Surveying what readers find worthy of programming their VCRs to tape

TELEVISION

August 10, 1991|By STEVE MCKERROW

In the deep rerun doldrums of summer, it is hard to remember there are actually things on television that are not only worth watching, but videotaping for later observation -- that is, assuming that someone in the house has mastered the VCR programming procedure.

Take tonight, for example. You have a chance to save for posterity perhaps the only network airing ever of "Claws," an unsuccessful pilot (at 8 on CBS/Channel 11), in which a trio of cats do most of the talking (like Bruce Willis in the movie "Baby Talk" or basset hound Cleo in the old series "The People's Choice").

All right, put sarcasm aside. What is really worth saving? Well, that depends on your taste and interests, which brings us to the point of this column's latest informal viewer-participation survey:

What do you tape? Why? And, perhaps the most difficult question of all: When the heck do you watch what you've recorded?

When the VCR dropped into the price range of the average American family -- 75.5 percent of all homes in the Baltimore market have at least one recorder, according to Nielsen Media Research -- it seemed a magical device, capable of preserving all those video moments you had to miss or wanted to see again.

Working a daytime shift? No problem, you could tape your favorite soap for when you came home.

Couldn't decide between two great shows on at the same time? With only a little technical expertise, you could tape one while watching the other.

Vacationing in Aruba? Your trusty VCR could still go on and off several times in your two-week absence to preserve your favorite series or a big sporting event.

We know one person who has a complete collection of his favorite series ("Cheers"), and another who is collecting video recipes from "Yan Can Cook."

Others are assembling impressive film archives of vintage movies, taped from the cable services that screen them uncut.

Canceled shows that developed a particularly fanatical following, such as the recent "Beauty and the Beast" and "Alien Nation," live on in private collections and followers utilize "fanzine" publications to swap and copy tapes to fill out their libraries.

But if readers are anything like yours truly, the terrible taping reality is not at all pretty to contemplate.

For example, doesn't everybody have at least 15 hours of ABC's coverage of the Olympic Winter Games of 1988 gathering dust in a box in the den? (The tapes have been retrieved just once, to re-screen the men's downhill on a stir-crazy sick day when the cable went out. We also watched one of the half-dozen 1990 World Cup soccer matches rediscovered in the same box.)

It seems a pretty good bet, atleast, that many of you taped segments of miniseries you haven't gotten around to finishing yet, or episodes of series you recorded for some reason or other and forgot to label.

Then there are all those mistakes, when you wanted a wee hours interview from "Later, With Bob Costas" but mysteriously ended up with a half-hour "info-mercial" about keeping your teeth white or washing acid off the hood of your car. (Or is it cleaning your teeth with acid?)

As a result, most viewers have had to develop a painfully personal VCR discipline. And that's why we'd like to develop some taping tips from viewers for viewers, as well as to get some idea of common recording patterns.

So let's hear it: In brief form, let us know what kinds of programs you tape on a relatively regular basis, and how -- or if -- you make the time to view them. Be specific. And if you never tape at all, let us know that, too (and why not).

A future column will highlight readers' VCR visions, offering tips for making the most of the miraculous TV time-shifting device. We may even come up with a consensus list of worth-taping fare. (We cannot come over to program your machine, however.)

Send items to: Steve McKerrow, The Saturday Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or fax responses to 332-6666.

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