Tivogate (Like Watergate, But With “Tivo”)

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Okay, I think I have a story here. A news story. Real journalism, not just jokes about what religions superheroes are.*

Here’s the scoop: a bunch of my Hollywood jerk friends have gotten calls from DirectTV offering free High Definition upgrades for their satellite TV receivers. But when the DirectTV guy installs the upgraded HD receiver, what he doesn’t tell them is: HE IS PUTTING IN A CRAPPY DIRECTTV DVR WHICH SUCKS AND YOU CAN’T USE TIVO ANY MORE. That’s right. They are secretly replacing our Tivos with… non-Tivos.

I know two people this has happened to. Two people. That is what journalists call “double sourcing.” (I mean, I assume that’s what it’s called.) The DirectTV DVR is beyond super-horrible, say the Hollywood jerks who’ve had these inferior dealies foisted upon them. I’ve seen these craptacular DirectTV DVRs, and I concur. If Tivo is an iPhone (beautiful, elegant, intuitive, expensive), the DirectTV DVR is a rusty can being chewed on by a goat.

Behold the difference: The DirectTV DVR has no Now Playing page. No Wishlists. No Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down feature. How are viewers supposed to register their antipathy towards Landscapers Challenge? Stark, ugly graphics. No Tivo bloop noise. NO TIVO BLOOP NOISE. (The most soothing sound in this world or the next has been taken away, like Victorian Nanny Curldlepinch pulling the pacifier from a golden-curled babe while father is in Batavia looking after the family’s rubber interests.) If you left your Tivo on East St. Louis’ most crack-ridden corner overnight, this stripped-down shell of a DVR is what you’d have left in the morning.

I called DirectTV to get deeper into this story, and spoke to a guy named Willie. (This is called “reporting.”) Willie told me that DirectTV just launched a bunch of super satellites into the sky which are going to blast amazing new HD channels onto our HD TVs — and Tivo DVR technology isn’t “good enough” to get these new channels and their extra features. What features? Interactive sports statistics, cooed Willie. (I hate non-interactive sports statistics, so these must be great.)

What happened to the wonderful marriage between Tivo and DirectTV? “We don’t partnership with them anymore,” said Willie, bravely creating a brand new verb. So now DirectTV is trying to bully Tivo out of the HD market by a) broadcasting signals that Tivo can’t receive, and b) sending a dude to your house to secretly install the DVR equivalent of an Oriental Chicken and Rice Lean Cuisine.

A quick call to Tivo confirmed this. (By the way, Tivo customer service is also beautiful, elegant and intuitive.) Even the best 3-Series Ultra Excalibur Platinum-Class Tivo can’t get the new HD DirectTV channels. The Tivo phone lady, Liz, suggested I get digital cable if I wanted to use HD Tivo and get access to the most HD channels. Undergo the life-rending hassle of switching from satellite to cable? Just because I have an emotional attachment to my DVR? Are you on crack… whoever that question might be asked to… Liz, I guess.

Damn DirectTV for jamming an inferior product down consumers’ throats via bullying and guile. Is Tivo doomed to be like the Tucker automobile, too good for this world? (As dramatized in what is widely-acknowledged as the greatest Francis Ford Coppola movie of all time, Tucker: The Man and His Dream.) Is Tivo yet another tragic jewel, ground into glass by the lazy mediocrity of corporate monopolies?

Here’s what you can do. Don’t let DirectTV sneak in and replace your Tivo with their elephant loaf of a DVR. You don’t need more HD channels that let you see Chris Matthews’ forehead veins in 1080p. Just use your terrific old Tivo until we’re all watching TV on the internet, which will happen in about fifteen seconds from now. Then laugh joylessly as both Tivo and DirectTV go the way of the dodo.

* What religions superheroes are: Spiderman — Church of Latter Day Arachno-Jesus, Conan the Barbarian — Cromish, Zorro — Zoroastrian, Martian Manhunter — Spethodist (Space Methodist), the Flash — Scientologist (that’s the same thing as “Scientist,” right? A Scientologist… someone who totally believes in science), and Brother Voodoo — Voodoo.