I’m not sure how big a breadbox is, so let me be more specific: It’s about the size of your VCR. A foot deep, a foot and a half wide, and four inches high. Black. No controls on it – run entirely by a remote control that will also figure out how to control your TV.

Let me start with the cons:

  1. It’ll set you back about $600 — $399 for the machine unless you get a deal, and $200 for the lifetime hook-up (the life of your TiVo, not your lifetime).
  1. You’ll wind up watching even more TV.
  1. You’ll wish you had one in every room.

Now here are the pros (not necessarily in the same order as listed on the box):

  1. As luxuries go, at least it’s easy on the planet. It’s not a Jet Ski, for crying out loud. And it’s a lot cheaper than remodeling your kitchen.
  1. They include every possible cable and connector you could need, and although the setup process will take you a while, you will succeed! They make it fun! (Needless to say, I do not guarantee this; but I succeeded, where I usually don’t at stuff like this, and I had fun.)
  1. It stores up to 30 hours of TV on its hard drive – or 18 or 14 or just 9 if you want to record everything in top quality, to see the beadlets of sweat fly from the quarterback’s brow.
  1. You can fast-forward through commercials – or fast-fast forward or fast-fast-fast forward. This allows you to watch your favorite half-hour sitcoms in just 23 minutes. The nightly news – which you will never again miss even if 6:30 slips past you – will take about 20 minutes, saving you 50 hours a year – a decent work week. (You’ll start watching any time you want, fast forward through the commercials, but also skip occasional features that don’t interest you, or where ‘the headline’ says it all.)
  1. You can freeze-frame, slo-mo, or slo-mo backwards.
  1. You can be watching a TV show – live – and press PAUSE when the phone rings. Take your call, press PLAY, and you haven’t missed a thing.
  1. You can be watching the news – live – and if you aren’t sure whether the guy said, ‘Soviet Jewry’ or ‘Soviet Jewelry,’ you can press the instant-replay button as often as you want until you decide. Again, you don’t miss a thing. You are in control. All across America, people are having to watch this over and over again – Soviet Jewry . . . Soviet Jewelry – until you are ready to proceed. Tom Brokaw just has to keep doing it over and over again. Or at least I think that’s how it works. (Others believe that TiVo automatically records whatever you’re watching, and keeps recording even as you’re diddling around with instant replays and slo-mos and phone calls, so that when you resume it can just pick up where you left off.)
  1. You can tell it to record ‘The West Wing’ every Wednesday, ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Sixty Minutes’ every Sunday, and ‘The Mole’ just this one time on Tuesday at 8PM on ABC because you’re an Anderson Cooper fan and you want to see if it’s any good. Plus every episode of the ‘The Sopranos’ and Larry King Live.
  1. You can transfer stuff you’ve recorded with TiVo onto your VCR. (Once your 30 hours of recording time is filled up – or 60 hours if you went nuts and bought the deluxe model – stuff begins to scroll off into oblivion.)
  1. If you were about to get a satellite anyway, you can get the TiVo model that doubles as a satellite receiver and maybe save a few bucks.
  1. You can record shows you never knew existed, like Jackass on MTV. Who says you can never recapture your adolescence? (Of course, you could do this with a regular VCR, or just watch it live – but you wouldn’t, would you?)
  1. You can press the green thumbs up button or the red thumbs down button as you are watching a live or recorded show to let TiVo know what you think of it. Based on what it learns about your preferences, TiVo will suggest and record stuff it thinks you might like . . . although it will always delete that stuff to make room, if need be, for something you actively instructed it to record.

Things you can’t do:

  1. You cannot watch one thing live while it is recording something else. (You can watch something you’ve previously recorded while it records something new.) Solution: watch the live thing downstairs in the den.
  1. You cannot record two conflicting shows simultaneously. If you try to set it up to record something that runs from 8pm to 9pm on Showtime and something else that runs from 8:30 to 9pm on CNN, it will politely advise you of the problem and ask which of the two you want to do.
  1. You cannot channel-surf quite as fast as you used to. You can still do it. And there are some other pretty neat things you can do in terms of seeing what’s on (meanwhile, the show you’re watching remains on in the background). But with TiVo, there’s a slight delay in going from channel to channel.
  1. You cannot do much of anything unless TiVo makes a phone call once in a while to bring its program schedule up to date. In normal operation, it calls once a day, at whatever time you set – I chose 4:47am. It needs to be within 50 feet of a phone jack (it comes with a 50-foot cord), which it happily shares with your regular phone line without blocking any calls. Or you can just keep that 50-foot cord in a drawer and hook it up manually once or twice a week, using the ‘call now’ option. (This is the 21st Century Spoiled Rich Guy’s equivalent of ‘roughing it.’)

Can you live without a TiVo? Why, of course you can! The question is: can you live without seeing ‘The West Wing’ every week. And ‘Jackass’ once in a while? Here, we can be less sure.

To buy one, use qbsearch, type in tivo, select GoTo as the best engine for this kind of search, and then just e-shop til you e-drop. Or go to eBay. I own no stock in TiVo or Philips or Sony (which make TiVo), or in GE (which owns NBC which airs ‘The West Wing’). I am, from time to time, a jackass.


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