Thursday, November 16, 2006
Ode to the Sling Box
I watched “Gilmore Girls” with my Mom today. She pressed fast forward when there was a commercial, and I pressed pause for periodic bathroom breaks. Incredible, isn’t it? Oh, and P.S. I live in Paris, France and my mother, in Cedar Grove, NJ.
Ostensibly a banal mother-daughter activity, my little TV-watching moment with Mom was actually a miracle in modern technology. At 9 am EST and 3 PM in Paris, as I sat on my couch in my Paris apartment, I was able to join my mother in New Jersey for a morning/afternoon TIVO break. With the same remote, mind you, which, for the untrained Slingbox user, can be a bit strange. As the first segment of the show made way for a long commercial break, I went to click the fast-forward button on my remote (aka virtual remote on my computer screen) but noticed that the images were already moving forward quickly, then stopped right as the show came back on. After checking my apartment for French TV-loving ghosts, I soon realized that it was not a Gallic “Gilmore Girls” fan who had broken into my computer, but rather my own mother, sitting in our living room, using the actual remote (and scaring the merde out of me). It was the epitome of laziness; not only was I lying on my couch watching TV on a Wednesday afternoon (G-d bless the 35-hour French work week), but I had my very own assistant to fast-forward through the commercials and “play” as soon as the show came back on. Incredible. However, trans-Atlantic TV viewing sessions do have their drawbacks; our bathroom breaks weren’t timed accordingly and there were admittedly some remote-control battles as I attempted to rewind when Mom had already seen a scene and vice versa. At least we couldn’t kick each other for leg room on the couch.
While I admit that a 24-year old young woman watching a cheesy WB – sorry, CW – show with her mother on a Wednesday afternoon is perhaps questionable, the fact that I was able to do it is quite extraordinary in my opinion. An exciting – if not imperative – addition to expat life. While the “Live TV” aspect of the Slingbox is perhaps its most interesting feature, let’s be honest: how many times will I actually want to watch my favorite show at 4 AM Paris time? Especially when I can watch commercial-free at a more reasonable hour. Even so, if I do happen to be counting French “moutons” (sheep) I’d much prefer a romp through the sordid love triangles at Seattle Grace (of Grey’s Anatomy, for those of you living under a large rock… or in a Slingbox-free household abroad) or a laugh with Pam and Michael and co. (The Office).
Tomorrow I’m having breakfast with Barbara Walters (The View) and perhaps a mid-morning snack with Martha (Stewart). Then maybe I’ll fall asleep with Dr. McDreamy by my side (Grey’s again- are you noticing a trend here?). When I recently expressed my extreme joy at this relatively new invention to a friend, the response was “So? You can download everything to itunes.” Yes, this is true, but a) I cannot download everything to itunes – some of my favorites such as Boston Legal and Without a Trace are still not available in that format, and a morning without Regis (of the Regis and Kelly variety) is well, no morning at all if you ask me; b) I can’t watch itunes downloads with family and friends overseas; and c) Slingbox shows don’t cost $1.99 per download. So back to b). Yes, I realize that perhaps a phone call, email, text, or “poke” on facebook.com are perhaps more sociable ways to communicate with my loves ones across the ocean. However, it was amazing just how close I felt to my mother today when we were watching “Gilmore Girls” together. I can hear you thinking: “Oh, what’s the big deal?” Yet for that one hour (or, let’s say, around 45 minutes minus the commercials), my mother knew where I was, what I was doing – even when I stopped to go the bathroom – which, for a mother whose daughter lives in another country, is a very big deal indeed.
Despite its assets, the Slingbox is surprisingly unknown even to many technology buffs. I was amazed at how easy it was to set up. I simply downloaded the software, typed in our access code and password and – voilà! – minutes later, our home remote appeared on my screen and everything that had been taped Chez Leffler for the past months appeared for my viewing pleasure. It was a historical moment in the life of Rebecca Leffler, you should’ve been there. Not only can I catch up on my favorite shows whenever I want, but I will also be able to catch major televised events – the Oscars, the Superbowl – in real time, rather than waiting for the re-runs to appear dubbed on French television. And although I am now immersed in French culture and enjoy my life here, sometimes it’s nice to cuddle up with Mom to watch TV as I munch on my peanut butter sandwiches and Oreo cookies.