If you step back and think about it, Lost is a terrible show.

Yes, they’re really good at keeping you hooked week in and week out, but really what kind of story are they telling?  They’ve built up and tried to justify so much mythos, from those things they never should have bothered addressing to those they’ve long forgotten, Lost is a mess of made up science and ham fisted romance.

When the show started, they had a pretty simple formula: tell a little mystery tale and use it to explore the emotional lives of the folks on the island.  Starting with season 2 they strayed further and further away as they tried to keep the hardcore fans happy with answers that asked more questions and new, increasingly bizarre questions.  They lost sight of what was powerful about the show- examining how people live in this circumstance and the emotions that brought them there.

I’ll admit that I will watch this season through to the end, but I’m not going to pretend I’m watching because it’s a good show.

OMG WHAT’S IN THE HATCH!?

Note: The things that happened to Lost also happened to Buffy, Angel and Alias to name a few shows and they tend to happen to most serialized shows after a while.  The universe of the program consumes everything else over time.

See you on the next level…

ze frank

The show is staying right there in my podcast list, waiting for whatever comes next. Truth be told we may well have seen the last of it. Ze is so far ahead of the game when it comes to understanding this medium that even when he resorted to cheap jokes and potty humor it was still a joy to watch. I have no problem proclaiming myself a Sportsracer. Hell, I’ve even joined the ORG.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of press regarding the end of the Show, but this LA Times Article notes that Ze “made enough to pay the rent and then some”. Now granting that his rent is in Brooklyn, which ain’t exactly cheap, this is fine and its how new medians should approach making money on the web. Part of the problem of hiring Hollywood representation and working within that system is that its built on the mass market- salaries and revenues depend on consumption by millions of people. Alternately, you can build a community, share in that community and prove to them that what you do is worth their money. Cut out the money machine because it isn’t built for narrow media.

Joost Invites

If you want one let me know. I personally do not use Joost very frequently. The content is currently far from compelling, and while I do kind of enjoy the interface of the client, and the video does indeed work really well, I find the “channel” model of video distribution to be completely unnecessary in the connected world.

Update: All invites are gone.  Sorry to those who didn’t get them.  Enjoy!

Do we need gatekeepers?

As the wave of video on the net slowly overtakes traditional broadcast as the medium of choice for watching things, a lot of people are trying to get in the game.

One of the chief arguments aggregators and commentators have made regarding the current video revolution is that there is simply so much of it, we must have some kind of mediator who is capable of sorting out “the good stuff”. So we have places like Network2, who accept video feeds based on the notion of “shows” and some relatively vague criteria of “quality.” What these folks fail to realize is that the mediator is dead. Channels are dead. They are hanging on to old paradigms without even realizing it. Update: Coincidentally, this is what is killing Joost, which I’ll get around to reviewing at some point- I’ve been beta testing it for about a month.

The social networks of today- and by social networks I mean social websites, the blogosphere and ad hoc networks of friends and neighbors who create communities on the net- provide mediation through hyperlinking, message boards, email threads and the like. Viral distribution is all that is needed to get a video into the hands of those who want it, and aggregation through a few mediators at the top of a site is completely unnecessary. Will some things be overlooked? Absolutely. I would love to see 54 Hours be more popular than it is. But then that raises the question of whether or not we are truly participating in a way that we could actually see our videos find increased mindshare. By not jumping into YouTube more fully and relying on the podcasting/vlogging methods, are we avoiding opportunities?

Pardon the digression. My point here is that the assumption that filters need to be provided is as dead as the television broadcasting paradigm. With limited bandwidth (both broadcast and temporal), television could only afford what it deemed most acceptable to the most number of people. Contrast that to today’s world of near limitless bandwidth and the ability to time-shift programming to suit your schedule. Why revisit that world by placing boundaries to content that people should be free to discover for themselves? We will create the filters we need through our networks of connected people. By participating in different networks we will witness and redistribute other content. Any new boundary based on these new freedoms is- whether intentionally or not- aimed at limiting access.

