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COMMENTARY

TiVo relay team nears the finish line

This family wants to hold the record for experiencing an ad-free Olympics.

August 20, 2008|Phil Goldberg | Times Staff Writer

It took us a long time to get to this point.

Lots of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, grueling hours of training, loss of self for the betterment of the team.

It has been a dream of ours since August 2007, the year we got our 40-inch, flat-screen TV complete with a top-of-the-line TiVo system.

We knew then what we had to do. All roads pointed to the Beijing Olympics of 2008.

We were focused on one goal and one goal only:

To become the first family in history to watch the entire Olympics without enduring a single commercial. And if some other family had accomplished this, well, at least we would tie the record.

This truly would be a feat of Olympian proportions.

It would take a total family commitment, but we were ready for the challenge from Day One.

It would take much work on remote control finger manipulation, crucial wrist action and choosing just the right spot on our couch and corner chair to make us a finely tuned machine.

Inspired by my high school buddy Larry, who has a 700-inch flat-screen TV and five remote controls to juggle, we set out to test our own skills. Our team consists of my daughter, who is working the anchor leg each night; my wife, who takes the middle portion of the evening; and myself. I work the opening leg, when my teammates know I will still be awake to perform the task at hand.

We started off our training regimen slowly, whipping through commercials on "Jeopardy!" and gradually fast-forwarding through Alex Trebek's always fruitless attempts at humor.

We then tried "The Jerry Springer Show," this time watching the commercials and fast-forwarding through the program.

It was a methodical, sometimes brutal process, but you learned that one slip-up could cost you viewing perhaps a Depends shields and Hanes underwear commercial before you gained control again.

Finding ways to hit the enter button to resume programming at precisely the right moment can save you valuable seconds against your neighbors, who are probably striving for the same goal.

The opening ceremony has long since come and gone, and apparently all that practice has paid off.

Not a single muff on the first night. I set the tone with a magnificent display of manual dexterity and discipline that allowed us not only to skip the first TV ads but to escape any of Matt Lauer's comments, something my teammates picked up on.

Of course, patience is a key, seeing that you must wait the necessary time after TV coverage begins to actually start watching and be able to accurately fast-forward all the way through the normal four-hour time slot without hitting real time.

You could read a book while waiting, but we chose to practice with a TiVoed episode of "The Simpsons," as most serious remote control competitors would do.

When it came time to pass the remote on the first night, it was a seamless act of precision. My wife scooped up the contraption in one fluid motion and did not skip a beat.

She managed to get through not only Lauer but Bob Costas' comments as well while nimbly passing over a highly distracting Howie Mandel promotion.

All went well for the remainder of the night. We whittled viewer time to one hour of the allotted four and stayed out of real time the entire evening.

The following night, the first of the competition, we experienced our first misstep of the Games.

I inadvertently dropped the remote while passing through a Budweiser commercial and our dog came swooping in quickly, but I lunged forward, grabbed it back and with one flick pressed enter to get back to live programming.

The recovery saved us valuable points and a saliva-covered remote control, which can be especially tricky to negotiate.

It's now the second full week of competition and we're still plugging away, getting our viewing time under an hour and working toward our goal of 45 minutes, still not having watched a single commercial.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us.

We'll keep them straight and on the remote.

--

phil.goldberg@latimes.com

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