TV Eye

TiVotees Speak

Monte Walsh
Monte Walsh

"Television without TiVo is slavery."

"My TV doesn't control me; I control my TiVo!"

"TiVo will change your life forever. Once you have TiVo, you can never go back."

Little did I know that my call for "TiVotees" would garner such passionate responses. I've heard good things about TiVo. Still, I expected some critical comments. But no, only good things. How often do you find that kind of customer satisfaction?

When comparing Time Warner's DVR services with TiVo, I found many similar features. A big exception is TiVo's ability to actively assess viewer needs, while Time Warner's service is passive. TiVo accomplishes this by tracking user's viewing habits and gathering viewer responses, for which it's been criticized.

"TiVo does capture certain data and is very explicit about this in the user agreements," said Steve (who requested first name ID only). "They capture raw data by an area or ZIP code on viewing habits. ... However, that data stream leaves out names and other personal IDs. So, all they can get is geographic viewing habit. Fears of intrusiveness are irrational and unsupported. If anything, Time Warner users are more susceptible to having their viewing habits tracked than TiVo users -- with or without a DVR."

"I don't watch anything I'm ashamed of," offered Arro Smith. "I'd like to see more of what I do like to watch, so I welcome TiVo's 'intrusiveness.'" If there were any lingering fears of Big Brother watching and tracking my every move, they were blasted by TiVo user Marcus Ollington.

"I remember early on, before TiVo and I got to 'know' each other, it recorded a Chuck Norris movie, mistakenly believing I might like to watch it. Once the nausea passed, I quickly grabbed the remote and hit the thumbs-down button three times (the maximum), indicating to TiVo that I prefer it never ever record another Chuck Norris movie. This ability to communicate displeasure back to my television set filled me with an enormous sense of satisfaction and continues to do so." As it turns out, TiVo's thumbs-up/thumbs-down feature is optional, meaning that if it's not used, the viewer is as anonymous as a person watching broadcast television.

For all of DVR's treats -- pausing live TV, freedom from VHS tapes, the ability to bypass commercials -- less than 2 million homes in the U.S. have TiVo or another DVR service. So what's the holdup? In the early days, it cost $400 or more for the DVR box in addition to the monthly subscription cost (nowadays, around $12) in addition to a cable or satellite subscription. However, recent though fleeting opportunities sell TiVo for $200 or less depending on its capacity (40, 60, or 80 hours, not including the monthly subscription).

So, will I join TiVo's legion of "discriminating entertainment enthusiasts"? Yes -- but not today. I have my sights on more attainable (i.e. affordable) tech toys like a DVD player. But don't think I won't be prowling for sales and rebates. And I do have a birthday coming next month.

As always, stay tuned.


Cheesy Movie Alert!

If any man was meant to wear leather chaps, it's Tom Selleck. He straps on the chaps for his third TNT cowboy flick, Monte Walsh, playing the titular character in a study of cowboy culture in its twilight.

While I've labeled this film "cheesy," it's cheese of high quality. Adapted from Jack Schaefer's novel, Monte Walsh delights with unexpected humor and a palpable camaraderie among Walsh and his cowboy pals (especially Keith Carradine as well as George Eads of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).

The film opens with an unapologetically loping pace that demands attention, a remarkable feat considering the cacophony of sound and movement on TV nowadays. Not that there isn't action. There's plenty of rough-and-tumble, including some impressive horsemanship by Selleck and Eads.

Monte Walsh is a romantic, though wistful, Western where cowboys are nature's godsons -- unbridled by ordinary aspirations of home and family, ruled by the seasons and an unspoken but fully realized cowboy code. But burgeoning technologies and corporate takeover of the cattle business spell the end for cowboys. Unfortunately, it is in this thematic element where the film veers into the cheese aisle. It would have been enough to show how modernity disrupted cowboy culture, except that theme is punctuated with several overwrought scenes, including one that literally has cowboy and horse ascending over man and machine. The violins are in full wail at Monte Walsh's finish, but heck, it sure beats sitting through an hour of The Bachelorette.

Monte Walsh premieres Jan. 17, 7pm, on TNT, with encores through the end of the month. Check local listings.


E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

TiVo, DVR, Time Warner Cable, Monte Walsh, Tom Selleck, Keith Carradine, George Eads

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