El Producto Placemento

Two this week so far:
Willow and the guy from Freaks and Geeks took an argument break at Red Lobster on How I Met Your Mother, which was even kinda excusable because it really fit in with the general goofy/corniness of the show. Nice “Brought to you in part by Red Lobster” during the credits.
Scrubs is totally using “Zoom zoom zoom” as an “Oh Snap!” replacement. I don’t even know if I’d think it was product placement except NBC really lays it on. There was an episode of Will & Grace that was practically about the Xbox of all things, and the office had the iPod thing, which was well played but nicely coincided with the launch of The office on iTMS.
Zoom zoomzoom zooooom!
Scrubs is now doing the “Chili’s baby back ribs song.”

I Don’t Watch TV

Do you watch TV? Have cable? No? Yes? Who cares? Well, obviously everyone who doesn’t have it cares, because everyone I know who doesn’t have cable or a tv seems to bring it up constantly. I’m not talking about everyone, and I’m certainly not talking about my fellow teamforcers. There are any number of perfectly valid reasons to not have a tv. However, bragging about it as though the mere fact of your not watching tv is such a tired, useless cliche. But I have real reasons to call you out on it too! As a person who lives in society, who is an American, and who like most of my peers is driven to understanding in some way why we live the way we do, why wouldn’t I watch TV? I know what you’re saying, “TV is a nick name, and nicknames are for friends, and television is no friend of mine!” Be gone with you! How about instead of criticizing something outright why don’t you participate in it first, then get back to me and tell me how you feel. If you are working out some kind of cultural critique, political manifesto, whatever, and you really believe you are looking into the way Americans live and work, you damn well should be checking out whats on TV once in a while. It’s how people are informed! Don’t look at me like I’m crazy when i tell you i heard John Kerry is a French War Criminal Wind Surfer! I heard it on the news! You can’t begin to critique until you understand what you’re critiquing.

I’m so tired of people doing whatever it takes to prove they’re better than most people. We’re all people and we’re all in it together, flaws and all. What good does it do to simply step aside and say your better than the rest. If that’s the case then get the fuck out my brothers and sisters! People aren’t SHEEP and they aren’t CATTLE, they are social beings who do in fact look to each other for guidance and understanding, but they are also INDIVIDUALS! Imagine that!

So lets all get together and do what we can for this place instead of critiquing from afar. Its a lot more fun I tell you. How else are we going to talk about the new season of Veronica Mars?

Fall TV Roundup Part I

How I Met Your Mother:
Mildly interesting premised almost entirely ruined by bad sitcom acting, timing, filming etc. After enjoying Scrubs and Arrested Development for so long, a “multi-camera” sitcom like this seems incredibly crass, staged and just fake overall. With that said, the one guy from Freaks and geeks is in it, Allyson Hannigan is in it and Doogie Howser absolutely steals the show as the womanizing “Barney”. I may watch it again but ultimately the format itself ruins it. I HATE CANNED LAUGHTER!

Kitchen Confidential
Looking back, I’m not even sure this was really funny- it played out like a half hour drama. That may be a good thing though- despite some braodness in the characters, they’ve got a really good jumping off point for drama and comedy with a great mix of types (the rube, the irishman) and setting. We’ll see if they can stay with it but I’d definitely watch it again. Single camera format makes for a much better show.

Arrested Development
Picks up where last season left off, and is great because of it. This show is amazing!

Total mentions of the word “blog”- 2 so far. I’ll update the count as they come. This either confirms my conspiracy theory that their are television production talking points that are supposed to be integrated broadly across shows, or that the two comedies I watched are either trying to be edgy (How I met your mother) or are edgy (AD). It helped that Doogie is the one who said it. The dude invented blogs!

