When guests enter your house for the first time, they sometimes try to get a sense of who you are by checking out your bookshelves, the art on your walls or your array of personal photos. Occasionally a brazen few will sneak a peek inside your medicine cabinet. That’s fine as far as it goes, but if they really want to peer into your soul, they should check out your DVR.
What does your DVR say about you? Are you the kind of obsessive-compulsive person with only a few carefully curated items on his or her Recorded List? Or maybe you’re a slob who never clears out any recorded shows until the hard drive is full. Or maybe you’re indecisive and can’t decide what shows to erase and what to keep. (Really, at this stage, will you ever watch the final episode of “Talking Bad” or the premiere of “Mom”?)
Your DVR exposes who you want to be and, more painfully, who you really are. DVRs are highly aspirational. You record programs that reflect the person you dream of becoming, but then in the harsh glare of reality, you find out you’re really not like that after all.
Last year, when “Great Performances” produced a documentary about “Magical Mystery Tour,” I somehow ended up recording an entire season of other performances, and now my DVR is full of PBS-sponsored concerts, ballets and plays. I would love to be the kind of person who kicks back on a Friday night, cracks open a bottle of chardonnay, and watches the Paul Taylor ballet company perform in Paris, but almost always I’m not really up to it when the rubber hits the road. This year “Great Performances” has been offering some very worthy productions of Shakespeare’s history plays. In my imagination, I’m a cultivated viewer who voluntarily watches “Henry V,” but there it sits on my DVR, unviewed, mocking my own middlebrow pretensions. I really should erase it, but I don’t really want to admit to myself that I’m really the kind of guy who deletes Shakespeare. So it remains untouched, waiting for the day when a few English majors come over and watch it with me.
The DVR also exposes your secret vices and guilty pleasures. Since 75% of television is the video equivalent of junk food, the DVR is bound to reflect a few tastes and behaviors you’d rather not have the world know about. Maybe you’re an addict of “The Long Island Madame.” Maybe you get management tips from “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Maybe you think “Sex in the City” has some good relationship insights – and you’re a guy. Or maybe you watch old Nickelodeon shows because they remind you of the time when you and your now-always-texting college freshman used to sit on the couch and laugh at “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
In our household, the dirty little secret is the episodes of “Glee” that are starting to pile up. My wife and son live in fear that someone will come into the house and think that THEY are the ones who gave this teen-oriented show a season pass.
The DVR also reveals how lazy you are. Start with the list of shows that are scheduled to be recorded. How recently did you update that? My DVR is still set to record new episodes of “The Office,” not because I think the show will miraculously come back to life, but because I never deleted it from my “shows to record” function.
Another indicator of video slovenliness is how full your “previously recorded” file is. I’m pretty proud of myself for finally deleting all those unwatched “Daily Shows” that John Oliver hosted last summer – shows I fully intended to view back when Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal was so fresh. But with the government shutdown sucking all the oxygen out of the room, I eventually admitted to myself that I would never watch them. Unfortunately, I still haven’t given up on rewatching last season’s “Mad Men,” so there they are, still taking up space while I contemplate whether I can ever bear seeing Don Draper melt down again.
Finally, the DVR can provide some insight into the state of your marriage or family life. Is one partner hogging all the space? Does someone “accidentally” delete unwatched shows that the other partner recorded? Do parents let their kids walk all over them and record dozens of episodes of “Teen Mom”?
Let’s face it. We all watch so much TV that our DVRs are bound to say more about us than we care to admit. So before you take that next personality test in a magazine or online forum, take a hard look at your DVR. You might not like what you see.