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Death Comes to TiVo

Some of you may have surfed by TeeVee lately and thought to yourself, "Boy, what's the deal with Michaels lately?" (Actually, none of you have probably thought this -- most likely, you simply don't care, and while that realization stung at first, I've long since resigned myself to the universe's indifference -- but if you could play along for purposes of this introductory 'graph, I'd greatly appreciate it.) Maybe you've noticed the infrequency of articles bearing my byline and wondered just exactly what is up. Have I been too drunk to write? Too lazy? Some combination of drunkenness and laziness?

The answer is yes, to all of the above. But that hasn't stopped me from writing in the past.

No, what's thrown a wrench into the works this time around is that my TiVo -- beloved family member and provider of many hours of recorded entertainment -- is in its death throes. And the grief, the pain, the sense of loss has been nearly too much for me to bear.

Also, it's quite difficult to write about television when you can't actually watch it.

The problem started a few months ago. Every now and again, the wife and I would be watching live TV or one of the many dozens of programs we record so that we may later write nasty things about the show, thus delighting a readership in the dozens when all of a sudden, the TiVo would skip noticeably. At first, the skips came infrequently, momentary glitches where the sound would drop out and the picture would freeze only to lurch forward by a few seconds. But over the time, the skips became frequent, longer, and more annoying. One moment, Tony Soprano would be barking out orders to his trusted lieutenants; then, the picture would freeze, and the next thing you know, the Sopranos end credits are rolling and a voice-over announcer is inviting me to stay tuned for "Beastmaster" over on HBO2.

"Wow, that's a real puzzler of a problem," you're probably saying. "So why don't you contact a helpful TiVo service representative and explain the trouble to them. Surely, TiVo will be more than willing to help. It's not like you did anything stupid that would void your warranty."

Um.... yeeeeaaaah.

About a year ago, I cracked open the TiVo and replaced the adequate-if-minimalist 30-hour hard drive with a gargantuan 100-hour hard drive, all the better for recording all those Miami Vice reruns on Spike TV. Or, more accurately since my idea of home repair involves hitting the side of devices until they work to my satisfaction, I had Snell come over and crack open the TiVo to replace the adequate-if-minimalist 30-hour hard drive with a gargantuan 100-hour model. I mostly hovered over his shoulder and asked if he would be done soon.

Oh, and I did I mention Snell left the mainland United States for a multi-week vacation at the exact moment my TiVo's sputtering and pausing and increasingly frequent crashes became unbearable? I didn't? Because that's a key detail.

So I find myself in an unfamiliar position -- eagerly awaiting the reemergence of Jason Snell and having to make do with a barely functioning TV set for the first time since my freshman year in college, when picking up UHF stations required a RadioShack antenna, an extension cord and a tinfoil hat. Now when I wake up in the morning and turn on the TV, I usually find that the TiVo has frozen, requiring me to reboot the entire system and further fry the hard drive beyond repair. The other morning, after watching an Oakland Athletics game the night before on Fox Sports Net, I flipped on the television set to find TiVo frozen in place on an image of Tom Arnold from one of the cable channel's umpteen showings of The Best Damn Sports Show Period.

Which is when -- staring at the frozen mug of Tom Arnold, his lips curled back in a pixelated, smug smile -- I may have pinpointed the problem with my TiVo. I think it may be shutting down in self-defense.


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