Yes, it is a glorified VCR (aka VHS), but the Digital Video Recorder (aka Personal Video Recorder) is the greatest invention since colour TV. In Canada, for some reason, we don't have Tivo. So you basically have three options: cable, satellite or computer. The computer option is a bit like playing video games on your computer instead of buying a video game console. In theory, it is cheaper, in practice, it will cost you more and will be fare less convenient. I tell you, the DVR (aka PVR) will change your life. And although it will cost you about $240 per year (plus tax), you will actually save money because you won't be subjected to all those commercials. So you advertisers don't totally freek out, let me tell you I still press "play" to watch some commercials such as the Bell Beavers and the Familiprix guy.
In Canada, both Rogers and Cogeco (and other cable providers?) have video on demand. Video on demand is uber cool, but not nearly as practical or useful as it should be. First, video on demand only offers a few hundred hours of programming to chose from, much of it pay per view. Second, you often get annoying error messages advising you to try again later. Third, it isn't instant. It will take you a good 10 seconds to download a program description, in text only format, and an other 10 to 20 seconds to start the program. If you pause to go to the bathroom, it will take you a good 20 seconds to resume the program. That is pretty dam quick if you are used to sitting through commercials or going to the nearest video store. But if you have a DVR (aka PVR)...
A really good PVR will let you record two programs at once and watch a recorded program. Alternatively, you can watch two live shows at once thanks to picture-in-picture. You can also watch a pre-recorded show and have a live show in the picture-in-picture. You can also pause live TV and rewind. He said what? Rewind and hear it again. Have you ever sat through a weather forcast of Canada and forget to pay attention when it comes to your city? With a DVR, no problem. You just rewind. If you miss it again, you can rewind again and pause. That scrolling text on Newsworld suddenly catch your attention: rewind.
You can start to watch a hockey game an hour later and watch the final minutes at the same time as your neighbors (watching Coach's corner becomes optional). Do you really need 1500 beer commercials per game? No. Your girlfriend suddenly becomes in the mood during the Simpsons? Not a problem. Mark my words, it will change your life. All for about $240 per year. But you will save money. If you eat fast food or dream about an expensive car (or any car, really) than you can blame commercials. With a DVR, TV revolvs around your life, not the other way around.
Here in New Brunswick, the only PVR (aka DVR) offered by Rogers is a one tuner version, albeit in HD format. You see, much of New Brunswick and Newfoundland used to be with Shaw cable, and a few years back Rogers and Shaw switched territories. For some reason, when it came to Digital Video Recorders, Maritimers got stuck with the substandard Shaw provider (Motorola). A dual tuner Motorola DVR exists, but Rogers isn't offering it. Having used the dual tuner DVR with Rogers in Ontario and Vidéotron in Quebec, I can assure you the Motorola mono-tuner is the poorer cousin. If I didn't move around so much, I'd opt for satellite just so I could get the DVR dual tuner from ExpressVu.
-ExpressVu (Canada wide, sort of, check with your local phone company): Dual Tuner PVR . You can't get video on demand from satellite, but they do offer a dual tuner digital HD PVR (DVR) with surround sound! Let me know if you figure out the price...
-Star Choice (Canada wide): Dual-tuner HD-DVR (only), $539, includes installation (actually costs more, but you get "programming credits").
-Rogers in Ontario. Dual Tuner PVR, for about $19.95 per month (give or take $5, depending on package and fine print).
-Rogers in New Brunswick and Newfoundland: Mono-tuner PVR (in HD) $19.95 per month (give or take $5, depending on package and fine print). NOT SURROUND SOUND COMPATIBLE.
-Cogeco: They do business in parts of Ontario (for example Kingston) and Quebec (for example, Shawinigan). According to the web site, they use the same mono-tuner HD DVR by Motoroal as Rogers does in the Maritimes (I could have sworn I had better when living in Kingston). $19.95 per month.
-Shaw: Serious about it's relationship with Motorola, Albertans and BCers lucky enough to be in Shaw territory can take advantage of the dual tuner Motorola PVR for $398 or $12 per month on installments (subject to credit approval).
-In much of Quebec, and Rockland, Ontario, your cable provider is Vidéotron. The dual tuner PVR is available for $299. You can also rent it for $19.95 per month with a 1 year commitment (or pre-payed for $199.99). With a two year commitment, it is only 14.95$ per month ($299.95 pre-payed). The dual-tuner HD DVR is available for $499 or $26.95 per month with a 1 year commitment ($19.95 per month with a two year commitment).
-For those of you who don't live in Newfoundland, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta or BC, check for details from you local cable provider. Forget about LOOK. Although, notwhistanding electricity, their service is relatively cheap (available only on urban Ontario and Quebec) but for some reason, they don't provide a DVR.
Remember, a DVR (aka PVR) will also increase your electricity bill. It is essentially like having a computer on your TV (always on). Granted, electricity is relatively cheap in Canada, it is sill a few extra dollars per month to consider.
With IFC and the Documentary Channel, you are all set. You have both entertainment and intellect covered. Plus, if you want, you can watch NBC's Thursday night line up, Monday's Two and a Half Men and New Kristeen , Sunday's offering of Desperate Housewives, Showcase's Trailer Park Boys and the amuzing Billable Hours. The occasional reality show (I recommend the Amazing Race on Sunday) and, last but not least, your choice of Simpsons episodes, new or old, always good.
I have a personal appreciation for both "The Sopranos and Entourage". However, as they are both commercial free, you hardly need a DVR to enjoy them, especially since they are replayed throughout the week.
My review of last year's TV line-up: