Archive for the Category TV

 
 

CNBC’s New Comic Books Business Analyst

I appeared on CNBC this week. See the video here. It leaves out the last question that I answered, but we’ll save that for the Director’s Cut Blu-ray down the line somewhere…

The Morning TV Show Format

O.A.R. was on the VH-1 Morning Buzz show this morning. They were performing a new song I hadn’t heard before, so I watched the show.

It was painful. Not O.A.R. They were great, even with a stripped down four piece version of the band. (Chris and Benj were absent.) It’s the television show: A cheap, stripped-down, grasping-at-straws-for-content version of Today or GMA, which are similar poor shows just with bigger budgets.

I don’t watch much television anymore, and I definitely don’t watch any of the morning shows. So while I’m familiar with the format from so long ago it feels like a previous life, I haven’t sat through an example of it in years.

It’s bad.

In the half hour or forty minutes I saw, host Nick Lachey and his two co-hostesses ran through a ridiculous number of spots, one more hollow than the next. There was the bartender showing them how to make fancy mixed drinks. There was the pole dancer showing the three hosts how to pole dance (I notice the second hostess stood by and never got on the pole — she must be the smart one). There was a three minute interview with Akon, following by two questions asked from tourists on the street. Nick Lachey sang 20 seconds of a song coming out of a break. An even more annoying co-host helped introduce O.A.R. and smiled like a doofus when Lachey teased the next show. Lachey went out into the “crowd” of about 20 people in Times Square to answer a couple of Tweets, and then took a selfie or two with the people.

Bam bam bam bam. Don’t blink or you’ll miss a segment. Better idea: Blink and you WILL miss a segment. One more vapid than the next. Lachey reading his questions off index cards is painful, especially when he can’t pronounce the name of an artist he just referred to as a “major” one, like he had never heard of Matisyahu before.

Later on, I listened to a Nerdist podcast where the host and friends interviewed Donald Fasion for an hour.* Sure, the topics were a bit scattered, but there was a flow of conversation that didn’t seem scripted or rehearsed. It felt natural. It was funny. It was entertaining. I learned a thing or two and had a couple fun flashbacks to things I had forgotten about. Obviously, they went into the podcast with topics to discuss, but it wasn’t carefully planned. All the proof you need of that is the awkward way it ended, like all Nerdist podcasts. There’s about three rounds of good-byes before the tangents stop and they actually end the recording.

Morning Television is the true vast wasteland, showing us on a daily fast-forwardable basis just how scattershot and minimally attentive television audiences are assumed to be. I’d rather sit in a chair, close my eyes, and listen to a podcast, where there’s no commercial breaks, no need for multiple segments, the freedom to talk about anything using whatever language they see fit, and a sense of spontaneity not created by cringe-worthy audience interaction.

Give me podcasts or give me — well, boredom!

Jack Is Back

I have to be honest. I never watched the last couple seasons of ’24.’ Or that television movie that led into the one season. I’m not even sure where we left Jack.

But it’s been just long enough that all the nostalgia flows through me and I’m super excited that Jack Is Back:

Besides, once upon a time, ’24′ talk was a regular feature around here. I didn’t forget you.

The Voice Semi-Finals Results

The judges have run out of interesting things to say by now. They’re just repeating themselves, and the honesty is long gone. Also, we can drop Shakira. She seems nice enough, but she never says anything interesting. Aguilera can be annoying at times, but at least she adds something to the show.

Sasha’s Whitney song wasn’t nearly as good as the judges hyped it up to be. And the second song — well, Judith Hill lost when she decided to be a techno dance music singer instead of the power balladeer diva everyone wanted her to be. Sasha didn’t learn that lesson.

Amber’s version of “Sad” was amazing, but nothing that would ever get her votes. And “Firework” was painful for the first 3/4ers. That’s NOT a song that anyone should ever do in a singing competition without a major rewrite of it.

Danielle and The Swon Brothers gave their voters more of what they like. Ditto Michelle Chamuel. They go through to the finale. Who wins? Michelle has a chance with the inevitable vote splitting amongst the country fans. But the country fans LOVE to support their people. I think Danielle has the best chance to win it.

Can we please now stop with these group singalongs? They’re awful. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” could have been awesome if just Sasha sang it. Maybe Michelle could have pulled it off as a solo. The Swon Brothers might have been an interesting country version of it. But having them all trade off lines meant the song never went anywhere. Just when you had a clear direction and a strong voice (usually on Sasha’s line), it immediately got reeled back in so someone else could have their turn, or so that the group would sound in harmony. It was painful. And it’s just as bad on Idol.

Oh, and the returning contestants who have EPs ready to go soon because the world moves too fast to wait for a full record and The Voice’s season ends soon as does their window for best publicity? They all need to learn how to write better bridges, because all their songs sounded the same for those three to four minutes. Very little variations or breakout moments in there. I liked Adam’s guy (Tony Lucca) the best.

Looking Back on VR.5

“VR.5″ was my introduction to the internet, in some ways. It debuted in the spring of my freshman year in college, where I had internet access for the first time. It wasn’t my first time on-line, having been on local BBSes and Q-Link before then. Q-Link was a Commodore on-line service that would later become AOL.

In any case, I loved the show when it aired, even if critical response wasn’t initially great and the ratings — being a Friday night FOX show — never took off. Only “X-Files” ever survived that time slot. The road is paved with the dead bodies of all the other shows they tried in there, including the wonderful Bruce Campbell vehicle, “The Adventures of Brisco Country Jr.”

But VR.5 became a cause for me at the time, and I met up with a group of people on-line who also liked the show. Together, we did what we could to try to save it. We wrote letters, organized on-line somethings-or-others, etc. We didn’t send ketchup packets or flowers or weird things to the network executives. That came later. This was at a time when the internet was new enough that not every show had such a campaign. We dubbed ourselves “The Virtual Storm” and I became the “Media Relations” guy for it, just because I had gotten a couple of emails or postcards back from the networks I had written to. A local newspaper even interviewed me for the campaign. It was fun.

The show has been off the air for nearly 20 years now. Sci-Fi aired the 13 episodes once — including 3 FOX never aired — and there was a VHS release for the series, but that’s been it.

They’re testing the waters, though. If you want to see VR.5 released, perhaps in an on-demand way, go over to Amazon and sign up for alerts from them for when the show is available. It’s a minor thing that might go nowhere, but what the heck? Doesn’t hurt to try. Or to click once.

This got me to wanting to listen to the soundtrack again. I was shocked to see it had never been imported into iTunes, which I didn’t have until a decade after the soundtrack came out and was my first CD purchase. Thankfully, I found the CD easily enough, in the same folder as I had stored my Babylon 5 soundtracks, which is likely a topic for another post on another day.

But here’s what I wanted to show you:

vr5_cds

Two discs. One soundtrack. The disc on the left is the one you could purchase in stores or, I guess, on-line. Was Music Boulevard around yet? Amazon? Probably not. So let’s just say you bought that one at Sam Goody’s.

The other one — on the right — I got from the VR.5 production company as they closed down their offices and cleaned things out. I had emailed with them a couple of times during the VR.5 campaign, and they offered to send me the disc. As I recall now, this was a copy they gave out to their staff or at a Christmas party or a wrap party or something. It’s labelled “For Promotional Use” only, so maybe it’s amongst a batch they created to send to whatever kind of reviewers would listen to this kind of thing? I don’t know.

I just think it’s cool, so it’s the one I imported.

Excuse me now while I go listen to Dee Carstensen’s “To Dance Again” and vividly remember the visuals from the series that went along with it. I can still picture the rain coming down and Lori Singer clearing off her desk and thrashing a computer in the process.

Oh, wait, it’s on YouTube. Here you have it. (Someday, I’ll learn how to embed YouTube videos in this blog again…)

How “You Bet Your Life” Was Saved

I have a few DVDs of this show in my collection. I could watch them all day. Groucho Marx was awesome in them, and I almost want to get a Netflix subscription just to watch more.