More to come…

The aftermath

One of the most interesting things resulting from the horribleness of this past week has been the effect its had on reporters and politicians. Many reporters were suddenly faced with the task of actually asking unscripted questions and running with material they had not been given a template to deal with- the result being panic and anger on so many newscasts out of last week. Similarly, politicos so used to scripting reality were caught time and again either lying or so unprepared to deal with what was happening they showed just how carefully constructed their world is. With reporters demanding stronger answers than the canned soundbites they were getting, many politicians revealed themselves to be simply not up to the task of public administration.

I’d like to also mention that during the bush speech where he talked about sitting on Trent lott’s porch, he also weirdly started talking about Houston in the same context as rebuilding New Orleans, and then completely veered off course with the unnecessary and really kind of awful “Houston’s where I spent many of my years, where I had a lot of fun, maybe a little too much fun (heh heh).” I can understand why it isn’t quoted, but it was so weird. Kind of insulting really- why the hell was he making a joke about his alcoholic youth at a time like this?

Mysticism in Battlestar Galactica

In reading the various BG:TNS boards that I do, I’ve found there are generally two camps of thought surrounding the new drive towards mysticism on BG: 1) There is no place for prophecy and such on a show as “realistic” as battlestar galactica 2) Bring on the prophecy! The president is going to lead the Colonists to Earth! Yay!

What naysayers seem to forget is in that BG is about holding up a mirror to our society, there will inevitably be a discussion of religion’s place in government. The Colonies do not have Jesus, they do not have god (yes, the Cylons do). They have the twelve lords of Kobol and the prophecies, the scrolls etc.. What appear to us to be inklings of bizarre magic and such are no more mystical than our own president’s religious zeal.

We live in a time when religious leaders are actively discussing the possibility of armageddon, the place certain countries have in fulfilling the prophecies of the bible, and a president whom many have claimed believes he is in power due to the “hand of god” (bad pun, intended). If we step back and look at Christianity itself, it is absolutely no more bizarre and superstitious than the religion of the colonists.

Granted, there is a lot of weirdness going on with the president’s seemingly precient visions, but I believe that these are very much the kinds of coincidences people see to justify things. Like Six may only be the cracked mind of Gaius Balter dealing with the horror of his life, telling him nothing he doesn’t already know (until episode 12 anyway?), what Roslin is seeing could very well be nothing more than fractured images residing in her subconscious that she is now interpreting as prophecy. Nothing she has seen so far is necessarily anything she hasn’t experienced in her life in some way.

Ronald Moore is setting up a president who believes she walks the path laid out to her by the gods. Sound familiar? Religion, mysticism and superstition are on Galactica because they are a huge part of our culture.

Battlestar Galactica

At some point I’d like to write in more detail about the SciFi series Battlestar Galactica, but right now I’ll settle for telling you to find it by any means necessary and watch it. It may be the best show ever. EVER!

[Listening to: Nine Million Rainy Days – Jesus & Mary Chain, The – Darklands (4:28)]

Lost. UPDATED

Let us swing away from politics for a moment and talk of THE NEW FALL LINE-UP!

I watched JJ Abrahm’s Lost last night. Originally a two hour pilot, only the first hour of which aired. For a TV pilot, it was near-cinema.

Story: around 50 people are stranded on an island after their plane crashes on a mysterious island in the pacific. Stars the guy from Party of Five, a hot girl, Merry and the guy from Millenium (who isn’t Lance Hendrikson), among others. One a doctor, one a hot girl, one a rock star, one an old weirdo. They are over 1000 miles off course and it is unlikely that they’ll be found any time soon. Also, there may or may not be a T-Rex/Giant Robot/Godzilla/Cujo on the island, ready to eat them all on a moments notice.

The “episode” opens with Party of Five waking up in the jungle, and he (and us) slowly makes his way out to the crash site, which is appropriately horrific. Very high production values, and the musical score was completely amazing. Remember when I talked about how the strings were put to good use in Alias? Well, JJ stole them (and maybe quality in general) from Alias and painted them all onto this interesting little morsel. Lots of death, explosions and body parts too.

