The day I went without a DVR

Back in 2013, I tried an interesting experiment. I put down the remote for one whole day and watched TV the way I used to when I was a kid. Back then I still had a DVR with a front panel control so I could change the channel by getting up. But I couldn’t pause, I couldn’t rewind. I couldn’t skip commercials.

You know what, though… if you read the article you see that there’s something to watching TV like that. I mean no one likes commercials. That’s especially true if you have to watch the same one over and over. But, I found there’s a certain flow to life without a remote, and it’s not a bad thing.

The zen of TV watching

Watching TV without a remote is much like listening to a whole record on vinyl. It forces you to be in the moment, to pay attention to what’s right in front of you. I’m not sure I could do it all the time but every so often, I’ve repeated the experiment. I put down not only the remote but the phone and you know what? I get a lot more out of the show I’m watching and I feel more relaxed when I’m done. This is especially true if it’s one of those really dense dramas like Game of Thrones. While that show practically begs you to keep IMDB or Wikipedia open just to figure out what’s going on, looking away from the TV means you miss a lot of dialogue and action.

Try giving it up for a day or two

There’s a lot of talk these days about “mindfulness” and “things that bring you joy.” I think that if you actually put down that phone and remote and concentrate on watching TV, you’ll find two things pretty quickly:

TV is better than you think…

There’s a lot of really well-made TV out there. There’s complex drama and nuanced comedy. There’s a lot of really deep documentary stuff and some fun fantasies. But you’ll miss most of that if you spend half the show texting. Try it without the phone and you might realize how impressed you can be.

…except when it’s not

You’ll also find that there’s a fair amount of stuff you watch just so the house has some noise in it. I bet there is at least one show you tune into every single week that would be utterly intolerable if you stared right at it for an hour. Since everyone’s talking about “tossing away things that bring you joy” maybe you’ll decide to toss away some of that fake unscripted nonsense on television. If enough people do that, maybe it will go away.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.