Still, there is a story behind how the show didn’t get destroyed, and Groucho’s grandson tells the tale. A warehouse in NJ — not a half hour from where I live, I imagine — shipped the reels to Groucho rather than destroying them. Groucho didn’t realize quite how many reels there were:

I rushed over to my grandfather’s house and sure enough, there were five UPS trucks parked in front. Each driver was wheeling dozens of boxes of film into the house.

“Where would you like us to put all of this?” one of the drivers asked me. “There are over 500 boxes and each box contains ten reels of film.”

5,000 reels of film, I thought to myself, as I watched the small army of UPS drivers putting boxes in any empty space they could find, including a now-vacated bedroom that once belonged to Groucho’s last wife from whom he was now divorced. I couldn’t help thinking this was beginning to resemble a scene from a Marx Brothers film, as boxes of film were stacked to the ceiling, literally taking up entire rooms. I also thought back to the man from NBC, who told me there were “a few boxes of film,” an understatement if ever there was one.

By the time the UPS drivers left later that day, my grandfather’s house – which was quite large – was filled from end to end with boxes of “You Bet Your Life” reels. And even though I knew my grandfather was angry, I was grateful that we had managed to save “You Bet Your Life” from extinction by NBC.

Shocker! More Anecdotal Evidence that DS9 was a B5 Rip-off

The following is not surprising. All it does is help to confirm everything we’ve known for the last twenty years: That Paramount committed theft in the creation of Deep Space 9. Obviously, this is the internet and the source needs to be questioned, but he did include a full name, so there’s some believability there.

More at the link. This is excerpted from a comment by Steven Hopstaken:

Paramount and Warner Bros. both agreed that Deepspace 9 would be the show that would launch the new network and there wouldn’t be room for two “space” shows on the network. I was told they purposely took what they liked from the B5 script and put it in the DS9 script. In fact, there was talk of leaving the B5 script in tact and just setting it the Star Trek universe. I had to keep rewriting press release drafts while they were trying to make the final decision.

An Appreciation of DuckTales

This here is your MUST READ article of the day. Every word of it is true, and it IS a shame that Disney so easily dismisses DuckTales and its cohorts from the Disney Afternoon days. Shameful, really.

DuckTales, the most successful show of Disney’s short-lived television-animation renaissance—and a show that kicked off a brief interest in syndicated afternoon animation from a host of media companies—has mostly disappeared from the limelight, to the degree that the company released around three-quarters of its episodes on DVD, then simply stopped. What’s fascinating about this is that DuckTales is a vastly entertaining show, with quality traits that go beyond its catchy theme song, and it’s incredibly easy to gobble up episode after episode of the thing. Plenty of cartoons from the ’80s and ’90s fail the nostalgia test, simply falling apart when re-examined through the lens of adulthood. DuckTales isn’t one, and returning to it as an adult reveals that there are hidden pleasures there that go beyond memories of what it was like to watch as a kid. For a show so breathless and action-packed, DuckTales takes its time, and that makes all the difference.

“The Smurfs” Inspired “Seinfeld”?

Watched a classic episode of “The Smurfs” a couple weekends ago with my daughter. The episode centers on Jokey Smurf betting that every other Smurf that they could NOT perform the action they’re best known for for a day. If they could do that, he wouldn’t play a joke on them for a full year. Vanity had to not look at himself in the mirror. Grouchy couldn’t frown. etc. etc.

And, one by one, they all fall. (To be fair, one gets caught by Gargamel, who is ultimately defeated by his own inability NOT to open an early birthday present from his mother that was actually a Trojan Horse sent by Papa Smurf, proving that a little willpower isn’t such a bad thing.)

I couldn’t help think that this show laid the groundwork for the classic Seinfeld episode, “The Contest.” The Smurfs were a good decade or decade and a half ahead of their time. If only Vanity Smurf had walked into Jokey’s mushroom house, smacked his money down on the table and said, “I’M OUT!” as he looked into his mirror…

Why the Internet Still Wins: Tim Cook Edition

Apple CEO Tim Cook did two interviews that showed up today. The first appeared this morning via Bloomberg Businessweek. It was heavily linked across the internet. It was presented in question and answer format, and rambled on for many screens. There’s a lot of material to read through with that interview, and it’s worth it. It’s an exciting, interesting, informative piece.

