With the Super Bowl just a couple days away, sales of big screen TVs are probably up a bit - after all, in consumer electronics as well as computing, software (must-see content) drives sales of hardware (televisions, in this case). That's never more true than with sports content, whether football, the Olympics, or the big one, the World Cup (for my U.S. readers, that last one is a big soccer game. Billions watch it. Manufacturers alter their return policies on projectors and TVs so that "football" fans don't buy just to watch and then immediately return the sets).
Other content drives large audiences, but not necessarily pull-through on hardware. Advertisers call the Oscars the "Super Bowl for Women," you don't find Best Buy running specials on plasma TVs ahead of the big awards night. Perhaps they should - women are buying a much higher percentage of consumer electronics gear than in the past.
In the spirit of the big game, Excaliber Electronics sent over the Monday Night Football talking remote control (click on the image to enlarge). This is a remote control embedded in a padded football about the size of a Nerf, not a Wilson. ABC lost Monday Night Football to ESPN, so there may be a new version of this out next season. Still, this would be the perfect gift for the football obsessed couch potato if it wasn't for several flaws.
- The padding makes the MNF Remote appear to be tossable: throw it to your friends or slam it on the floor in disgust after a bad call or a missed field goal. But a prominent warning in the user manual strongly discourages this, though probably just for liability reasons - in my testing the remote continued to function after a few rough tosses across the room.
- Despite its name, the remote is hardly a universal model. It supports three devices: a TV (though it lacks aspect ratio controls found on all of today's 16x9 sets), cable box (though it lacks any kind of TiVo/PVR control buttons for today's modern set top boxes), and a VCR. Yes, a VCR, not a DVD player.
- This is a bit nitpicky, but the membrane-type buttons are flush with the remote's surface, which means they can't be selected by touch without looking.
- Finally, and this may sound nitpicky, but it's actually critical to the appeal of the product: it's not much of a talking remote control. It says exactly one phrase, "are you ready for some football?" Now, the problem isn't what it says, but how it says it. Despite this being branded with ABC's Monday Night Football logo, when you press the button, Hank Williams Jr. does not growl out, "Areyoureadyforsome FOOTBAAAAAALL?!!!" as heard at the beginning of every Monday Night Football game. The Monday Night Football theme does not play, either. Rather, a rather wimpy, almost nerdishly earnest voice voice asks, "are you ready for some football?" Any serious football fan will be severely disappointed; it would have been better to leave out the voice capability entirely.
The Monday Night Football Talking Remote Control should still make a good gag gift (it's available online for just $17.99 at Smarthome), and it's certainly harder to lose among the couch cushions than most universal remote controls. But don't expect it to actually be used much.
Enjoy the game.