My Personal Prime Time Television Lineup

It’ been almost a year since I cut ties with my subscription television provider and migrated to free television.  I fully expected to have to have to sacrifice content or even watch less television, rather I have actually begun watching more television that I ever have in my adult life.  So much so that I feel that my television viewing has become such a major part of my life that I thought it would be worth writing about. I hope that you think so too.

Below is what I am calling my “personal primetime television lineup“.  While not an exhaustive list of what I watch on a day to day basis, it is a fairly good representation of what you will find on my TiVo Now Playing List throughout this television season, which means primetime is any time.  If you think there is a show that I am missing, let me know in the comments below.

TiVo Now Playing Television

Lie to Me

Recommended by a friend of mine, I got totally hooked on this show just a few weeks ago. I began catching up watching season 1 and season 2 on Netflix Instant and caught up to the mid point of season 3 on Hulu Plus.

I have really enjoyed getting to know the truth seeking duo of Dr. Cal Lightman and Dr. Gillian Foster, as well as the rest of their team.  Cal is basically a human lie detector and Gillian is his business partner, therapist and potential love interest.  From their unconventional way of seeking out the truth to their back and forth at the office there is never a dull moment.  The season finale was a couple weeks ago, but season 2 and 3 can be found on Hulu Plus and seasons 1 and 2 can be found on Netflix Instant. I’ll for sure be tuning in for the next season.  If you have not watched this show I highly recommend you start back at season 1 and work your way forward.

Chuck

Another show of which I am a big fan.  This show has been on life support since the middle of Season 2 and every episode, to me, is icing on a tasty cake.

Part James Bond, part Steve Urkle, Chuck the super spy with a CIA database in his brain saves the world one mission at a time with his love interest (and CIA agent) Sarah Walker and her NSA partner, John Casey. An easy series to get into without seeing many previous episodes, but also extremely easy to catch up on with almost every episode available free online.

Nikita

Recommended to me by my TiVo, I usually watch this show the same night that it airs.

Nikita, a rogue agent of a super secret shadow government agency called Division, is on a mision to avenge the death of the man she fell in love with while deep under cover.  She gets help from Alex, a Division recruit that Nikita trains to resist their training, and few others that pop up along the way including a mercenary and a CIA desk jockey.  Season 1 is just wrapping up with Winter and well worth going back to the beginning if this spy action thriller interests you.

Modern Family

I started watching this show based on comments about it on Twitter.

Modern family features three families that range from the traditional nuclear family to the highly non-traditional. You will laugh so hard at times that you will cry and then you will laugh some more.   Also, I am very happy to see that Ed O’Neill found a home post Married with Children.  It does not matter what episode you begin on, it will always make sense and always be laugh out loud fun.

Fairly Legal

I’ll admit it, I have a little bit of an addition to legal drama, especially ones with a comedic twist.  Stumbled across this one while browsing the library at Amazon Video On Demand.

This half comedy, half legal drama features a character by the name of Kate Reed who is a lawyer turned mediator while grieving over the recent loss of her father. Kate believes that every conflict can be worked out to be a “win/win”.  Her tactics are unconventional and quite entertaining. This series is only a couple episodes old so catching up will be rather easy and is a must watch if you enjoyed other shows like Boston Legal or Outlaw.

Fringe

Recommended by a friend, I have been watching this weekly since the beginning.

Olivia, Peter and Walter (along with a few others) explore the world of “fringe science” while investigating crimes for the FBI when they discover another universe that is an alternative reality to their own that seems to be on a collision course with their own.  Fans of the X-Files will appreciate the graphics between scenes and a story line that any sci-fi lover will enjoy.  Fringe will no doubt be inshrined in the great hall of sci-fi cult classics.  Currently in it’s third season, you are going to have some catching up to do.

CNET – Apple Byte

While not quite an Apple Fanboy, I am definitely Apple-curious and this weekly show, hosted by Brian Tong, from CNET wets my whistle “for all the good and bad from inside the world of Apple”.  This podcast is available on just about every internet connected device and a couple that are not.  If you are a fan of Apple (or are just curious) this is a must watch.

CNET – Buzz Report

This weekly show about “the tech news that everyone is talking about” is hosted by CNET’s Molly Wood.  From “the gadget of the week” to “what’s hot in tech” to “what’s clogging the tubes” (think youtube), this CNET podcast will keep you well informed.  Again, this podcast is available on just about every internet connected device and is one of the most informative tech podcasts on the net.

