It used to be that once the spring TV season ended, Iâd pretty much shut off my TV and take a break for the next three months. Occasionally, I might check out a rerun, but by and large, the time between the end of basketball season and the start of football was always a TV wasteland for me.
Of course that was before TiVo. Once I got a taste of time shifting, I realized that my television season never had to end. Over the years, Iâve missed a lot of good TV, but between the TV syndication agreements and TiVoâs ability to automatically record every episode, the summer has turned out to be a perfect time to catch up on shows that Iâve missed. Whether itâs been going back and watching every single Twilight Zone or catching the X-Files a decade after it aired, TiVoâs season pass functionality has supercharged my reruns in a way, that was never possible before.
Some shows are better suited for summer TiVoing, but when it comes to episodic content, there is a downside to TiVo reruns. The shows arenât always in the order that they originally aired and itâs almost always impossible to catch the first episodes. This isnât a big deal for sitcoms and some reality shows, but when it comes to episodic content, it leaves you confused over the storyline and can spoil earlier episodes, you havenât seen yet.
That is where my Netflix account kicks in. If I know that I really want to see a series that tells a story, Iâll use Netflix to make sure that I get to see it in order. If Iâm not sure if a show will be interesting or not, Iâll record a couple of episodes on TiVo and test drive it before committing to watching the entire series. This has improved my overall television experience because there is always at least some fresh content that I can watch.
Over the last few years, the studios have also started releasing more and more new series each summer. Itâs a chance for them to try out more experimental shows or concepts. A lot of these new shows are things that I probably wouldnât check out during the normal TV season, but with a little extra downtime, Iâm willing to experiment with new programs, even if there is a good chance they wonât be back again next summer.
So far there have only been a couple of the summer premiers, that have become favorites, but if I can find two or three decent shows to start following, it would be enough to keep me busy. Here are some of the new shows, that I plan on checking out over the next couple of months.
The Loop â This show was one of the bright spots from last summerâs TV schedule, even if it didnât get any hype. I saw a couple of episodes last year and think that the show is comic genius. Way better than Stacked, even if it doesnât have Pamela Anderson in it. Iâm not sure if it will survive, but I plan on enjoying it, for as long as it lasts.
Pirate Masters â I almost missed the series premier, but luckily I saw a blog post in time to record it. Iâve been avoiding the early reviews because of spoilers, but I pretty much love anything that Mark Burnett is connected to. I donât think it will be as good as Survivor, but I do need a good replacement for Trump.
The Last Comic Standing â This isnât a new series, but they are starting a new season. I started watching early on last year and immediately got hooked. The reality TV parts can be a little lame, but combining American Idol with comedians is a successful equation. Iâm still surprised that Comedy Central hasnât started their own show yet.
The Closer â TNT starts airing the second season of The Closer in a few weeks and Iâm looking forward to the new shows. Iâm still not 100% caught up in the series yet, but I like what Iâve seen and think that this will be one that I look forward to each week. It has some rough edges at times, but is still worth watching.
The Dead Zone â This is on my sometimes list. I like recording the Dead Zone because this is a show that you can watch out of order. Itâs not good enough for me to want to see every episode, but I like having a few episodes here and there, in case Iâm in the mood for a creepy supernatural thriller.
Standoff â This is a returning show from Fox. Right now itâs on life support, but the premise looks interesting. Normally, this is the sort of show that Iâd try to go back and catch on Netflix, if it caught on, but since the showâs ratings are on the bubble, Fox has made the first season available for streaming online. My plan is to start recording season 2, while Iâm getting caught up on the first 10 episodes from last season.
The 4400 â I really want to TiVo the new season of 4400, but have heard so many good things about this show, that Iâve promoted it to my Netflix queue. With the new season coming out, I may still get a season pass, but I want to watch it from the beginning, so that I know what is going on.
American Inventor â Iâm not a big fan of American Idol, but have always had a lot of respect for the entrepreneurial spirit. I missed the show last year, but am anxious to check it out for the first time this summer. I may cancel my season pass early on, but I want to at least see how good their ideas are.
Painkiller Jane â Iâve always been a sucker for female spy type shows, so I was especially interested when I saw that the Sci-Fi channel was coming out with an addition to the genre. The showâs premise is basically La Femme Nikita meets Claire from Heroes. I watched the pilot and I wanted to like it, but the acting and writing was too b-level for me to enjoy it. Iâm going to stick in there for a few more episodes, but so far Iâm skeptical.
Americaâs Got Talent â This show looks like a train wreck, but I still canât look away. Between itâs Gong show roots and David Hasselhoff as one of the hosts, this is either going to be absolutely terrible or a runaway sleeper hit. Either way, I probably wonât be able to stop watching, no matter how bad it gets.
Burn Notice â Last year, Heroes was the show that I anticipated the most, but this year itâs Burn Notice. The series has been described as a cross between the A-Team and Alias and will star Bruce Campbell, who happens to be one of my favorite actors. If you did not see him in Jack of All Trades or the Evil Dead movies, you should check them out. Everything he does has a very unique style. He is the best b-movie actor in Hollywood.
Iâm usually willing to give most shows at least one chance. To help make sure that I record new shows, I rely on two tools to keep me up to date. First, Iâve set up a Wishlist for the word âpilotâ? and have restricted it to 2007. I get a lot of false positives, when airline pilots are mentioned in the description, but it catches a lot of shows that I never would have known about.
If TiVo were to manually strip out the false positives and create a Guru Guide feed, only for brand new shows, I think that they could solve this Wishlist bug. In theory I like the concept of the Guru Guide, but in actuality, I havenât found a lot of new shows, from the suggestions. If there was a feed for only new shows, people would subscribe to it. Rather than just focusing on celebrities and partners, TiVo should build Guru Guides that hold more mainstream appeal. Right now you can set up a Wishlist for comedy movies, but if TiVoâs Guru Guide could show me the top ten Comedies, based on what the TiVoâs audience has rated them, it would be a much more powerful option and a more mainstream alternative than some of the more advanced Wishlist features.
The second way that I find new shows is to read a lot of television blogs and keep my eyes peeled for new things coming out. When I find something that looks interesting, I immediately log into TiVoâs website and schedule it with a few mouse clicks. This is good for event shows and out of the ordinary things, that I might not normally catch. One downside to relying on TiVoâs website, is that you can only schedule shows, if it has guide data already associated with it. Because shows like Burn Notice donât start for a few more weeks, I have to remember to check back or I could possibly miss the show.
One way that TiVo could get past this obstacle would be to let me set Wishlists directly from the website or maybe some kind of a reminder system where they could send me an email to remind me to go back and schedule it. They could also expand their data on the website, so that users could see tentative guide data later in the month and get notified only if there is a conflict.
Neither tool is perfect, but both do a pretty good job of making sure that new content shows up on my radar. There is more good TV out there, than I have time to watch, but there something special about getting in at the beginning of a series. Between the new summer series and having access to âre-runsâ? that Iâve never seen, there is still plenty of new content out there, even if the smash hits wonât be airing again, until the fall.
Davis Freeberg is a technology enthusiast living in the Bay Area. He enjoys writing about movies, music, and the impact that digital technology is having on traditional media. You can read more of his musings at www.davisfreeberg.com. Davis is a TiVo and Netflix stockholder.