Too Many Choices when Shopping for TVs

Conventional, projection or high-definition? Flat screen, plasma or LCD? And what about size? Author and commentator Marcos McPeek Villatoro reflects on the bewildering choices faced when shopping for a new television.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Well, when you finish your holiday dinner, you might feel like vegging out in front of the TV. Relaxing enough, right? Well, commentator and regular DAY TO DAY contributor Marcos McPeek Villatoro isn't so sure. He's been reflecting on television lately, and he sent us this essay.

MARCOS McPEEK VILLATORO:

It happened sometime between "Desperate Housewives" and the local news. One minute, TV ads--a guy plugging miracle weight loss pills. The next, he was shrinking away. I thought, `Wow, that's something.' But then I realized the man had disappeared altogether and I was staring at the blank gray screen of my now defunct TV. I had bought it back in 1999, a boxy old thing with a curving screen and two buttons, one for brightness, one for volume. Now if you're a wine buff, something six years old is hardly vintage. But in television terms, that borders on antique.

So the next day, there I was in the local electronics store where a salesman, who was probably in diapers when I bought my old TV, explained how its demise was really a blessing. `Sir, you're in luck. It's a whole new world now. You talk 2005, you talk television, you're talking choice.' And, boy, was he right. There was LCD, HDTV, DVD, JVC and, I think, combo with wide-screen projection. So I weighed all these options and what I took home was a slick, steel beauty with a flat, inky screen and thin enough to shave with. On the side, inlaid, two rows of yellow, red and white sockets shining like beacons to some high-tech heaven. So I got this razor home and couldn't wait to set it up. OK, so it took me three days. But like that sales guy said, you talk TV nowadays, you're talking choice.

Yeah, like auto program, clear channels, set PVR, set record options, set cable or air, set video channel. Oh, so much choice. And not just on the screen. Between the new TV, my DVD player and the cable box, I had three remotes to play with and three separate instruction books. My head was spinning. But after a while I was good to go. All that brain-bashing was going to be rewarded now with a little R&R. So I snuggled into the armchair, reached out my hand and finally, finally switched on. Switched on the light, that is, as I settled down for the night with a good book--no remotes, no menus, no sound beyond the soft, periodic flicking of a page. Mr. Salesman, how's that for a choice?

BRAND: The thoughts of novelist and regular DAY TO DAY contributor Marcos McPeek Villatoro. His latest book is called "A Venom Beneath the Skin."

More to come, you crazy cats, on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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