Oscar, noscar

So I’m checking out the list of Oscar nominees, and I see

  • Art Direction: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Cinematography: Batman Begins
  • Makeup: Star Wars Episode III

…and that’s it for movies I’ve seen. Really. Three films, one nomination apiece, none of them in the sexiest categories.

It’s not the fault of the movies. I’d certainly like to see Crash, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, Transamerica (and to show that it’s not just downbeat dramas I want to see, throw in Wallace & Gromit, King Kong, March of the Penguins as further examples). It’s just that the reality of Life With Little Miss Nat’s TV means that it is hard to get away to the movies without her, and hard to view movies with her in an uninterupted fashion, whether at the theater or on DVD. Dramas lose their momentum when you’re pausing every minute and a half to read The Monster At The End Of This Book to a demanding audience. So even as things end up on our Netflix list, many of them get constantly pushed down the list in favor of TV DVDs (since TV is designed to have interuptions.)

So since I don’t care about the names of people’s agents, not that interested in what they wear (oh, that American Express dress from a few years back was pretty cool), and as little as I generally care about who wins I can’t even claim to have an opinion this year. Oh, the ReplayTV will still be recording it this year, but that’s because it’s exactly the thing that needs to be ReplayTVed – so I can watch the Jon Stewart host bits, maybe the songs, and skip the rest.

Published in: on January 31, 2006 at 11:32 am  Comments (3)  

Culture by numb3rs

I just watched Friday’s episode of Numb3rs, which was a blatant unsubtle pitch for tying yourself in to your cultural heritage, as the show’s lovely California-raised Indian gal goes quickly from being a steadfast Californian to needing to immerse hersel in the culture and land of India.

But, at the end of the show, the Jewish central characters sign up to be organ donors… and not a peep is made about how organ donation is against Jewish tradition, that it will keep you out of proper Jewish cemetaries, and so forth.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not big into the cultural heritage thing, and I am a big fan of organ donation. But when you choose to do a message script and try to send two messages, it would be nice if you recognized that those messages are in conflict.

Published in: on January 29, 2006 at 8:28 pm  Comments (1)  

Buffy the Network Slayer

The L.A. Times blames the collapse of both The WB and UPN on Buffy, basically claiming that the transfer of the show between networks put them both battling for the same segment of the marketplace. (It also notes that the weblets arose because of changes in law to allow networks to own the programming they aired… interesting to note, because Buffy wasn’t owned by either network but rather by competitor Fox.)

(And just to provide a working definition of “slow news day”, they also have an article on the CalTech basketball team, a team which proves that playing smart does not trump playing well.)

Published in: on January 29, 2006 at 12:51 pm  Comments (2)  

Major Piracy Association of America

Look, I’m not one of those anti-anti-piracy guys, decrying every attempt to fight the vast sea of pirate activities going on. Quite the opposite, I’m anti-piracy myself. But even I have to wag the finger at the MPAA for having made copies of a movie without permission. Yes, I understand why they would want to have copies of such an item… but then, I also understand why other pirates want copies. It don’t make it right.

Published in: on January 25, 2006 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book 'em, Daniel

Well, The Book of Daniel has been pulled from the network schedule. It’s not a great loss; there were some good quirky elements, but it added up to silliness that wasn’t that much fun. The only downside is that the professional anti-culture forces will pretend this is their victory, as though their campaign brought about the series cancellation (guess what? Most mid-season series get cancelled fairly quickly. Book of Daniel outlast Emily’s Reasons Why Not by hundreds of percent.) There are folks who make their living feigning outrage and then organizing folks to complain and, while they’re at it, send in money. From time to time, they like to claim a victory to show their effectiveness. Some of the same folks are probably taking credit for getting NYPD Blue (another series that they protested before a single episode was aired) yanked after lasting barely more than a decade…

Published in: on January 25, 2006 at 5:11 pm  Comments (1)  

Courting Dharma

Jenna Elfman’s sitcom Dharma and Greg was a show built around an unlikely love match – a straitlaced work-centered lawyer and a free spirit with a broad history of employment are drawn together.

Jenna Elfman’s sitcom Courting Alex is a show built around an unlikely love match – a straitlaced work-centered lawyer and a free spirit with a broad history of employment are drawn together.

What’s the difference? This time, she plays Greg. Well, Alex. Greg was likable, despite his job, while Alex is only beginning to realize that there should be something more in life than just being a lawyer. We don’t have much reason to like for her or root for her.

