's always a safety net.

Granted, I love the TV safety net, but I still appreciate what it means.  They will just expect it.


Jersey McJones said...

I can't stand commercials, but I had it lucky. Growing up close to NYC meant having plenty of channels, including several public channels, all three networks, three big local commercial channels, and by the 80's we already had dozens of channels. We always had the best and most diverse choices of entertainment over the airwaves and through the wires.

I feel bad for people that didn't have that. Most people, when you think about it.

The great thing about all that choice was, if we were tired of watching commercials, we could just change the station - there was always (well, enough) good programming going on somewhere on the dial. So, personally, I came to rather detest most commercials, and as a consequence of that, I missed a lot of good commercial TV. Thankfully, most of the good stuff re-ran anyway.

I think it's good now that kids aren't wasting as much time as we did watching commercials. I always thought that was unhealthy.

We have a far too consumption-dependent society. Back during the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, we were an exporting nation, the big knock on that coming from big business complaining "we aren't consuming enough."

The advents of radio and TV - and now all this other nonsense - have quite literally zombified us into a consumer state. And none of us can resist it.

Interesting subject, Jack.


Harrison said...

That is WEIRD. Today a father was talking about their daughter asking them to fast forward commercials he said he couldn't it's live TV. The daughter said just hit pause and go do something else then come back and fast forward to the show!

I don't have a VCR or a DVR and if I miss a show and it's not repeated... well I'm SOL!

I think having to wait for your show to come back on teaches you a whole bunch of things today's kids don't learn, which is too bad.

Instant gratification.

Silverfiddle said...

We went camping in a wilderness area this summer and we had to coordinate meet-up times and places with other families because there was no cell phone coverage.

The kids were blown away when I told them this was how we used to have to do it BC, before cell phones.

Jack Camwell said...

Very excellent point, Jersey. While I'm wary about the whole thing because it seems to feed into the whole culture of instant gratification thing, watching less commercials is probably a good thing.

And I think you're right, Harrison. I get the sense that they miss out on the importance of being diligent and managing your time well. If there's a show you really enjoy, then you should have enough wherewithal to watch it when it's scheduled. DVR and the like allows viewers to be more non-committal.

Cell phones are another weird thing for me Silver. I find it crazy when I see a 12 year old kid talking on their own cell phone. The technology was around when I was in high school, but that was ca. 2000 when it was still relatively expensive, and more of a "responsible adult," thing.