A system for programming the automatic operation of a video recorder over an extended time period uses an associated television receiver as a display device for alphanumeric messages to the operator to provide a self-explanatory, interactive programming routine. The video recorder system includes a digital memory, a real time digital clock, and an alphanumeric character generator, all connected to a central digital controller. A keypad allows the operator to initiate a programming routine in which previously stored programming messages are called up from memory and generated on the TV receiver's display tube using the character generator. The operator's responses entered via the keypad are stored in the memory and are called up at future times to generate control signals for the video recorder. The video recorder system further includes a memory storing data representing a schedule of programming available for a future period. The video recorder system permits this schedule to be recalled and displayed on the TV receiver's display for review by the user.