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Saturday, August 18, 2007  

Musty TV

In April of 2004, I happily accepted an invitation to become a recapper, a job that requires me to not only watch television shows and write about them, but to write about them in great detail. This process generally involves watching an hour of TV about five to ten seconds at a time, typing up everything that happens as you go along.

In April of 2007, we got a digital video recorder. Feel free to mock the time lag.

Actually, the DVR hasn't changed my recapping habits as much as I thought it would. The DVR is downstairs with the big TV, and the desktop (actually desk-side) computer I write on is on the main floor, and that's where each is going to stay. And I don't like recapping on the couch and balancing the laptop and the remote at the same time anyway. I keep getting them mixed up.

I will say that the DVR has been invaluable for weecaps, which I write in a "slightly slower than real-time" mode that makes the "pause live TV" function indispensable. And there was one occasion earlier in this season of Big Love when I realized about halfway through the episode that I'd forgotten to hit "record" on the VCR and was very glad that the show was at least going into the DVR's hard drive. That meant I could transfer it to tape immediately after it was over, as opposed to having to wait another hour for the first of that week's "encore" presentations on HBOs 2 through 37.

My "recapping TV" (as those of us in the biz call it) is actually the cheap little TV/VCR combo I was so embarrassed to have bought more than four years ago. It sits on a table next to my computer desk. It's only got a thirteen-inch screen, but I sit so close to it when recapping that the "remote control" hardly merits the name. It's a system that's worked well for me the past three years.

Recently, however, it has begin to rebel.

Late in the most recent season of 24, I got about halfway through an episode before having to stop. The VCR component had taken it upon itself to start switching back and forth between "EP" and "SP" mode, the effect being that every third half-second of the show was sped up, making Kiefer Sutherland even more chipmunky than usual. It also made the dialogue really hard to understand, and the closed-captioning was even more unreadable than this blog is. Fortunately I was able to download that episode off the Interwebs, and the day was saved. Didn't happen again, either.

Until it did. Apparently, having to spend so many years being forced to play back one-hour shows over a period of three to four hours has driven it batty, and it has decided that it needs to catch up.

For some reason, it seems to be triggered by M. Small's videos more than anything else. Not just the mail-order ones either, but also the tapes of Curious George that we recorded off the local PBS station. His shows have become completely unintelligible on the machine, and if I stick my Big Love tape in after one of his tapes, I have to do this whole dance with the "power" and "tape speed" and "forward search" and "stop" and "play" buttons, not to mention my "fist," before I can understand whatever self-serving crap Bill Henrickson is spouting at any given time.

So clearly it was time to get a new TV/VCR combo. Hey, you know what they don't make any more? TV/VCR combos.

Trash had the idea of getting a new DVR box to hook into the upstairs TV, and then I could recap the way most people do it. So last week, M. Small and I went over to our local cable office to pick up a new box. I hoped that if I could get M. Small to spontaneously cry, "That's Comcastic!" in the office, we'd get a discount, but it didn't work.

So we got the new DVR/cable box home, where it languished in the back bedroom for a couple of days. On Sunday evening, while M. Small was resting his injured ankle by watching Kipper at high speed, I went to set up the box. Honestly, all I did was unplug the cable input from the back of the TV and into the back of the box, and then hook a pair of coaxials from the box's output to the TV's input. When the new cable box didn't work, I asked Trash to get online and find me the number to the cable company so I could call them for help. Except she couldn't get online any more. Somehow I had broken the Internet.

And just to give you some small sense of how that felt, I'm going to leave off this story right here.

posted by M. Giant 1:31 PM 1 comments


Walmart still sells a 13" TV/VCR combo. Emerson. May well be the last in existence.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 20, 2007 at 12:10 PM  

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