Right when it was getting good, it was over, and we now have to wait until next week to see the conclusion.

All in all, its a pretty neat show, but its also a very strange pilot. Obviously the pilot is setting up the show, but by the end of the first episode, we really have no idea who the characters are, why we should like them. One can assume that there will be some kind of Lord of the Flies esque island society set up, as there are 50 people. But that is a very large cast. Are they all going to live? Are they all going to get picked off one by one? When will the sudden but inevitable betrayal finally occur? How can they afford a show like this? How big is the island? Big enought to sustain a quality show for more than a year? I guess we’ll see.

I will be watching next week. It seems as though the networks are taking a few risks with their hour long dramas this year, undoubtedly in hopes of getting some viewers back from HBO.

Update

I just watched part two…spoilers ahead…
Continue reading Lost. UPDATED

Proposal for Network Redemption

OK, so you’re a big-three network and you’re trying to win back viewers.

I propose:

Limited run, 24 episode series. High budget, high production values. Advertise them like television events. Hire on well known stars to participate in them under the acknowledgement that they will only run for a year. Develop and script every episode prior to filming even the first one, and make only what changes are necessary due to circumstances beyond your control.

Hire a showrunner with a strong vision and round up a handful of writers who will stick through until the show ends.

Even if you don’t make all your money back during the show’s run, eschew syndication and start selling the dvds immediately, having recorded cast and production commentary as close to the show as possible- how bout record it the night it airs, to hear how people react to the show as it is delivered to America. Once its had its run, sell it on pay-per-view. Run it in syndication on your cable affiliates.

If it is hugely successful, produce a sequal. Not a second season, a sequal.

Six Feet Under

Watched the first episode of Six Feet Under Season 4 last night (on my xbox!). I was pretty underwhelmed for the most part, though it is interesting the way they continue to deal with the subject of how people deal with death. I really felt that last night was about how people come to want attention and compassion from others when dealing with death, even if they don’t necessarily deserve it- a chance to demand some in a dark time, even when others may need it just as much or more. The selfishness of loss, I guess.

One thing to note about six feet under, which I realized last night, is that despite its completely outrageous plotting, it remains absolutely emotionally true. Every week its writers use what seem like really bad ideas to investigate how people deal with each other through love, loss and death. It got me back to Herzog’s idea of Ecstatic Truth, which is generally applied to his faux-docu style, but I think applies to any medium of moving pictures, like this show. Basically, and I am paraphrasing and probably getting it wrong here, Ecstatic Truth means not using the camera to capture things “as they really truly are” (see Cinema Verite or Dogme), but using it as a means of expressing truths through the very powers you are given in the medium. That is to say, there is no reason to adhere to reality in cinema any more than there is in books or painting or any other art. We can take the Six Feet Under Universe for what it is, and use it to understand a little more about what it means to be human, even though it seems outlandish and unbelievable when you hear about it. When Laura and Mark Bisi would describe SFU Season 2 to me (Dawn and I weren’t watching it that season), I really thought that the show had gone completely stupid, because the plot devices were just really unbelievable, but Mark persisted that it really was good and that I had to watch it. After watching most of season 3, I came to understand that he was right. The show does speaks truths and rips your heart out.

Sometimes you get what you wish for…

Well, a few weeks ago I talked about Leo being off the screen savers…now he’s officially no longer with TechTv. I have to say I’m surprised for all the reasons I said he was good in my previous Leo post. I think it can safely be said that what tattered remnants of the former ZDTV are left will soon be completely destroyed in favor of boobies and video games. Ahhh well. It is unlikely that I will even be able to get G4 when they merge since it is 100% owned by Monopocast. He writes a nice going away message without any anger, and it could be just a tech guy using tech terms…but he quotes Tron’s Master Control Program’s favorite creepy phrase ‘End of Line’ in the title…..I wonder…..

Fired