Twinges of Guilt

23.56.21 - Mark

Viacom has put The A Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report back on the air, and while I love watching both shows, I kind of feel bad about having them on. The Writers are striking for a reason, and while it doesn't make a lot of difference to me it does to them.

It also kind of feels like the studios are being *&^%ing hypocrites. Consumers sit though endless advertisements, news stories, and movie trailers claiming piracy hurts the guys (like say, writers) who don't get wildly rich and famous when a movie or TV show makes it big, yet here they are screwing the writers by going on with the show.

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Missing Myth Busted

11.34.17 - Mark

Mythbuster's take on Plane on a Treadmill was originally slated to air last night (just like the interwebs expected) but at some point in the last couple of moths got pushed back to January 30th, at least according to the show's executive producer. Still someone at Discovery really screwed up, and it doesn't look like they've done a lot to appease the viewers.

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Mythbusters piss off the Interwebs

23.23.52 - Mark

Tonight the Discovery Channel royally pissed off the interwebs. It's been hyped for a couple of months that tonight's episode of Mythbusters would feature "Plane on a Tradmill" which has been an internet meme for a couple years. So like the meme before it the internet took hold of the promised mythbusters episode and has been hyping it for a few weeks. Because of that the Discovery channel probably saw a decent ratings boost tonight, followed by a ratings plummet as the myth turned out to be a no-show. There's a pretty nasty backlash going on right now and will probably go on until Discovery coughs up some plausible explanation for axing the myth and starts offering some profuse appologies.

Until then it looks like Wikipedia is getting vandalized (the main mythbusters article and a few related pages are locked for a week - here's a vandalized copy from of the main article after it was locked), the discovery channel message boards look like they're being swamped (10k+ views on the official PoaT missing myth thread in under an hour), and I got goatse'd when I went to the Discovery sponsored Mythbusters wiki.

I guess the internet is testing the myth of "can a large mob of anonymous people remove a Discovery Channel executive from office"

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Tin Man

00.29.48 - Mark

Scifi channel has been hyping Tin Man (their big budget overly sponsored miniseries movie thing for the year) since last December, and I haven't been paying much attention to it since the whole "Wizard of Oz" remake thing just wasn't that attracting to me. I'm not a fan of the bright sun shinny fantasy world we see in the 1939 version (which like most people is the only version I'm really familiar with).

However with nothing much else on tonight when it started I turned it on and I'm glad I did. The acting is solid and the writing is enjoyable (even if the revamped scarecrow's lines are a little too good for someone lacking a brain). I love the visual aesthetic of Tin Man - some of it's a little unworldly (hovering cyborgs), but there are huge swatches of steampunk that get backed up with some steampunk character and world elements. Like the Battlestar Galattica reimaging, it's not trying to paint a Utopian picture, it's a darker grittier world where we get to see real problems and how the characters make tought decisions to overcome. However it still throws out referances to the source material that keep you paying close attention (I was reminded of a few when I looked over the wikipedia entry for the original book).

Tin man is a real treat to watch since it's more on par with a major movie production than what you expect from a made-for-TV movie.

My only real complaint with it so far is the CGI. This wouldn't be a problem, except Sci Fi has this horrible habit of getting the cheapest computer generated animations available, as if they dumpster dive at all the major CGI firms and walk away with 10 year old backups that they then hack into new movies. For example the Tornadoes in Tin Man look worse than the ones I remember being in Twister from 1996. Any SciFi channel original picture with a giant killer wave will always look far worse than what was created for The Perfect Storm in 2000. I'm willing to admit that Twister and The Perfect Storm had bigger budgets for special effects, but Moore's Law has had a clear effect on special effects - just look at the problems Hollywood is having with the Uncanny Valley. There's no good reason that the Scifi Channel (whose main audience by definition is geeks) should have shitty visual effects.

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Petty Bickering

19.51.36 - Mark

Apparently NBC and Apple are bickering over video on iTunes, with NBC saying they're not going to renew their contract (which expires at the end of the year) with Apple because they want to bundle Movies with TV episodes, jack up the pricing and throw more DRM at non-existent problems. Apple meanwhile is more than happy to let NBC screw themselves.

There are a few things to note in this little mess. First, at $1.99 the networks are making a decent wad of cash. I haven't dug up the numbers recently, but for an hour long prime time TV broadcast the network will make about $.60 per viewer selling advertising spots.

I'm sure what's bugging some idiot executive at NBC is that they can't price the iTunes videos the same as the inevitable cost of the same episode of DVD. While things like Heroes, Studio 60, and other broadcast shows might sell for just under $2 / episode in a box set, some of their cable properties like Battlestar Galactica, Psych, or Monk are well over $2.50 an episode (BSG is over $3.50 an episode on DVD). There's a certain understandable logic in that argument, but it's flimsy at best.

iTunes videos are low quality, limited to a couple of devices, and lack all the special features you get in a DVD box set, so in reality iTunes videos are, bluntly, a rip off already. Jacking the price up any is stupid, but pushing it up to, is one article has placed it, $5 an episode is just shy of mugging your customers and leaving them for dead.

Personally I've got bittorrent.

