In the new movie Extract, writer-director Mike Judge includes an uncommented-on visual joke that speaks to America's TV and home-theater obsession. In the tiny living room of a small, rundown house owned by a pair of trucker-cap wearing, rusted-pickup-driving, Texas-drawling losers is an absolutely enormous flat-screen television. Their furniture is crap, their clothes are torn, and they probably can't spell ... but they have the biggest TV that'll fit through the door, placed about three feet from their stained sofa.

It instantly reminded me of all the people I've visited over the past year who have ginormous televisions -- people who don't make much more money than I do or live considerably better than me, but who made the decision to fill one wall of their home with a TV monitor. I've yet to make that leap.

I admit to occasionally feeling like a home theater Luddite. My DVD player's about eight years old, and occasionally refuses to play discs out of sheer elderly cussedness. My Sharp 27" TV seemed huge when I bought it six years ago, upgrading as I did from a 17-inch model. When I moved a few months back, I wished for the first time that I had a fancy flat-screen, mainly because it would have been easier to carry and would have taken up a lot less space in the van. I know I'm behind the times, I do. And this was driven home further when I saw a press release from Sony about their new generation of AV receivers. Part of their ES line (ES standing for Elevated Standard, they say), these babies are designed to work with home theater sound systems, support all the latest HD formats, and allow "multizone operation for whole-house entertainment." I have no idea what that means. It sounds like it'll let you play your Xbox in the bathroom while streaming YouTube in the bedroom, which I'm sure is important to someone.

Sony also promises that I can stream video, audio and photos from the Internet. I could also listen to Internet radio with it. And I could use the picture-in-picture option to stream video from two different sources, so "you can enjoy a movie while also keeping an eye on the sports scores or the news." Why would I want to do that? If I had a giant TV and a brilliant sound system and all this awesome HD video wizardry, I'd want to totally enjoy the movie. Is this something people do a lot, watch movies and the news at the same time? Where's the fun in that?

But even more baffling to me is Sony's announcement of their BDP-CX7000ES, due early next year, featuring a 400-disc Blu-ray/DVD/CD "mega-changer." Is it really so much work to put in a movie or a CD when you want to play it, you have to keep everything stored inside the damn machine? And how do you know which slot your movie's in? Would I have to create a master list of titles, so that I know that Army of Darkness is disc 264? That sounds like more work than just getting off the couch to load the DVD. Plus, it's $1900. I suppose if I was really rich and even lazier than I am now, I could see the appeal. But ... no.

At some point, I know I'll get the bigger, fancier TV. And yeah, I've been yearning for a Blu-ray player. But until these things pop my popcorn, chill my sodas and have an auto-shush function for talkative guests, I think I'll stick with the DVD player I've got. Until the damn thing finally breaks completely, anyway.
categories Features, Cinematical