Thursday, May 08, 2008


There was an episode of Oprah once where someone asked the question, “If your house caught fire, what would you grab as you rushed out?” Oprah said, I believe, she’d rescue her dogs. It struck me at the time that she never said she’d rescue Steadman, her long time boyfriend, but I guess she figured he had two legs so he could jolly well take care of himself. One of her guests said that he would take a picture of a tree, which made me laugh for days.

Recently, it occurred to me that if the little flat that I share with my two flatmates Saffy and Amanda ever caught fire, I’d first grab my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch, and the second thing I’d do would be to unplug my SmartTV.

This might strike many as odd, to take a piece of machinery when there are plenty of things that are far more precious. Like a passport, for instance, or one’s family album, or in the case of my mother, her small collection of gold bars. But I can’t even begin to explain how much I value my SmartTV.

My life has never been the same since it came into my life. Seeing the promotional commercial – pause and rewind live TV, view individual recorded programmes in the sequence you want – is one thing. To actually see how it works is entirely another. I can bookmark a recorded show and skip to another one. I can watch, fast forward and rewind a programme while it’s recording. While I’m watching Project Runway on one channel, it tells me that Lost is about to start on another channel.

My point is, for a TV addict, the SmartTv is life-changing (and no, they’re not paying me to say this, though come to think of it, they should). No more stacks of clunky video-tapes, or worrying about how you’re going to tape all your favourite shows if you go away for two weeks, like I did recently.

There I was on the plane back from London smiling happily at the thought of all the lovely shows I had waiting for me at home. Nigella Feasts, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Oprah, American Idol… In the taxi zooming away from Changi, I was already planning which show to watch while I had dinner. Even as I opened the door to the flat, still caught in a TV-fueled daze, it took me a while to appreciate that Saffy was staring at me in a mildly panicked way.

“It’s not my fault!” she immediately said while taking a little step back.

Smiling indulgently, I said, “You are such a drama queen! What’s not your fault?”

She hesitated. “Your SmartTV. It’s not my fault,” she repeated.

I stared at her for a while, in the same way you might if someone said, “You’ve just won a billion dollars!”

“I never touched it, I swear, I was just dusting the DVD rack and then suddenly there was a loud crack and then the lights all went out and it never came back on, though I’ve tried turning it on but really, I don’t know why people expect me to know how these things work, so it’s really not my fault, please don’t yell at me,” Saffy babbled.

I felt a little faint and it took a while for the world to stop swaying. “It’s broken?” I finally managed to whisper. “ It was all working fine when I left.”

Just in case I’d missed the point the first time round, Saffy said, “It wasn’t my fault. I’m sorry.” She later told Amanda that I looked as if someone had just told me that Oprah had died.

“The fuse is gone,” the Starhub man said sympathetically. He’d come over almost immediately after I placed a 911 call. “We’ll have to replace it.”

“But what about all the shows I’ve already recorded?” I moaned. “Oh dear God, I had two seasons of Victoria’s Secret on it!”

“Hopefully, the hard drive is intact, lah!” he said. He had the bed-side manner of a schnauzer. It was a great comfort.

The days since have been impossible. There’s nothing to watch on TV, just the local channels and I have to endure all the painful commercials that I normally happily fast forward. And I have to stay up late to watch shows that I normally record. I just can’t help but wonder how other people do it. “They have lives,” Amanda said unkindly this morning.

The next time she’s not looking, I will cancel her Vogue subscription.

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