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Love A TV Show? Watch It Live. Just Like It? DVR It.


There may be no better invention for the hard core couch potato than the digital video recorder. Something like 40 percent of homes have DVRs now. That's a lot of people recording shows and fast forwarding through the commercials. TV critic Eric Deggans discovered that the TV shows you set the DVR to record may tell you about yourself.

ERIC DEGGANS: Thanks to my DVR, I've learned there's a special kind of series which keeps clogging up my TV watching habits: the like-it-but-don't-love-it show. And for me, there may be no better example than FX's "American Horror Story."


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As Character) The evil, it's a force just like any other violent, pure physics, real and powerful, created by events, events that unleash a psychic energy into the environment where it's absorbed.

DEGGANS: Who doesn't love a spooky psychic describing the evil forces filling a family home? The series just won Jessica Lange a Golden Globe award, but it's not quite a must see for me. Still, I'm intrigued enough to keep in touch, using my DVR.

When I have a few extra minutes, there's nothing on Netflix and I'm tired of Words With Friends, maybe I'll call up an episode to figure out why two gay ghosts are trying to steal Connie Britton's baby. In other words, I like it, but I don't love it.

The Nielsen Company says "American Horror Story" is the second most time-shifted show of the TV season, behind USA Networks' "Covert Affairs."

And a peek at their list of the Top 20 shows people watch later on their DVRs reveals a few interesting patterns. Many are male-oriented, fantasy or science fiction shows such as "Walking Dead," "Grimm" or "Fringe." Just four have viewership above 10 million, so they may be popular but they're not blockbusters.

And the top five are all on cable TV, which means they have very specific fan bases. For me, besides the like-it-but-don't-love-it shows, my DVR unearthed another category - the used to like it show.


JAMES SPADER: (As Robert California) I'm selling the house actually.

DEGGANS: That's James Spader on NBC's "The Office."


SPADER: (As Robert California) Let's try this. Everyone, tonight my house, wear a swimsuit. Let's just call it a get together.

DEGGANS: Now, cool as Spader can be, he's leading a show that's foundered a bit since star Steve Carell left last year. But my DVR is still watching. Like an old flame you can't let go. Yes, "Grey's Anatomy," I'm talking about you. These shows reappear on my DVR, week after week, when I know I should cut them loose. But there's still a few programs which remain so-called appointment television - events you want to see live or close to it.


DEGGANS: "American Idol," the Super Bowl, "The Oscars," these are live competition and awards shows no one puts off watching unless you want everyone to tell you what happened before you get a chance to see it.

What the spread of DVRs really does, is raise the bar for TV providers. If you want me to watch your show in real time and sit through all those commercials, you better deliver entertainment I need to see right now. Otherwise, there's space right between "Project Runway" and "House" on my DVR for the next series I like just enough to watch when I'm ready.

INSKEEP: Eric Deggans, TV and media critic at the Tampa Bay Times.

We'd like to know what show you can't seem to let go of, even if you don't love it. Let us know on the MORNING EDITION Facebook page. And by the way, you can also follow this program on Twitter. We are @MorningEdition and @NPRInskeep.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.