When schedules collide: how to keep up

Published September 10, 2006

We've all been there.

You're grabbing a cup of coffee, or pulling something from the office printer, when someone comes up talking about the latest gaffe on American Idol, the new, cool plot twist on Lost or the last guy to get shot on 24.

And if you didn't manage to watch it live, record it on your digital video recorder (DVR) or catch the uploaded video on YouTube.com, guess who's stuck looking like his nose is parked in Star Trek reruns?

Keeping up with TV is a real problem this fall, thanks to all the buzz-worthy shows. Fortunately, with a DVR, the Internet and plain old crafty planning, you should be able to manage.

But you'll need gear: a DVR that can record up to two channels at once, Internet access fast enough to watch streaming video, and a computer with enough memory to store some downloaded TV shows.

It wouldn't hurt to have HBO or Showtime on demand and an account with Apple's iTunes music and video store.

You may have to give up some human contact, and definitely some sleep, but nobody said this would be easy.

Here are a few suggested strategies, grouped by day:


Problem: The 9 and 10 p.m. hours, where classic fare (Desperate Housewives and HBO's The Wire) vies for attention with new stuff, including Calista Flockhart's Brothers & Sisters, Showtime's Brotherhood, Fox's subversive animated hit Family Guy and Flavor of Love on VH1.

Strategy: Don't miss Everybody Hates Chris, Desperate Housewives and The Wire, the three best shows of the evening. Use the DVR to catch 60 Minutes, Family Guy and Flavor; if the lure of Flockhart and Sally Field proves too much, then get Brothers & Sisters on the DVR - it won't last long, anyway. NBC's football game will probably run long, so check it out at 11 p.m. when news is everywhere else.

If you're not sure about Chris, MSN.com will offer a commercial-free stream of the debut episode starting Sept. 24. And ABC offers streaming video of Desperate Housewives episodes at ABC.com and through iTunes.


Problem: Serialized dramas, namely Fox's Prison Break and Vanished, air against reality favorites Deal or No Deal, Wife Swap and The Bachelor.

Strategy: I'm not a fan of much on Monday; Aaron Sorkin's new Studio 60 is the only can't-miss in the bunch. Yahoo TV is streaming the debut episodes of Vanished and Prison Break to help you stay up to date, and it will also feature NBC's X-Men-lite drama Heroes a week before its debut, starting Sept. 18. And because MyNetworkTV has a recap hour for both of its awful new series on Saturdays, you can save those guilty pleasures until the weekend.


Problem: At 8 p.m., fans must choose from among Gilmore Girls, Dancing With the Stars, House and Friday Night Lights, and 10 p.m. forces a choice from Boston Legal, Smith, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and FX's Nip/Tuck.

Strategy: Friday Night Lights, Knights of Prosperity and Smith are must-sees. Let the DVR catch Dancing and the two Law & Orders - Criminal Intent and SVU. (If you're less into the gritty crime thing, grab House and Veronica Mars.)

If you're really hard-core, watch your must-see stuff on a different TV and catch House with your second DVR channel. MSN.com will stream the debut of Veronica Mars starting Sept. 26, and FX will repeat Nip/Tuck's new episodes at 11:05 p.m.


Problem: America's Next Top Model, Tina Fey's TV satire 30 Rock and Dancing With the Stars' results show air at 8 p.m., and ABC's crack hostage drama The Nine and NBC's compelling Kidnapped both air at 10.

Strategy: 30 Rock, Lost and Kidnapped are the must-see shows here (if you're willing, you can catch the final half of Dancing's results show after 30 Rock, anyway). Put The Nine on the DVR and catch up with The Biggest Loser on iTunes; Yahoo TV will begin streaming CBS's Jericho pilot Wednesday.


Problem: Here's the big bottleneck: Survivor, Smallville, Ugly Betty and My Name is Earl/The Office at 8 p.m., Grey's Anatomy, CSI and Deal or No Deal at 9 p.m. and Six Degrees, Shark and ER at 10 p.m.

Strategy: Earl, the last half of Survivor (with the only part that really matters, the ejection), Grey's Anatomy and ER are my must-haves on Thursday, with Ugly Betty, CSI and Six Degrees relegated to the DVR. The Office, Survivor and CSI have also been available through iTunes.

And if all else fails, you can just look for an upload of your favorite show on YouTube. You'll likely have lots of company.