In the old days if you got a tivo and did not pay for service, the only thing you could do was buffer live TV.
None of the stand alone tivo/replays will let you record two things at once, but you could keep you vcr and record two things at once the old way.
DVD recorders have come down in price, and some even have a hard drive! You could buy one of those, and never put anything on DVD unless you wanted to keep it.
Sony makes a dual tuner DVD recorder with a hard drive, meaning it can record two shows at once, but it's $800...
A real PVR is really nice, but all of them have the extra monthly fee or $300 one time fee, unless your cable company offers a box for a cheap montly fee.
Pretty much anything you buy will have s-video.
All should look better than a VHS tape, provided you cable signal is pretty clean, and you don't mind some mpeg artifacts.