Geakbeat.TV with Cali Lewis

The sweetheart of tech podcasts, Cali Lewis bring you the tech news that everyone SHOULD be talking about.  You would never know that this show is recorded out a spare bedroom in front of a wall painted to be a green screen.  It rivals anything over at CNET, but on a fraction of the budget.  Again, a must download for all lovers of tech.

The Big Bang Theory

This one was recommended by a friend who is in working on his doctorate. I figured if he can give up his only 30 minutes of free time a week to this show, I could give it a try and it has not let me down.   Now in its fourth season, we follow the lives of 4 nerdy, university researchers and their not so nerdy neighbor who befriends the quirky quartet, trying to fit into their world between shifts at the Cheesecake Factory and acting auditions.  Some of the jokes will not make sense without the context of previous episodes, but most should be able to catch on within just a few episodes so jump into this one at any time.

V – Sesaon 2

Another good sci-fi drama that ABC has kind of sparingly aired only a handfull of episodes at a time, keeping me hungry for more.

This series features Anna, a extra-terrestrial visitor, and her fleet of flying saucers who seem to be here for peaceful purposes.  However, we quickly find out that she and her followers have many ulterior motives. Trying to get to the bottom of Anna’s deceptions is Erica Evans an FBI agent who quickly gets recruited into a V resistance group called the 5th Column that includes others, including a V defector, that have their own concerns about the visitors.  They do a decent job recapping at the beginning of each episode so this should be a series that you can jump into mid-series, but I recommend catching up on this series before watching the current episodes.

Dexter

Always on my todo list, I started watching season 1 and season 2 of Dexter on Netflix Instant.  Currently I am watching Season 3 on Amazon Video On Demand.

It’s really difficult to describe this series without turning off most people.  In short, Dexter is a serial killer.  However he only kills the “bad guys” and lives by a strict moral code that is tuned to execute justice when the regular justice system fails.  Again, you are going to have to take my word for it.  It is not near as bloody as I first expected it to be, but is hardly a family friendly flick.  Like I said, seasons 1 & 2 can be found on Netflix Instant, seasons 3 & 4 can be found on Amazon Video On Demand or on DVD.  Season 5 is currently in reruns on Showtime, but will likely be available on Amazon Video On Demand or DVD when season 6 begins.

The Cape

A series that I just got into, it may end up being my “rainy day” television watching.  With no other “super hero” series on this season, this show fills a special niche in my lineup.

This series features a character by the name of  Vince Faraday, a cop who has been framed for murder, who is taken in by carnival performers who train him in illusion and hand to hand combat resulting in him becoming the super hero known only as “The Cape”.  All episodes are available via Hulu Plus.

Royal Pains

This is series that I routinely watched after Burn Notice back in the subscription television days and continues purchasing via Amazon Video On Demand.

This series features a doctor names Hank who retreats to the Hamptons after being forced out of performing medicine in New York City after being wrongly blamed for a patient’s death.  While in the Hamptons Hank and his brother Ethan discover the lucrative practice of concierge medicine.  Along the way they befriend a physicians assistant and form “HankMed”, a concierge practice that serves the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy of the Hamptons.  Part mystery, part medicine, part sitcom, this series should appeal to a broad audience.  This is one of the rare series that the wife and I watch together.  She likes to call it the “cute doctor show”.  Another show that does a decent job recapping at the beginning of each episodes you should feel free to join this series wherever you please.

PBS Newshour

If you want to know what is going on in the world, you gotta watch this show.  Though about twice as long as the evening news cast on “the big three”, you will actually get the most complete news briefing out there.  I used to be a cable news junkey, and still podcast a couple shows from time to time, but I never got the rich information that I get from this show.  Available nightly on most PBS stations, they also can be podcasted in audio or video and even have an iphone app.

The Daily Show with John Stewart

Once I get informed with the PBS Newshour, I get entertained with John Stewart. Probably one of the shows that I miss from subscription television, I have tried to keep up with this show by viewing via legal, online channels.  Now that this show is available via Hulu Plus, I have it back in my regulars. Though not available live, I still feel okay watching it a day to a week later.  The Daily Show is not really about breaking news, rather about poking fun at the news and the humor has a longer shelf life, assuming that your politics allows for this kind of humor.

$#*! My Dad Says
Bases upon the twitter account of the same name. This sitcom tickles the funny bone every time. I’ve heard people say that the show is not as good as the twitter feed, but the film is never as good as the book. Right?

