- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I know one item that won’t be under my Christmas tree tomorrow — a big screen, HDTV-ready, flat-as-a-pancake TV.

We’re living in the age of streamlined, wall-mounted televisions with the aesthetic grace of elegant picture frames and the cool, futuristic novelty of something designed by Hanna-Barbera for “The Jetsons.”

You’d think reviewing movies and television for a living would mean I’d have the latest, greatest set among my circle of friends.

Not even close.

That honor goes to a Vienna pal whose living room converts into a movie theater, without the sticky carpeting, when he brings down the house lights and turns on his projection screen model.

Watching “Jurassic Park” at his home a few weeks ago nearly brought this movie lover to tears.

Two magical hours later I detected symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder from the T-rex attack scene alone.

I never feel like that watching my 27-inch Daewoo, even if it is a consumer electronics dinosaur.

I hear myself explain to friends and neighbors that I’m waiting for the market to settle down before I take the plunge. It’s an argument that sounds suspiciously like my late grandfather’s rationale for his black-and-white set: “I’m waiting until they perfect color television.”

But for now, I bide my time and, in my weaker moments, hope my pal’s model gets zapped by some freakish storm.

Critics are a surly lot, you know.

The prices on today’s TVs seem to fall by the hour, if not the minute, so it’s hard to justify buying today instead of tomorrow or next month.

At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m not imagining a Yankees game on a screen so sharp I can see the clear gel coating on Jason Giambi’s arms.

But I can’t afford one at current prices, and even if I could my fiancee would surely balk.

The women in my life have always preferred televisions that could fit on an end table with enough room for a plant or two.

I’ll never forget a date not so long ago with a woman who insisted we watch “The Godfather” on a television that could have doubled as Dick Tracy’s two-way wristwatch TV.

When I suggested she might want to trade up to a larger model, she shot me a look that said my offer was one she could easily refuse.

My bride-to-be is no different. She coyly threatens to bolt for a girl’s-only vacation if I ever splurge on a big-screen television. She’d probably leave me for a native who doesn’t get cable.

Even if I broke down and bought a slick TV, I wouldn’t know what kind to get. Every time I hear a debate over plasma versus LCD models, I’m reminded of the great VHS/Beta race and fear betting on the wrong horse.

I’m not alone. The public at large hasn’t embraced the HDTV models in the numbers many experts predicted a few years back, although that’s starting to change, with the aforementioned price plunge and the increasing number of HDTV shows ready for prime time. Who hasn’t dreamed of watching “The Tonight Show’s” “Jaywalking” sketch in glorious HDTV?

The tipping point for many consumers has belatedly arrived.

I’m not sure when my “point” will arrive, but I know it’s getting close because my fingers twitch whenever I pick up my remote.

Every Best Buy or Circuit City ad in the Sunday papers is a shameless tease of zero interest bargains and one-time only deals.

A professional couch potato can resist for only so long.

Besides, I need something to watch while my fiancee is on vacation.

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