Goodbye TiVo, Welcome Back TV List

I grew up watching a lot of television. I watched soap operas after school and dramas and sitcoms at night. I love getting lost in the stories of other people and laughing at/with my television friends (the ones inside the box). When you are watching TV, you can cry with imaginary people without being REALLY vulnerable and go on wild adventures without leaving your couch.

In the early 2000’s I used to create recommendation lists for my friends at the start of the fall TV Season based on my extensive research of the reviews of new and returning shows.  (Really, I loved television!)  Those were the days of five major networks (and HBO) when the television season aligned with the school year and things predictably heated up during “sweeps” season when ratings were tracked by Nielsen four times a year (yes, only four times a year). A lot has changed!

When I lived with other people, I was always the one who knew how to program the VCR and I was all over it.  I had one of those special VCRs that would automatically fast forward though commercials.  I loved that VCR….until I met TiVo.

In my first year of business school (2001/2002), I learned about TiVo from a guy at a party. I must have been trying to impress him by talking about my cool VCR that fast forwarded through commercials and he one upped me by telling me about this magical new machine he had that would record things digitally that could be played back from a menu IN ANY ORDER!   This “DVR” did not automatically speed through commercials like my cool VCR (although a later model eventually would), but I could quickly fast forward through them myself with a cute peanut shaped remote that made a unique TiVo sound.  This magical machine would also let me start watching a show from the beginning, even if the same show was still recording!!

Before my first year of business school was over, I had my first TiVo.  In my second year of business school, I sewed a homemade TiVo costume for Halloween (shown below with my friend Toby who is dressed as himself.)

I have owned many TiVos since then.  When I had a corporate apartment in Chicago for work, I had one TiVo in NYC and one in Chicago. My TiVos got more cool features along the way like being able to watch recorded shows from my Ipad in a hotel room or set up recordings from my phone, which came in very handy while sitting at the airport reading about some new show in a magazine.  I could even record up to FOUR programs at the same time!  (This was HUGE before everything you wanted to watch was just waiting for you at all times, remember?)

When cable companies started building DVRs into their cable boxes, people didn’t understand why I still paid extra for a TiVo box + TiVo service + a special cable card.  It’s hard to explain if you’ve never had a TiVo.  If you have had a TiVo, I don’t have to explain. The TiVo remote makes that unique “ba-doop” sound I mentioned earlier that we TiVo owners know and (most of us) love. Maybe those “ba-doops” have hypnotic powers that makes it hard to part with your TiVo! Or maybe we just have mad, loyal respect for the company that invented the DVR.

The TiVo is the least successful, most significant consumer electronics device ever. – IEEE Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame  

In recent years, I did get frustrated with my Tivo because it would randomly not record things I had scheduled and the guide was often missing things that should have been there, making it challenging to set up recordings.  But I did not abandon TiVo until I finally cut the cable cord last summer and became a full-time streamer.  Even then, I held on to that TiVo box while it collected dust, unused, for almost an entire year because it made me sad to part with it.  I had used and owned a TiVo for almost 20 years!!!

Last month, as part of a massive apartment de-cluttering project, I finally dropped my TiVo Premiere off at Best Buy to be recycled and said my good-byes.  I later felt horrible that I didn’t try to give it a way or sell it.  I hope the TiVo gods (and the environmentalists) forgive me.

The name of this blog was inspired by my desire to spend less time with my imaginary television friends and more time in the real world, with real people.  The original sub-title of the blog was “City Chick Tries to Separate from her TiVo”.  I have officially separated from my TiVo (you may have noticed the sub-title has changed) and my world has gotten a lot bigger since I started this blog, but I can assure that I still watch quite a bit of television.

Granted, this was an unusual year (to say the least), so I have to cut myself some slack, but I am way above the 10 hours I was trying to limit myself to when I started this blog.  Pandemic or not, I feel like a shlub if I park myself in front of the TV before 8pm. But as soon as the clock turns 8, I allow myself to stop trying to be productive and just veg out until its time for bed (which is 10pm because that’s how I roll).  I clearly still have some TVaholic in me.

When I started the blog, I used to track what I was watching on the TV List tab which eventually stopped getting updated. This past year, many people have asked me what I have been watching and I keep drawing a blank when they ask.  It felt very weird to not be the person who helps people decide what to watch on TV and even weirder to not even remember what I was doing between the hours of 8-10pm all year!

After this came up again recently, I decided to spend an entire day reviewing my watch histories and writing down everything I watched in 2020 and 2021. (I did this in my bullet journal, using lots of colorful markers, as shown above.) It was like a walk down memory lane with all of my imaginary pandemic TV friends!