What do you like?

I’ve shown you my favorites this season.  Think I missed something or am just watching too much television?  Let me know about it in the comments below.

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The Invention of Free TV

Well, it seems that this loyal reader called my cutting of cable in my post, “My Break Up with XM Radio“.  I have indeed severed my pay TV service with the local cable company.  However, unlike most who do this, I have opted completely (or at least almost) out of the pay TV service model.  I’ll get into the specifics, but first let’s take a look at the situation that lead to this  life changing (for some) decision.

A few months ago, I realized one of my dreams of being a Nealson Family.  Finally, I would be part of the few, proud whom determine what the rest of the world gets to watch on TV.  While filling out the the infamous logs, I quickly realized a couple things.  First, Neilson’s measurement methodology is incredibly flawed. (look for a future posting on this topic alone).  Second, the vast majority of what I was watching was readily available free, over the air OR online.  Something is going to have to change and change it did.

Like many pay TV subscribers, I had become accustomed to DVR service.  Before I cut pay TV altogether,  about 2 years ago I transitioned to TiVo when I became frustrated with the local cable company’s dvr offering.  This transition allowed me to subscribe to a “basic” package, but could still digitally recorded.  This allowed me to time shift programming, skip commercials, pause live TV and more.  The TiVo platform was even smarter that the cable company dvr, automatically recording programs that it thought matched my interests or matched a preset search or “wishlist” that I created.  I could even export programs to my laptop or iPod to watch when away from home.  If that was not enough, I actually saved money as I did not have to subscribe to the “advanced” TV service.  However, there is a small up front cost for equipment and a monthly fee for TiVo service, but in my case it was less than what I was paying to “rent” from the cable company.

The next epiphany came with my increased use of online video services like iTunes, Amazon OnDemand, Netflix, ESPN 360, Hulu and even YouTube.  For quite a while we have supplemented our “normal” TV viewing with streaming Netflix, archives of sporting events on ESPN 360 and even short,  funny video clip on YouTube.  Since having TiVo service, we have rented and/or purchased movies and TV shows (including many popular cable networks) from Amazon all downloaded/streamed directly to my TV.  Additionally, most of the major pro sports leagues have gone online offering online editions of the packages that were once only available with an expensive pay TV subscription.  This year, I subscribed to an entire season of hockey with NHL Game Center.  For about the cost of  upgrading to digital or “advance” cable alone, I could get access to all live games (subject to blackout of course) PLUS replays of all the games from the current season AND the previous two. All games are available within 48 hours of the game’s original air date.  All in all, it seemed that Internet based programming would supplement my need for content above and beyond what the big four networks would provide.

Which brings us to the most mystical part of my journey, transitioning to over the air (OTA) television.  When I purchased my house, there had not been cable service for many years.  All that time the residents of this house tied their TV(s) to an antenna in the attic.  However, now that OTA is digital, what am I to do?  In short, nothing new.  One of the biggest misnomers in the “digital transition” is that you would need a digital antenna.  While it is true that you need either a digital converter or a TV with a digital tuner, you DO NOT need a new antenna.

So what exactly can I watch with just an antenna?  Think about your favorite programs and then think about what networks they are on.  If you are like me, the vast majority of your “must see” list is on NBC, ABC, CBS or FOX.  Also, I found some channels that were not available from my local cable company that played syndicated reruns of classic TV shows (think cable networks when not in prime time) as well as a Universal Sports, a network that airs “Olympic Style” sports programming most of the day.  During the recent Winter Olympics it was like ESPN Sports Center for the Olympics.

So, tying it all together now. In order to make my own personal digital transition, I purchased a TiVo HD DVR.  It is capable of recording two OTA programs at a time PLUS it can download an ever growing list of news and entertainment programming from the Internet.   I can rent just about everything on the shelf at either the movie rental store or even Red Box, but not have to leave my house to do so or worry about returning a movie or paying for extra days rental.  For prime time, cable network programs (such as Burn Notice, Mad Men or even Jersey Shore) I can purchase each episode or the entire season which can then be viewed at my leisure on TiVo.  Lastly, I can even watch YouTube programming.  On a side note, you have NEVER experience the full potential time suck of YouTube until you have it available on your living room TV.

I have experimented with some other technologies like Boxee and even looked at other devices like Roku. However, I would like to hear your story.  Comment below to tell how you cut the cable.