SOS, ASAP! Media Guy's TMI On-Demand FAQ

The Digital 411 About iPorn and Maureen Dowd

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A buck-ninety-nine for selected ABC shows, commercial-free, on your iPod. Vintage sitcom reruns free on AOL, with fewer commercials than on real TV. A CBS deal to offer its shows, on demand, free to Comcast customers, but with all the commercials intact. And $49.95-per-year for a certain portion of The New York Times online. ... Got all that? No? Well, welcome to the bright and shiny future of bewildering, totally inconsistent, piecemeal digital-content delivery! To help you sort through the myriad options, I've assembled this Frequently Asked Questions guide.

I tried hooking up my video iPod to my TV through the video-out port on my iPod dock, but "Desperate Housewives" looked crummy on my 42" plasma TV. How can I fix that?

You can't, because Apple iPod video is encoded at 320 x 240 pixels, which is great for a 2.5" iPod screen -- and which is, coincidentally, the resolution at which Eva Longoria's laugh lines and crow's feet disappear altogether. That's the real beauty of iPod video: Eva turned 30 this year, but she doesn't look a day over 35!

I read about that new "Start Over" service NBC has with Time Warner Cable, which lets viewers hit a button to watch shows from the beginning that are already in progress. But I'm not a TWC customer. What did I miss?

Jay Leno showed a laugh riot of a misprinted ad from a local newspaper, in which a bakery encouraged customers to "try our delicious farts!" On "Joey," Joey said something endearingly stupid, and then the laugh track kicked in. On "Law & Order: SVU," some totally hot gay dude killed some other totally hot dude (who may or may not have been gay) -- at the behest of his incestuously abusive (hot) gay brother.

So AOL has a new partnership with Warner Bros. to offer old sitcoms in online streamcasts. How will that work?

The good news is that reruns of "Welcome Back, Kotter" and "Growing Pains" will be totally free. The catch, though, is that viewing will be mandatory, and you won't be able to turn the volume down (especially when Horshack starts laughing on "Kotter" and Dr. Seaver is offering sage advice to the "Pains" clan). But for just $4.95 a month, you can have the shows turned off. To opt for opt-out if you're an AOL subscriber, go to ACCOUNT SETTINGS > MY AOL > VOD > SERVICES > PREFERENCES > PLEASE, GOD, MAKE IT STOP. In that submenu you'll find a toll-free number that is always busy when you call it (keep trying!). If you don't belong to AOL and don't have access to its top-notch customer-service reps because you use the free portal, try unplugging your computer.

That New York Times TimesSelect program: Hmmmm, $49.95 a year. What do I get for that?

You get to read "The Times' most influential writers" online. (The vast, banal, unwashed masses of non-influential Times writers remain free to the lower classes that don't have 50 smackers to spare.) Engage in special online chats and gain "exclusive access" to Times columnists. For instance, you get Op-Ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman's home phone number (feel free to call collect!). Or spend a Saturday afternoon at the Westchester Mall with "Styles" columnist Alex Kuczynski as your own personal shopper (don't worry, she knows just the right outfits to minimize your birthing hips!). At the present time, it should be noted, Maureen Dowd extras are not included in TimesSelect, although the upcoming TimesSpecialBlendPremiumSelect, available for just $89.95 a year, will offer exclusive streaming audio of Maureen Dowd's hilarious late-night crank calls to Judy Miller.

Hey, um ... where can I find iPorn for my iPod?

"Desperate Housewives" isn't enough for you?

No, it's not.

Well, try signing up for TimesSelect and asking Tom Friedman in his next online chat. In my experience, guys with mustaches always seem to know where to find the best porn.

Got any newfangled on-demand plans of your own, Media Guy?

As a matter of fact, yes. I'm pleased to unveil the new "Media Guy a la carte" program, wherein you can buy only the funny sentences for downloading to your PDA or cellphone, instead of having to buy and read the whole damn thing (because who has the time?). Cost: 9 cents per sentence for sentences with two or less asides and parentheticals, and no more than six adverbs and adjectives; 12 cents per sentence for sentences that exceed those limits. Volume discounts available; inquire within.

The Media Guy's column appears weekly on and in the print edition of Advertising Age. E-mail him at

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