And root for her we must, because this shows the signs of being Generic Sitcom #3: the couple who you know are going to end up together but spend their time going out but not committing, breaking up but wanting to be back together, likely one of them heading over to the house of the other to try to mend things only to see the Wonderful New Person In Their Life through the window. Every TV couple is Ross and Rachel, you see. It’s one of the many things that is killing Joey; it’s also one of the things that Dharma & Greg famously avoided from marrying off its characters in episode 1.)

Elfman, a talented comedienne, is not great as the lawyer, and if there’s a chemistry problem it’s not so much within the romantic couple as it is between Elfman and sitcom veteran Dabney Coleman (hey, could someone please put The Slap Maxwell Story on DVD?), who plays her dad.

The biggest problem with the pilot was that it was all dry set-up, all scenes more calculated to let you know who they key characters and supporting cast are than it was calculated to amuse. So there’s a chance that things will flow better once they get past the expository. I’ll probably check out a couple more; with the instant cancellation of Emily’s Reasons Why Not, I suspect we won’t see a half-hour right against it for a while. But I don’t have high hopes for it.

Published in: on January 24, 2006 at 7:28 pm  Comments (1)  

WB and UPN merging?!?

The WB and UPN are merging into a single network.

This is huge.

In some ways, it makes sense. They’re both smaller, struggling networks with only part of the schedule full. They’ve competed for projects. Together, they could grow. It’s not going to mean more TV production quickly, it may even mean less.

But what’s overlooked in these brief articles is that most key areas of the country are already served by both networks on separate stations. In merging, presumably they will reduce down to one affiliate in each zone. This means that there will be a lot of newly-unaffiliated station, creating an opportunity for a new broadcast network.

And while the combining of the two networks won’t be opening up significant new airtime overall, it will open up airtime on the more popular TV viewing nights, nights when both UPN and the WB had been separately programming. This might create an opportunity for a new network… or it might create opportunity for new syndicated fiction shows.

The young’uns in the audience may not remember the period when syndicated fiction series were a real market, rather than just a few cheap action shows created mainly for the foreign market being dumped on the local air. Some were network series being continued in a cost-cutting way, such as the later seasons of Charles in Charge and 21 Jump Street. Some were things that had both the foreign action market and the US market in mind, like the syndicated rotating movie slot that spun off Hercules and TekWar as weekly series plus had new Midnight Run and Smokey and the Bandit follow-ups. There were sitcoms like the fine Throb, the easily-ridiculed Small Wonder (she’s a little girl robot!), and the long-running Mamma’s Family. And the king of first-run syndicated fiction was Star Trek: The Next Generation, arguably the best Trek and certainly the thing that drove the existence of the various series since then.

What brought this era to an end was the expansion of the broadcast network world beyond three networks. Much of this material found homes on Fox affiliates back when Fox was programming very few prime time hours; as they expanded toward a full schedule, and The WB and UPN came in to snarf up remaining broadcast networks, there wasn’t airspace for these other shows (and there was too much competition for viewers as well.)

So it’s possible, but I suspect we won’t see that revival of first-run syndication. With the expansion of the cable range the typical home has access to too many other sources of new material. If I had to look into my rather fuzzy crystal ball, I suspect we’ll see syndication of some cable originals, probably hitting broadcast about the same time as the same episodes hit DVD. It’s a way to get non-cable-subscribers to see Battlestar Galactica, Monk, perhaps bleeped versions of Rescue Me and The Shield.

Or perhaps the differences from the current status will be so small that it will be hard to detect. I dunno. I’m no expert, I just watch the dang stuff!

But I will say this: “CW” is a lousy name for a network. For me, it evokes Country Western music, and that’s not a big endorsement for me. For the record, I did think The WB was an interesting name, although I always thought naming a channel “You Peein’?” was a bad idea.

Published in: on January 24, 2006 at 12:39 pm  Comments (7)  

Who I am, part 2

More about the unfascinating topic which is me.

