Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

My New Favorite Show

June 26, 2008

I got home late on Tuesday, so I didn’t have a chance to see Wipeout live. I just finished watching it online and my earlier anticipation was well-rewarded.

It is simply amazing. John Henson, who I loved on Talk Soup back in the day, offers excellent commentary—lapsing into puns facilely but without MXC‘s innuendo-laced vulgarity. The obstacles are outstanding and punishing, which makes for great TV. And the final challenge is definitely an homage to Ninja Warrior, though less strenuous to be sure.

My Tuesdays evenings are now blocked out. (I Survived a Japanese Game Show was passable, but decidedly a little more focused on the personalities involved than the ludicrous challenges. It’s a lot more Big Brother than MXC.)

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Summer Shows

May 30, 2008

Watching the Lost season finale, I got excited by a couple new reality shows: Wipeout and I Survived a Japanese Game Show. The latter reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons and the former looks like a rip-off of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. They’re both right up my alley.

Still Missing

May 29, 2008

Jim’s comment on my screed about Netflix reminded me that I left an important requirement out. “All I know is that I want to be able to watch streaming video from the network sites on my television” doesn’t fully capture what I’m looking for in the perfect Web-enabled TV assistant box.

I also need to rip every one of my DVDs to disk and be able to watch them on my television. Whereas I believe Jim’s frustration stems from aesthetic or possibly browsing concerns, mine arises out of the total obliviousness to proper DVD handling and care that my three daughters exhibit. Every disc they touch is smudgy and scratched. If I could digitize the movies before they got to them, they could enjoy skip-free entertainment and I wouldn’t have to repeatedly buy new copies. (I’ve only done that twice and I hated to do it.)

Being able to stream from another computer or server would adequately cover this need. I have no problem attaching an external hard drive to one of my Macs to accomplish this. I believe that existing devices already address this issue, but again they lack the Web-level streaming that I’d like.

Missed It By That Much

May 21, 2008

I’m a big fan of Netflix. One of the few reasons why I even bothered with dual booting via Boot Camp was so that I could “Watch Now.” So purchasing their new Netflix Player would seem like an easy decision. But it’s not.

This player is really just the opening salvo for what promises to be a protracted battle. The price is compelling, but there’s something missing. I can’t decide if it’s because it’s too tied in to Netflix or that it’s too limited in content—two sides of the same coin.

All I know is that I want to be able to watch streaming video from the network sites on my television. And I want to watch the Netflix instant video as well. At this point, the option that fits my requirements is the HTPC but I don’t want the expense, unsightliness, and noise of a full-fledged computer in my living room. The Netflix Player and the AppleTV are the perfect size and form, but they’re not powerful enough.

Unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to pass on the Netflix Player. Maybe version 2 will wow me.

A Lost Train of Thought

May 17, 2008

I just finished watching the first hour of the season four finale of Lost. As is customary for me, I immediately open up the Lostpedia Theories for the episode. I came across this little bombshell:

The Black Rock was packed with explosives. The Kahana is now packed with explosives. These situations mirror each other. The Black Rock was actually looking for the island long ago and a saboteur planted explosives. This little Spy vs. Spy “game” between Ben and Charles Widmore is being played out over centuries.

I think the Black Rock has a lot of significance. I can’t wait to find out what it is!

[UPDATE: Another hilarious theory: “Moving the island is not a physical thing, but an emotional thing. Locke is clearly going to read sweet poetry to the island and the island will be moved.”]

Reclaiming My Surplus

May 13, 2008

I was reading Clay Shirky’s “Gin, Television, and the Social Surplus” today and came across this paragraph that really spoke to me:

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan’s Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don’t? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn’t posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it’s not, and that’s the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it’s worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

The larger point of his essay is that we, collectively, waste a lot of time watching television. If even a small portion of that were put to better (maybe different is more a propos) use, we could accomplish a lot. Shirky quantifies it with the entirely-made-up number that a 1% reduction in television viewing is the equivalent of 100 Wikipedia projects. I think that’s bogus, but the general point rings true to me.

I think about these things often because a) I grew up watching a lot of TV, b) I am interested in the cultural shifts that the Internet has fostered and forced, and c) I watch too much television as it is. In January of this year, we ditched satellite TV and have limited ourselves to what comes over the antenna. That has severely curtailed the random, idle TV watching but it has largely been replaced with movie watching via Netflix.

Is that really any better? Perhaps, since movies are typically of higher quality and more worthwhile than television sitcoms. But isn’t it, in the end, exactly the same? I shudder at all the great books I’ve neglected, all the music I’ve never heard, and all the blogs I haven’t read—just kidding on that last one—as I fritter away the hours watching Antiques Roadshow or Lost. (Just kidding about Lost: the only way I’ll stop watching that is when the series ends.)