Then, tonight, Brian Williams had the first television interview with Tim Cook. At least, that’s their claim. I didn’t see much of an interview in there. The piece spread out across two segments of the show, but Tim Cook talked for about a minute and a half of it. Most of the piece was a monologue by Brian Williams describing Apple’s successes and challenges, often accompanied by a 5 seconds response from the CEO before quickly cutting away to the next thing before he had a chance to really answer anything or discuss a single topic in any depth. It was the most frustrating waste of twenty minutes I’ve felt from watching TV in a long time.

When Brian Williams tries to get Tim Cook to spill the beans on how Apple would transform the TV industry, I was hoping Cook would say, “By obsoleting you, Brian.” No such luck.

Maybe next year.

By the way, the big news out of the two interviews is that Apple is planning to produce one of the existing Mac lines in America. I’m laying my money down on it being the next Mac Pro. Why? Because that machine is so damned expensive that its buyers won’t notice the extra few hundred they’ll have to spend to have it built here. You can’t make a $999 laptop on an assembly line in America, but a $3000 desktop machine? Sure, that’s a possibility.

This is a question Williams put to Cook during the interview. He asked Cook how much more an iPhone would cost if it were built in America. And just as Cook was starting to explain why the problem isn’t so much the cost as it is the manufacturing talent, the tightly-edited piece quickly whip-panned onto the next segment.

Somehow, Williams was getting together with Josh Topolsky from The Verge for a special live chat about the interview tonight. I don’t know what they plan to talk about, since there was barely any interview shown on my television screen…

YouTube Feature Request

The one thing YouTube is missing is a simple feature that most audio players/podcast players have today: a fast-forward and rewind button. Yes, you can scrub through, but it’s inexact and tricky. Give me a 10 second rewind button and a 30 second fast-forward button and I’d be happy.

While you’re over there, check out these recent videos:

Quote of the Day – 28 November Edition

The creation of Lost defies nearly everything we know about how successful television shows — or great ones — are made. The idea for Lost came not from a writer, but a network executive. The first writer on the project got fired. The replacement creative team had a fraction of the usual time to write, cast, and produce a pilot episode. The executive who had championed the show was himself fired before it ever aired. One of the two creators all but quit the moment the pilot was finished. Nearly every creative decision at the start of the show was made under the assumption that it would never succeed. Everyone believed it was too weird, too dense, too unusual to work. And it may have been. But it worked, anyway.

The Sing-Off, Season 3

The Sing-Off Logo

On NBC

Pentatonix is going to win. It’s easy to see that right now. Barring a pair of horribly out-of-sync and out of tune performances in the same night, they’re your winners. Let’s break this down:

Afro-Blue: Confused group. Great at doing jazzy reimaginings, but often overthink it or get too complicated. They’re up and then they’re down over and over again. Some of this is the judges’ fault. In true Idol fashion, one week they tell the group to cut back on the jazz stuff, then the next they complain they’ve lost their jazz identity. Afro-Blue is confused.

Vocal Point: Some minor pitch issues, too distracted by school, not quite strong enough. What is their sound? They don’t have the lead man everyone will identify with. Nice guys, but not different enough from the pack to stand out as something that will win.

Urban Method: There’s still a problem with the women in the group. Even when the judges praise them — see the country song this week — they still sound a little insecure to me. And that weakness has plagued them throughout. They can’t rely on the rapper to carry them, but he’s their strongest part. He’s energetic, comfident, comfortable on stage, and one of those rare things — a rapper who can smile. I hate rap, but I enjoy watching him work.

Dartmouth Aires: Traditional college group. Will probably make it to Top 2 or 3. But they’re just too big, and their sound often gets lost in a chorus of voices. They have a couple of amazing leads to give them a character to hook onto and an identity (which is what doomed other groups like the Yellow Jackets), but the rest of the group is just sorta there. If you dropped four people, you probably wouldn’t hear the difference.

And, realistically, in setting up a tour in support of an album,bnobody wants to fund 15 band members for a road trip. Brian Setzer can only do it with his orchestra by going to Japan.