I am not sure it was the MOST productive way to spend my day, but I DO feel a sense of accomplishment.  And because I spent SO much time documenting what I watched, I decided to bring back the TV list tab ! Now that we can finally leave our houses and get out on the real world again, the you probably want nothing to do with your TV, BUT if you are looking for something new to watch, feel free to check out the TV list and maybe you will find something you missed this year that looks interesting.

My TiVo days may have come to an end, but the TV list is back…at least until I start having exciting adventures again and spend more time with real people. (Since I fractured my foot the day after my second vaccination shot, there has been a delay on getting out and about, which I have used to consume many seasons of Outlander on Netflix!)

I am sure that my imaginary TV friends will always be a part of my life and my TiVo doll is still hanging out in my television cabinet to remind me of the the old TiVo days.

TVaholic is Reunited with HD TV!!!

How sweet it is.  HD TV is back in the house!!!  After months of Time Warner telling me the problem was my TiVo and TiVo telling me the problem was Time Warner (if you need to catch up, click here), I finally gave in and upgraded my TiVo box to a TiVo Premiere.

The problem was the TiVo. (See addendum below)

I have been surviving on non-HD channels since March. It’s been tough, but I have been hanging in.   A couple of weeks ago, my TiVo started just turning itself off in the middle of the night.  No HD involved. I could no longer blame the Time Warner signal.  One phone call and $99 later, a new TiVo Premiere was on the way.

The transition was MUCH smoother than expected. Just this month Time Warner started letting people install their own cableCARDS (no more visits from the cable guy!) All I had to do was move the card from one TiVo to the other and call Time Warner to change the host ID to the new box.

TiVo has a super cool feature that allows you to copy your Season Passes from one box to another, so within 5 minutes, my season passes were all set up on my new box.  Woo Hoo!

I now have a really sweet set up with both TiVos connected to my TV so I can keep my Inhale with Steve Ross yoga shows on the old TiVo and play them whenever I want, as long as the TiVo limps along (you were worried weren’t you!).  I can also move shows to my old TiVo if I run out of space on my new TiVo.  It’s all good.

After about 20 minutes (which would have taken me 10 if I had not had a glass of wine before I embarked on the task) I had my TiVo remote set up to control each TiVo individually using my DVR 1-2 switch.

In addition this extremely productive activity which has restored my high quality television watching, I bought two dresses for upcoming weddings and took a very long walk on a beautiful NY day. Stay-cation day 2 was a success!

Addendum: It was later revealed that the issue was REALLY the extended hard drive attached to my OLD Tivo.  When I decide to finally retired my old TiVo (with the Steve Ross Inhale shows) move my old DVR extender to my new TiVo Premiere, it started freezing up.  I ordered a new extended hard drive, and all was well. Diagnostics on the drive were fine, but the drive was shot.

From Bad to Worse

The television situation has gone from bad to worse.  I have not been able to watch HD TV since February and now I can’t watch any live TV at all.  This is dire.  You may recall my previous posts on this issue  (My Attenuators Have Arrived  &    Attenuator Update).  I have been sparing you the play by play but let me catch you up.

On my fifth call to TiVo, the told me that I had to call Time Warner.  This was just what I was dreading, and it turned out to be as painful as I predicted.

Time Warner technician #1 was an idiot she said she had to send a level 2 technician.  The level 2 technician seemed to know his stuff.  He said the signal strength was definitely too high (which is what all five TiVo people told me) but that it was a building problem.  He arranged for a building appointment two days later.  Things did not improve.  I called Time Warner who arranged for another building appointment.  Things did not improve.

Technician #3 left an hour a go.  I now get NO cable channels.  He was here for an hour and I knew from the first words out of his mouth that he was useless.  He messed with my cable card which was not the problem.  I did  not imagine he would make things worse.  He also smelled really bad, like old shoes.  I wanted him out of my apartment so badly, that I let him leave with out fully checking out the status before letting him leave.  I knew he had not fixed the HD channels, but when I realized I had NO service at all, I ran after him and almost started to cry when I could not catch him.

I can’t get someone back out here until Wednesday.  Even swearing at the lady on the phone could not get me an appointment tomorrow.  I realize it is idiotic to be this upset about not having TV.  I mean, people have real problems, this is not a real problem.  But I am pissed off.

Luckily, I have a bottle of wine, my Kindle, about 30 hours of TV stored up on my TiVo, two Netflix DVDs, and streaming Netflix to keep me company until this gets resolved.

