Life on demand

Marketplace Staff Aug 22, 2006

SCOTT JAGOW: From YouTube to the good ol’ boobtube. Well, it’s not the same anymore, watching TV. You can record everything and tune in whenever you want. Plus, you can skip the commercials. Oh, how the advertisers love that. Just so you know, political consultants say the campaign ads this fall will probably turn up in shows that people don’t usually record. Newscasts, live sports, things like that. They’re on to us. Commentator Beth Teitell wonders whether this Tivo is really so great after all.

BETH TEITELL: Our country’s become like one of those diners that boasts “Breakfast served all day.” This on-demand lifestyle we’re grooving to sounds pretty darn sweet. Well, except when you realize that it’s tearing at the fabric of our society.

Let’s be honest. Discussing last night’s must-see lineup is what we Americans do. What’s going to happen when we’re all on our own private TV schedules, I wonder?

Actually, I know. I got a preview on a recent Monday when I innocently brought up “Desperate Housewives” at work, and my colleague started yelling and waving her arms: “Don’t say anything. I’m saving it to watch on Friday night.”

I didn’t want to spoil her anticipation, but speaking as a TiVo veteran, I’ve learned that when you record a show to watch at your convenience, it somehow moves from the “pleasure” category onto the “chore” list. Beloved shows, or make that formerly beloved shows, pile up just like issues of The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly do. At this point I’m so far behind in my “Colbert Reports” I’d have to take a day off from work to catch up.

But the video dimension is not even the worst of the situation. I worry that this “on-demand” movement may leap, virus-like, from TV sets to human beings, turning us into a nation of whining toddlers. “I want it now. Right now.”

How long until we expect to do everything on our own schedules? “Oh, sorry hon, February 14th doesn’t quite work for me to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Can I download you for the 23rd?

Oh, gotta go. It’s almost 7 p.m. and I’m meeting a friend . . . for brunch.

SCOTT JAGOW: Beth Teitell is a columnist at the Boston Herald.

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