Photo Credit: Maria Teijeiro/Photographer's Choice/Getty
Once when I was 7, my family spent a little too much time at the mall and returned home 20 minutes late for a highly anticipated episode of The Six Million Dollar Man (something about Bigfoot). I was bereft. Sure, it would return as a rerun someday, but I'd have to scour the TV Guide each week looking for it, then be in just the right place at just the right time.
Of course, this rarely happens in our modern "have it your way" media world. I’m constantly recording new episodes of TV shows or movies so my kids and I can watch, pause, fast-forward and replay them at our leisure. They’re usually just as happy watching reruns as new episodes, and I always have a fresh if-not spanking-new SpongeBob ready when one of them wakes up in the morning. In fact, they've never known life without pre-recorded, at-their-beck-and-call, never-miss-it entertainment.
But is this an improvement in every way? I threw a teary fit whenever I missed something "important" as a kid, but all that anticipation and planning made each viewing seem like a special event, not just a routine time-killer. I remember playing with Planet of the Apes toys all day in anticipation of staying up to watch Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall on The ABC Friday Night Movie. Nowadays, I just hit a few buttons on the remote whenever I get the urge to hear "Take your stinking paws off me!"
I also like to think all that waiting around helped me develop patience. When kids routinely get what they want, exactly when they want, they’re likely to expect that kind of service all the time -- not just from TV, but from life. That’s my guess, anyway. I think about it every time I serve something new for dinner and the kids look at me with perplexed and somewhat perturbed "what’s this?" faces.
I admit I get a lot out of the DVR myself (which I recently forgave for cutting off the last two minutes of VH-1’s Top 40 of 2009). But like any good TV show, watching television is a little more fun when there's some jeopardy attached.