Rotating TV Shows Revisited

I’ve had some time to road-test my system outlined in my last post. I thought I’d share some insights from real-world testing.

Since I wrote my last post I upgraded to the 160Gb Apple TV. It’s allowed me to tweak the settings of my playlists to include, in most cases, at least 4 episodes instead of one or two. If I dump a new series into iTunes, I have changed the settings to copy 10 or more episodes at a time. Once I’ve watched them all once, I will most likely reduce the amount back to 4.

A minuscule yet appreciated side effect of always having more than 2 episodes at any given time is how the EyeTV episodes stand out. Any TV show with more than one episode is represented as a submenu with an arrow on the right to indicate that selecting it will open the submenu. When there is only one episode, the episode itself appears in the root level of the TV Shows menu. Since I always watch an EyeTV episode before the next one arrives in a week’s time, these are easily identified by both the blue dot that appears to the left of the item and the lack of an arrow.

I didn’t expect to have to alter the playlists once set up, apart from advancing the Play Count figure by one after one complete pass through all episodes, but I find myself tweaking the number of episodes based on how often I would watch a particular show and sometimes the Last Played date to defer the appearance of a show more than others. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s complex in terms of the sheer number of factors that are being defined, but the mechanism is simple. I am starting to think that the nuances are so complex that it would be impractical for Apple to try to automate it. With my system, you can apply blanket policies, or get really specific, so I guess that’s a good thing. My advice is to start with blanket values, then modify if you feel the need.

A factor I didn’t account for was the situation in which you buy a series, watch it once or twice, then at a later date, buy the next series. Now you’ve got series 1 watched, say, 3 times, and series 2 unplayed. Luckily, after watching series 2 for the first time, when you adjust the Play Count to “less than 4”, you can still watch series 1 followed by series 2 just as if the play count for each episode in series 2 were 3. Make sense? Here’s a wrinkle: I bought series 1 of Extras many months ago and watched it 3 times. Then I bought series 2 last month. I’ve now watched it once. Since I’ve seen the first series many more times than the second, I can change the “less than” Play Count to “3” (which is the same number of times as series 1) and the next time the show becomes active (after 2 months), I’ll roll through the second series, skipping the first. That’s a nice, unexpected feature.

I designed a hiatus feature (Last Played is not in the last x months) because while I love my shows, I get saturated with a particular one after getting through all its episodes and so I don’t want to see it for a while. You don’t have to use this feature. If you omit this criterion, your shows will cycle endlessly.

I’m still pretty happy with the system. I’m such a fiddler that I can’t help but tweak my settings, but luckily, it still works without having to do so. I really hope that some Apple TV users are using this system. If you are, please comment. I’d love to hear your feedback.

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