(Read the final resolution to my LONG TiVo issue here.)

Attenuator Update

The Tivo/attenuator situation is frustrating.  (What the heck am I talking about? See this post)

I now have four different strengths of attenuators.  The purpose of these little electrical gadgets is to reduce the signal strength coming in to my TiVo.  The problem is that only SOME of the channels have too strong of a signal, so when I attach the attenuator, it is either not strong enough for the super strong channels or too strong for the other channels.

I called TiVo for the fourth time, and got a tech lady.  The tech lady told me that the high signal strength can burn out my TiVo box, great.  She suggested combining the attenuators in various combinations to try to get the right mix.  A creative idea.   If that does not work I have to call Time Warner to ask them to reduce the signal strength.  Not looking forward to that phone call.  She also confirmed that upgrading to a TiVo Premiere wouldn’t help the issue.

Many have asked why I don’t just get a DVR from my cable company.  TiVo invented the DVR.  I graduated from my very cool VCR that auto-forwarded through commercials (loved that thing back in the day) to the TiVo.  I was a pretty early adopter in 2002.  I dressed as TiVo for halloween that year.   TiVo is part of who I am.  I can’t imagine not having one.  Would you Apple fans give up your Macs or your IPhones? I think not.

TiVo does have features that a cable DVR does not have.  Admittedly, I don’t use most of them.

  • I do use Netflix “watch instantly” through my TiVo.  I can select any DVD available for “watch instantly” and stream it immediately to my TV  (Got sucked back in the Battlestar Gallactica on Netflix “watch instantly” last weekend while I was avoiding work.)
  • I sometimes stream Pandora though my TiVo.  Sounds better through the TV.  Would be even better if I had any kind of sound system.
  • I can transfer many programs from my TiVo to my computer and/or IPhone (if they are not copy protected.)  I sometimes watch TV on my IPhone on the treadmill.  If I had an IPad I could carry around a mini TV with me!
  • TiVo can connect to a special external hard drive to add more disk space.  I added 100 hours last year so I will NEVER run out of space.
  • I have 8 hours of Inhale yoga on my Tivo that I can’t get off (because it is copyright protected) and the show isn’t on any more.   Since I don’t have time for a 1 1/2 hour studio yoga class these days, Inhale is imperative.

Why not Hulu?  I definitely don’t want to spend more time on my computer.  I know there is a way to hook the computer up to the TV, but I have never had the time to figure that out.

Off to play with my attenuators.  Find out what happens next here.

My Attenuators Have Arrived

I hate to say anything bad about TiVo.  I think of my TiVo as one of my best friends.  But lately, we have been on the outs.  My five blog fans probably don’t have much interest in this, but this is for my TiVo peeps out there who are on the outs with their TiVos.

About a month ago I started to notice partial recordings (nothing more disappointing that that!)  Sometimes, I would turn on the TV and notice the picture had been frozen in the same spot for hours.  Other times the playback would start skipping or get stuck and then the remote would stop working.  A couple of times it just freaked out rebooted itself!  Lots of weird stuff going on.  I was watching stuff on Hulu because my TiVo failures.  Not cool after a 13 hour day at work.

I have to say, TiVo support was not very helpful.  Tech support guy #1 mis-diagnosed it as a hard drive issue.  I ran hard drive diagnostics (which happen to know how to do) and all was well.  Tech support guy #2 had me check the signal strength and SNR (in the DVR diagnostics) and said they were too high.  Signal Strength was 100 (supposed to be closer to 90) and SNR was 37dB (supposed to be below 35).  Apparently Time Warner bumped up the signal on some of the HD channels and my TiVo can’t handle it.

Tech support guy #2 told me to go out and get a cable splitter.  Did not help.  Called back again and tech support guy #3 told me to get a 30dB attenuator.  The dude at Radio Shack had no idea what that was.  J&R had no idea what I was talking about.  I found some on the internet, but not 30dB and he specifically said 30dB (I am very literal.)

What is an attenuator?  It is a little metal thing that you screw on between your cable TV cable and your TiVo that lowers the cable signal.

After another week of non HD television I caved in and ordered a 20dB attenuator from Amazon.  It was too strong!!  I had no signal!!!  (Tech support guy #3 was way off.)  I went back on Amazon and ordered a 10db, 6db, and 3db Attenuator.  These things cost $3 each and I paid more than that for shipping, twice!

The attenuators have arrived BUT I can’t try them out because the TiVo is recording (non HD channels of course).  You are now in suspense until we can find out if one of these attenuators will work….

Continue reading my TiVo saga here.