I guess it’s high time that I got a life.

Cutting Back

March 6, 2007

I just saved $20 a month by switching to Family!

I’m actually quite excited by this because the 40 channels in the Family plan (plus locals) represents over 150 less than what I had yesterday. Less channels equals less channel surfing, less opportunity to discover new shows to get hooked on, and, well, less Law and Order. I watched too much of that—sometimes up to three hours a night if I hadn’t seen the episodes already—and it’ll do me good to restrict my viewing to just the new episodes on NBC.

It’s already paying dividends since we got through the three DVDs from Netflix that we’ve had sitting around for the last two weeks and I balanced the checkbook and payed all the bills! It’s not quite no television, which I don’t think my family could do but it’s as close as we’re going to get.

Wonderfalls

October 21, 2005

I just finished watching the last episode of the TV show, Wonderfalls, which has been playing on LOGO for quite some time now. I’ve been completely enamored of the show ever since I discovered it airing, but I didn’t want to write up anything until I had seen the entire run. You know, some shows peter out after awhile and I didn’t want to sing its praises prematurely. Since it was cancelled by Fox after 13 episodes, I didn’t have to wait too long to contribute my paean.

Now that I’ve seen the whole thing, I’d like to sing its praises. Loud and to everyone. This show is simply the best show I’ve ever come across. Bar none. There you go.

Okay, there’s some people that aren’t going to cotton to such a bold statement. What about Firefly, what about Star Trek: The Next Generation, what about Get a Life!, and so on. All good shows; heck, all great shows. But one shows got to be the best and I think you couldn’t go wrong with Wonderfalls.

Now that I have your attention, allow me to attempt to explain its plot. The show centers around Jaye Tyler, played adroitly by Caroline Dhavernas, a twenty-something who works at a Niagra Falls gift shop as a cashier and lives in a trailer park. She’s got a philosophy degree from Brown, but she’s something of a slacker. Everything’s nice and boring, which she wants, until one day a deformed wax lion from one of those machines present at nearly all tourist traps tells her to return a quarter that a lady dropped. She complies—after questioning her sanity—and a chain of events takes place as a result of her action. This convinces her that something odd is afoot.

After being commanded to do several more things by other inanimate animal figures, she starts to believe she’s going crazy. Each thing she does at their behest ends up being exciting and unexpected. She tries to resist their urging at one point but relents after they drone a stereophonic version of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” She gives up any resistance after that and rarely questions the wisdom of their requests throughout the series.

There’s a variety of subplots that play out over the course of the series, but I couldn’t possibly do them justice. Suffice it to say that they do not detract one bit from the main plot line, which is artfully developed across the entire set of 13 episodes. The theme, if I had to pin it down, is that you should accept your destiny because it might lead you to something worthwhile that you’d never considered before. Okay, that’s a horrible theme—on account of there being no destiny—but it’s very well developed and presented. One could probably also make a convincing case that the animals’ talking is actually Jaye’s subconscious but that could just be reading into things.

The most amazing aspect of the show is the character development. There’s seven main characters and several regular ones. As the show progresses, you can really identify and empathize with the characters. In fact, I found myself predicting what a given character might do or how he might react to a situation. Further, their personalities are very nuanced and complex: Jaye and Eric, her romantic interest, for example, are individually complex and their relationship is fascinating to watch grow. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never encountered a show that had such a rich story and backstory.

It’s a shame that Fox cancelled the show when it did but I’m glad that I was able to see it this way instead of being restricted to the four episodes that they actually ran out of order. I would heartily recommend this show to anyone that likes intelligent comedy and interesting psychologies.

[UPDATE (1/17/2006): I just finished watching the entire series again—I bought the DVD set for Christmas—and I now think it’s even better than I remember. Watching a series sequentially instead of disjointedly allows one to appreciate the character development much better. Watching episodes with subtitles allows one to catch the very subtle and witty dialogue. My next viewing will be with commentary so I can get the full Wonderfalls experience. Sadly, I don’t see this coming to the big screen à la Firefly.]

Talk Sex with Sue

July 8, 2003

Sandi and I have been watching Talk Sex with Sue Johanson lately. No, we’re not looking to get into any perversions. It’s just a call-in show about sexuality hosted by an old lady who could be anyone’s grandmother. I know Dr. Ruth was old and all, but she didn’t look that old and I don’t recall her discussing some of the things that Sue talks about.

There’s just something fascinating about watching an old lady discuss the best in butt plugs and vibrators. I mean that in the least kinky way you can imagine. Old people are definitely not sexy—though my views on the subject will certain change when I become old.

TiVO Fodder

May 13, 2003

I’m getting my TiVO installed tomorrow (hopefully) and I’ve already got the first program to record lined up:

Late Night with Conan O’Brien in Clay

That Conan, always pushing the envelope of broadcasting!