Q: I’d like to keep some TV episodes on my iPod and iPhone. I only see options for selecting either an entire show or just the most recent “new” episodes of the show. How do I add individual TV episodes, regardless of whether or not they’re new?
A: Unfortunately, the standard options for synchronizing TV Shows in iTunes are relatively limited, as you’ve discovered. There is a more powerful alternative, however, and that is to use the feature to sync selected playlists rather than selected shows.
To do this, simply create either standard playlists or Smart Playlists containing the TV Show episodes that you wish to sync to your iPod or iPhone. A Smart Playlist is best for this purpose, as it can dynamically select content based on criteria such as show name, date added, play count, last played date, rating, and more. Further, you can actually limit your selections in a smart playlist to a certain number of episodes, or a maximum size in MB/GB to prevent building a playlist that will load more content than you might be able to fit on your iPhone.
For example, one rather odd limitation in iTunes’ default TV Show syncing preferences is that you can only sync most recent content, which is normally counterintuitive as to how people would actually watch a TV Show. This can easily be overcome with a Smart Playlist similar to the following, which will select the oldest 10 unwatched episodes from a given TV Shows:
Of course, if you wanted to sync specific content, you can also build a standard playlist and just put those TV Shows you want to sync into that playlist manually. Note that playlists do not in any way have to correspond to TV Show names, and you can easily mix content from several different shows into the same playlist if you like.
Once you’ve built the playlists that contain the shows you would like to sync to your iPod and/or iPhone, simply select the iPod or iPhone in the iTunes source list and go to the “TV Shows” tab (for the iPod) or the “Videos” tab (for the iPhone), and choose to sync selected playlists instead of selected “TV Shows” by clicking on the drop-down menu to the right of the “Selected” option.
The lower selection list will change to show your playlist names instead of your TV Shows (only playlists with TV Show content in them will be shown), and you can then select which playlists you want to sync to each device.