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Laughtracks suck

00.10.17 - Mark

I'm working my way though Sports Night on DVD due in part to the cancellation of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and I'm getting a harsh reminder of how much laugh tracks suck ass. I think it's more or less a dead practice, but any network executive, or even a producer who doubts the ability of their audience to know a joke when it comes by, probably shouldn't be in showbiz. Also, they should remove the damned things when releasing shows on DVD.

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Bits and Words

23.15.02 - Mark

While I can appreciate Direct TV wanting to save some bandwidth when customers are requesting interactive menus, I really question the trade off here. Does randomly dropping words and letters from show titles really save that much bandwidth, and does that savings really outweigh the amount of customer frustration it breeds?

Truncated and abbreviated show titles in Direct TV's program guide

Truncated and abbreviated show titles in Direct TV's program guide

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Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

23.03.15 - Mark

I've been chewing though a lot of media in the past few weeks, but far the most time has been dedicated to good old fashioned nostalgia watching Pinky and the Brain Volume 1 and Volume 2, with the occasional episode of Animaniacs. Even at 14 years old they're still as hilarious as they were when I was a kid, maybe even more so now. The writing is well crafted and the episodes contain tons of references and spoofs of all sorts of stuff, from 1990's politics to classic movies lots of material that I would have never appreciated when they were first being aired. In a way it really reminds me of Pixar's work. Some of the value is in the animation and story, but there are so many easter eggs planted into the writing that it keeps adding value for older audiences. It's great that I'm able to watch these shows on DVD, but now I'm craving a bunch of shows that unfortunately aren't available on DVD

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Do not attempt to adjust your Television

17.05.01 - Mark

Sometimes you find something online you never thought you would see online. I'm not talking about the weird ternds that just get amplified by the internet, I'm talking about truly strange things that predate the internet and were so temporary that you couldn't possibly expect to find them online. Like the hijacking of two Chicagoland TV station's signals in 1987 by a guy in a Max Headroom mask. The fact that that little tidbit of text exists is pretty amazing on its own, but the fact that someone has a digitized video of the rogue signal is mind blowing (that page has a couple of other interesting video clips).

This Internet thing is truely amazing

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Good Night, and Good Luck.

19.04.12 - Mark

I just got back from seeing Good Night, and Good Luck. and I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

It is unquestionably well written and edited, and it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between the archival footage and the freshly filmed material, and it flows wonderfully. Its not a typical story archetype, with introduction, conflict, more conflict, climax and resolution, it felt more like a debate in a way, point after point with slight transistions between them and a slow fading of the characters.

That might be a problem from some people, and I'm not quite sure why Clooney insists on staring in everything he works on. Its not that his performance was bad per say, but he's developing a case of Tom Cruise Syndrome (the apperaing in every film whether he needs to or not variety, not the jumping on the couch ranting lunitic variety)

I'm fairly confident I liked it, but I'm not sure what's hooked me more about the film, the ideas Murrow had about Journalism and Television as a medium, or the politicians he challeneged while on the air. In both cases its as relevent now as it was then, if not more. All of us seem to have a tendency towards treating televisions and computers as entertainment, and not to their full potential as social catalysts.

...those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. --Edward R. Murrow at the RTNDA Convention, October 15, 1958

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22.25.54 - Mark

Doctor Who 2005 which originally wasn't going to get distributed in the US, now is. SciFi finally had the insight to pick it up. I may or may not have already seen this series, but I'm glad its getting distributed in the US.

I'm happy, noting is going to be able to make March 17th suck (St. Patrick's Day and the US airing of the New Doctor Who) Hopefully Scifi will be enlightened enought to pick up the second season when it starts airing this fall rather that wait a few months.

As a side note, I'm starting to go though iBook widthdrawl. I miss my laptop and its barely been 12 hours... :'(

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Incomplete thought of the day

22.54.21 - Mark

While I was writing my rant about online video distribution I started thinking about how much money networks get from commercials compared to selling content online (since we all know they don't put the commercials into the videos). I've been doing some research, but TV finances are a deep dark hole of uncertainty. Especially when you don't want to sign up for Nielsen Reports.

Then I realized I messed up some numbers, and that I didn't have the time to fix those and write it up properly. It's probably for the better that I draft it for a day or two. I'm not sure what my final point is.

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What on Earth can you possibly say about this one?

22.42.02 - Mark

From the slime balls who brought you Girls Gone Wild (and the 30,000 variations that have come since) comes, Guys Gone Wild.

I can't believe people buy most of the junk they advertise on late night television, but this one takes the cake.

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Frequency Modulation

23.13.05 - Mark

I'm one of those people who saw Global Frequency back during the summer, and I loved it I even made it a point to buy the first set of Global Frequency Graphic Novels, (and I'm waiting for money so I can buy the other set) Its not just because it never aired on TV, instead only getting distributed though bittorrent, its because I think it was a great work.

It kind of pops into my head once in a while, and I should probably watch it again. But it occurred to me that when the WB does a deal with Apple to show up on the iTunes Music Store, they should really release it.

I could very well be forgetting some of the details of how its managed, and I'm certainly not aware of the business behind it, but people were begging to pay for it when it leaked on bittorrent. The iTMS model is certainly suited to single episode and short film distribution.

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