How to Watch TV
"What?!" you say indignantly. "I've been watching TV since the Indian Head test pattern was broadcast late-night in the 40's. I can operate the remote just fine, thank you, and I use my home theater primarily for movies. What else do I need to know?"
First of all, why should you even care about ol' plain-Jane TV? It ain't your grandfather's (or even your father's ... or even your older brother's) TV anymore. Indeed, the television experience has never been better. If you recently upgraded your theater to 4K/HDR, et. al., you would be doing yourself, your family, and your wallet a serious disservice if you didn't revisit at least some of the new program choices...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
With this season's new offerings recently hitting the air (okay, coming down the optical cable), it's a good time to make the case for optimal TV watching. Having a process helps. As in...
Step 1: Having a DVR is absolutely mandatory! Every broadband provider has one. Usually, if you have one, you can access it from all other monitors in the house. I expect the DVR and the traditional set-top box to be one, inseparable purchase soon, if we're not already there.
Step 2: Sample all the pilots of the new season. Often the titles are deceiving, so you have to get in there to really see what they're about. Select the ones that you want to see more of. The "delete" button is easy to find for the rest.
Step 3: An excellent use of the DVR is to record those favorites in "Record Series" mode. If you can stand the wait, collect three or four episodes in a row...and then find a time when you can binge watch them together. It feels like watching a movie in a commercial theater—sans the cell phones and crying babies, and with the advantages of food runs and bathroom breaks at will (the "pause" button is also easy to find).
As far as I'm concerned the quality of primetime offerings are at an all-time high-water mark, rivaling many reasonably grossing commercial movies. A subtle side effect is that, for those who need to discuss last night's episode at the coffee shop the next day, the anticipation of next week's offering provides enjoyable discussions of what to expect with like-minded individuals.
The downside? My gripe with major network broadcasters (and hence, cable packagers) is the combining of multiple channels so that in order to get what you want, you have to sign-up for 300 "other" channels, bumping the monthly invoice to big number$. For me, though, the variety and quality are still worth it.
Yes, streaming content providers now offer slim, similar prime-time experiences to Joe Six-Pack, but not yet at attractive pricing. Apple recently reduced the price of their offerings, signaling the appeal of streaming video may be waning.
But before you leap on a good streaming deal, there's the issue of streaming's sub-standard video quality. That will be the subject of yet another column...