Hi-Def Holdout

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW, and wondering could this be the year, could this finally be the year I take the leap and buy a high-definition TV?

I confess: I'm not an owner yet. But now seems like a greattime. A Christmas flight of fancy: I pop into the store this week and pluck one from a garden of dazzling flat-screens.

It's been a long time coming. I saw my first high-def set ten years ago, and marveled at Ray Charles captured in concert. You could count the beads of perspiration on his face, even decipher an ink-penscribble on a square of masking tape stuck to his mike stand. One look,I had high-def on my mind!        And yet ... I remain a high-def holdout.

One big reason, even as the prices have plummeted: I don't know what to get. Plasma or -- the other one, liquid crystal display. One has better blacks, the other doesn't burn images into the screen. Potato, potahto. And so I call the whole thing off.       

Anyway, I still get a pretty good picture on my Panasonic analog TV I bought five years ago for a couple hundred bucks.       

I know. People say once you get HDTV, you could never go back.  But I'm not sure I'm ready to make a departure from which I can never return.       

It's not that I'm resistant to change. I upgrade software andeven computers right on schedule. I always want to be in step when it comes to that kind of gadgetry. But that's all about doing more things better.

By contrast, so much of watching TV is plopping yourself on the couch and letting your eyeballs go slack. Maybe too much upgrading of your TV could be counter productive. With TV, God isn't always in the details.

Philip Swann's TV Predictions site has a list of "The Sexiest Women in High Resolution." Evangeline Lilly and Vanessa Williams are two of 'em. As if I need HDTV to validate their charms.       

But Swann also issues his cautionary "HD Horribles," which include the crinkled Barbara Walters, the shriveled Teri Hatcher, and,topping his roster, Rosie O'Donnell, who for my money could be unpleasant to watch even on radio.

History tells us that many silent screen stars couldn't make the transition to sound. Maybe we're about to see the same kind of washout for certain analog stars who just can't cut it in the digital realm. But I don't want to be there for that high-res revelation. Maybe, as Jack Nicholson once said, I can't handle the truth.

Hey, I remember black-and-white TV. And it seemed just fine.       

I was among the viewers amazed by the early color sets, even with their green-tinged flesh tones we managed to ignore. And then, color TV got good. And we soon stopped noticing the color at all. It was just there.       

I figure that's what'll happen with HDTV, which a decade ago was described to me by an excited proponent as the third generation of television. We'll all be part of that generation, we'll all go high-def before long, we'll get accustomed to it, and then, soon enough, we'lltake its undeniable wonderfulness for granted.        Which is not to say -- if you're listening, Santa -- I wouldn'tmind your making this a high-def Christmas. Either plasma or LCD will do, and just leave it for me downstairs with the doorman since I don't have a working fireplace.

Otherwise ... 2007 might be the year I yield to high-def hankering and embrace that higher truth. Provided I can steer clear of Rosie O'Donnell.       

Watching television for KCRW, this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.