The Fine Print: The ‘Real’ Reality Television

It’s a Monday night. Jack Bauer stares across an abandoned parking lot, his face caught in shadow. You curl deeper into your favorite chair, gripping at the corner of the blanket you’re huddled in, barely breathing. A footstep crunches over gravel right behind you. Bauer turns, aiming his gun, the crystal-clear beads of sweat breaking on his brow. The music heightens, surrounding you in its high-pitched, suspense-driven notes, and you squirm even more. The countdown drums steadily as the seconds tick by, one, two, three and — roll commercial.

You’ve been lost again, taken in by the world of television. As the adrenaline begins to subside, you realize 24 is not, thankfully, your reality. But it can be — whenever you want, you can slip back and forth between your world and the world of fiction, whether it’s gossiping with the ladies of Wisteria Lane or building dreams with Ty Pennington. Today, the limits of television are quickly being broken. No longer does the sound simply emanate from that square box. Now it is behind you, beside you, around you. The picture is bigger, the details magnified and so … so real that you could forget that you’re still only watching, that you’re not a participant in this vivid drama. Your remote control no longer just switches channels; it’s a passport to another world.

This connection between fact and fiction, TV and reality, is thanks in part to high-definition (HD) television. That’s because HDTV lets you feel like you’re part of the action. With its incredibly high-quality picture and sound, each image is presented with brilliance that rivals the clearest of memories, and sound that challenges the acoustics of a concert hall. And it comes in a prettier package, too. No longer is the TV a space-consuming cube; the sleek designs are awe-inspiring enough to be a focal point or, if you’d rather, can fade gracefully into the wall.

With all these positives, the reasons to buy an HDTV should be coming in loud and clear (much like your shows will). So we’ve filled the following pages with information that will guide you to finding the best HDTV for you and your family, debugged all that techno-jargon and asked the pros how to turn your living room into your own private cinema. Inside you’ll also find an overview of HD-only channels, expert advice on how to get the best picture possible, and finally, a eulogy for the soon-to-vanish analog signal. So sit back, relax — and prepare to watch television like you’ve never seen it before.