  • I can’t swim, and while I’m no longer as afraid of dogs as I used to, I’m still not comfortable with them.
  • I love watching an old film and discovering Thelma Ritter is in it.
  • I don’t get to the movie theater much any more, but I used to see a fair number of films. I was far from seeing eerything, but I had a pretty good track record of seeing movies that weren’t noticed at the time but became hits after they left the theater. A Christmas Story, saw it, because I was a fan of the source material. Office Space — I remember seeing that then heading to work and telling folks “there weren’t many people there, but this is going to become big. It’ll spread by word of mouth.” I thought it would happen while the film was still in the theater, but at least I was proven right eventually.
  • I also saw some of the more renowned flops on the big screen. Yes, I was part of the miniscule grosses for Howard the Duck and Ishtar… and found worthwhile moments in both.
  • I believe that we should get rid of the penny. Seriously. It’s so small in value that the costs of dealing with it are far higher than any loss of a bargain caused by eliminating it. The last time we eliminated our smallest value coin was in 1857, when we got rid of the half cent. Allowing for inflation, that would be the same as eliminating the dime today. So maybe it’s time we stop dividing things down into chunks so small as to be valueless, kill the penny, and hey, maybe the nickel as well. Go down to single decimal-point pricing.
  • Speaking of which: oil companies? Yes, we get it, you want your gas to look a penny cheaper than it is, because the other person’s gas looks a penny cheaper than it is. We’re smarter than that. We know that the price difference between $2.47-and-nine-tenths and $2.48 isn’t enough on a fill-up for us to drive the extra two blocks to the other gas station. But it’s hard being the first to raise that tenth of a penny? Promote it. I promise to get a righteous fill-up at the first gas station that has a big sign out front that says “AND NO TENTHS!”
  • When I want to impress people with my smartness credentials, I tell them that I got my BA at age 18. When I want hide my light under a bushel, I say that I never actually graduated high school, but I have a GED dated about a year and a half after I left high school. Both are true. But don’t be impressed by the BA; really, at age 40, I am no longer a child prodigy.
  • I exude something which leads people to believe that I am competent for whatever situation I’m facing. This would be handy if I wanted to get away with trying things that I’m not actually equipped to do. Instead, it’s just aggrevating; the best I can do is live up to expectations.
  • Which is not to say that I don’t fall victim to misplaced belief in myself. I think I’m a capable actor… until I see myself filmed or mentally review some of the acting choices I’ve made.
  • I have the ability to tell which longshot horse will be in the lead of the race at the halfway point, as I was reminded yesterday when I visited the racetrack for the first time in five years or so. Unfortunately, they do not let you bet on the halfway point. (I swear, it was as though one horse I bet on suddenly realized he’d left his wallet at the starting gate and went back to get it.)
  • I don’t really believe that pie will save the world, but hey, it couldn’t hurt to try.
Published in: on January 23, 2006 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  

West Wing '76

I’m in the midst of watching tonight’s episode of The West Wing (which, as Rich notes in the comments on another item, is gone at the end of the season, but at least is not going out at its low quality point). President Bartlett is struggling to understand a nuclear disaster problem and figure out how to handle it. All I can think is “now this is the time when (nuclear engineer) Jimmy Carter would be the right guy to have in office.”

Published in: on January 23, 2006 at 12:16 am  Comments (2)  

The perfect political storm

As a system of generating governance, I am ever more disappointed with the American political process. The “team” nature of it, the destructive nature of campaigning (and that the campaign never ends these days, with everything a sound bite targeted at destroying “the other side” during any discussion), the blatant support of moneyed interests to encourage campaigns, and so forth… it’s no way to get good law, good leadership, or engender trust.

But as a spectator sport… well, we’re in the preseason for the most exciting political game in this country in my life, perhaps in the history of the country. As usual, the party out of office has no clear nominee – plus, with the party in office looking weak, every Democratic player who ever had a thought of sitting in the Oblong Office has got to think that This Is The Time.

Meanwhile, the party in power can’t run their incumbent, and unlike most such cases, the VP is unlikely to run. And while in some such cases the sitting president would annoint someone to continue his work, even if they do so the Bush administration is so tainted at this point that others in the party would be willing to put up a real challenge to the annointee. Despite some recent popularity problems, the Republicans are still the party in power, so any Republican who ever had a thought… yadda yadda yadda.

So expect big piles of candidates on both sides, pulling each other apart. Expect some unlikely souls getting more support than they would obviously get. Folks are already trying to declare who the candidates will be; never believe those folks, not a one of them would have picked Jimmy Carter as the candidate, much less the victor, this far before the 1976 election. And as much fun as a Clinton vs Rice campaign would be, neither seems likely to make it through this process. Oh, folks won’t hold Clinton’s links to her husband against her (for the primaries, most of the folks that count like ol’ Bill), but she’s been acting so far away from Democractic center on so many issues that her support won’t be that deep. I actually believe Condi when she says that she doesn’t want the Presidency, and she’s too deep in the taint of the current administration and the war to seem a likely winner. (But if I were the Republican nominee – and the odds of that are under 13%, believe me – I’d be calling her up to take the VP slot on the ticket. Give a little signal to the Bush fans that we aren’t really abandoning them, while at the same time giving a good tug on folks for whom her sex and race are appealing; she’s got enough horsepower that she’s clearly not just a novelty candidate.)

So as much as I dread the results, I feel quite certain that this game ain’t gonna be boring.

Published in: on January 22, 2006 at 12:08 am  Comments (3)  
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