Pentatonix: The future of a capella. Small group makes them financially feasible to produce. They have a cohesive sound. They’re not a band slapped together for this show that hasn’t gelled. These guys are for real. Every person is strong and can handle the spotlight. They have the most charismatic, energetic, and creative vocal percussionist on the show. Their creativity is wild, and even when they pull it back – see country week, again – they make it a better song.

Pentatonix will win. They’re the group this show was created for, and the group Sony would be most happy to have.

At this point, if I had to guess, I’d say the eliminations will go in this order: Afro-Blue, Vocal Point, Urban Method, Dartmouth Aires. There’s lot of wiggle room in there, though. The judges are just looking for a reason to bounce groups at this point. They’re all great groups, but if they give the judges a reason to kick them off the show at the end of an episode, the judges will jump all over it. So, one bad performance each week will doom a group.

And it’ll be a lot of fun to watch, because it’s some of the most creative singing television has ever seen, week after week.

When it’s all done, I plan on buying the first season of the show (which I’ve never seen) just to see more of Delilah’s Amy Lynn Whitcomb. She had a very poor choice of hairdo back then, but it’ll still be worth it. Please note that the safest Delilah ever was on this show were the weeks Whitcomb held the lead vocal. The second they let her sink into the background, the group had immediate issues.

I Could Have Looked Like a Genius

When Christina Perri’s debut album came out a couple months back, I wrote up a song-by-song review. For some inexplicable reason, I never posted it. Here’s one song’s review:

“The Lonely” is a dark song, and the most likely to be used on “So You Think You Can Dance” this season. I haven’t checked her tour schedule for the summer, but I’d bet anything there’s a hole in it sometime in June or July for Perri to be there for a victory lap to perform a song from this album. The blatant reference to “Dancing slowly in an empty room” in this song makes it an easy choreographer target. (Though “Bang Bang Bang” would make a kick-butt Quick Step. ;-) I love the piano progressions in this song. It acts as both piano and percussion in the song, which is a nifty trick.

Guess what song they used on “So You Think You Can Dance?” this week? Perri is out on tour and not available to perform on the show, but I almost nailed that prediction…

Random SuperBowl XLV Thoughts

I DVRed the whole thing and fast-forwarded through the first half, with a smattering of stuff from the second.  Some initial impressions:

  • Cute, Motorola.  He’s reading “1984″ in an ad for the XOOM tablet, featuring the masses looking like Apple Zombies.  Cute.  Congrats on being the first Android 3 tablet, due out just in time for the second generation of Apple’s tablet.  Good luck with that  OK, so it’s actually looking like it wil be out a couple months sooner — but what about that $800 price tag?!?  Yikes!

  • Very subtle of “Cowboys Vs. Aliens” to mention that it’s by “The Director of Iron Man” just before the shot of the energy cannon thing in the guy’s hand.

  • I loved loved loved the “Captain America” trailer on just about every conceivable level.

  • The Darth Vader commercial was as cute as all the pre-SuperBowl hype had it being.

  • I’m glad I wasn’t watching the halftime show with my parents.  It would have been tough explaining how The Black-Eyed Peas qualify as music. But, hey, at least we know that it wasn’t all lip-synched for a change.  Who in their right mind would lay down a track that awful-sounding to lip-sync to?

  • The half-time show is about spectacle, though, so good for them on that.  You can’t beat a “Tron” half-time show for that, can you?

  • Congrats to Usher on not pulling a groin muscle with that last jump over Will.I.Am.

  • GoDaddy isn’t even trying anymore, is it?  Their commercials are just teases for their website, which I have no interest in visiting afterwards.

  • The SuperBowl is like the “Ed Sullivan Show,” isn’t it?  Who’s the big name guest star in the audience tonight, kids?

  • Did that just make me sound 30 years older than I actually am?  Yes, I guess it does. I’ll shut up now.

  • OK, one last one: Heard the Groupon ad was insensitive, horrible, and pure evil.  So I watched them on-line. I laughed out loud, mostly because I knew they were the kinds of ads that would piss off a certain type of people.  I am evil, and that’s OK with me.