Big Night

I saw the premier of Big Night, ABC’s new wedding sitcom, in somewhat distracted circumstances. The set-up is interesting enough that I’ll watch more – it’s set in real time, with the many episodes adding up to a single, rather troubled wedding day. I want to like it – it has Wendy Malick in it and yes, we do like her – but I can’t say that what I saw had me laughing yet.
But I also think that it may be one of those things that takes time to build up steam. Will constant exposure to the complications of its set-up (multiple ex-boyfriends, controlling mom, threatening weather, overly laid-back groom, etc.) form a rhythm that will build humorously, or will it merely drive what thin jokes it has into the ground? I really can’t predict. So I score this – the most useless review of the year!

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 9:40 am  Comments (2)  

reanimated Trek

Between the announcement that they’re going back and spiffying up the special effects in the original Star Trek series and the release of a new DVD set of the animated Star Trek series, I’ve been a thinkering. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of the animated version, but my mental file for it is “the original voices, some impressive writers, basic crap 1970s Saturday AM animation”.
Now what if they took the voice track and redid it all, all CGI (perhaps with using video from the original series and using computer magic resyncing tricks for the human characters, since CGI does recognizable humans expensively and awkwardly)? I’m not saying that the results would be worth the expenditures financially, but it would be interesting to see if they could get anything particularly watchable out of it.

Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 9:35 am  Comments (2)  

A question answered

For a while, I was wondering if Studio 60 would ever use any SNL cast member. At first, when it was clear that Lorne Michaels was not a fan of this show being done, I reckoned that only a cast member who really wanted to burn bridges would do it. My sense (not playing close attention, admittedly) is that that conflict cooled somewhat with 30 Rock being added to the NBC schedule. And with Studio 60 going from not mentioning the existence of a real Saturday Night Live to making an SNL reference each episode.
Anyway, tonight my question was answered. Mark McKinney, who if memory serves only did one season of SNL (although he comes from years on the Lorne Michaels-produced Kids in the Hall) showed up on what looks to be a recurring role.
And since I tend to like McKinney (including not only in the aforementioned shows, but also the Canadian production Slings & Arrows), I consider this a good thing.

Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 2:16 am  Comments (1)  

Watch for this on CSI…

One of the frustrations of watching various sorts of crime shows is the abuse of computer imaging technology. I always cringe badly at those scenes where they zoom in on one pixel of a computer video and run some refining code on it and it looks like a perfectly clear shot. Suddenly, from the little blob scene from 1000 yards away, you can make out the man’s face, the writing on his t-shirt, the brand of ballpoint pen making a dent in his front pocket…

Sorry, but tech doesn’t work that way. If you have one pixel of data, it isn’t hiding all that much. There are indeed things that you can do to enhance images and make details more noticable, but they have very real limits.

Today, I saw this bit of video… an example of something rather impressive that they can now do with a single still photo image. It’s not something that’s actually in police hands at the moment apparently, and I suspect it requires more than a casual amount of computer power… but we’re bound to see it on some show in the near future (complete with abuse as the camera goes through a door, up a staircase, and sees the victim’s body on the floor when it isn’t actually in the photo.)

Published in: on November 27, 2006 at 7:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Boca's video game

Just saw an ad for a portable Leapster video game thingy, which pushes how kids playing with it will be “increasing the size of their brains”. Expanding their minds would be a good thing, but swelling their brains? That doesn’t cause intelligence. That is likely to call autism and then brain death.

Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 12:44 pm  Comments (1)  


I like gadgets, at least in theory. I don’t buy too many of them, because a lot of the gadgets out there don’t match the way I live. But I’ve been around for decades worth of gadgets. I don’t generally the very first of the season, but when things get discounted, I may well be there. I remember Dad buying an electronic calculator when the price came down from $300 to $100 (and that was the model that not only had plus, minus, multiplication and division, but also a percentage key!) And having one of those LED watches where you had to push a button to see the time. And everyone would gather round at 12:59 to watch all the digits change.

I was there for the era when suddenly everything seemed to have a digital clock built in. And for the era when suddenly everything also played music CDs. And now for the era when everything also plays MP3s.

And add that with the Black Friday love I have. Yes, yes, it’s all horribly crass and commercial, but there is something to be said for a group of people showing a once-a-year enthusiasm, getting up at insane hours and standing in line for something cool and cheap. Last year, I got a DVD recorder. Yes, it also played music CDs, and I think it even played MP3s. The software in it was quite good. The hardware proved cheap and unreliable, and the device is no longer being used.

This year, the score was one of those GPS navigation systems, a unit which Amazon sells for $400 at $150 after rebate  (with an added 1 GB SD memory card for $3 after rebate.) This is my first time playing with one of these, and this is one sweet little gadget. It knows where it is, has a number of ways for you to let it know where you want to go, and it knows the route, with the entire US map in there standard. Today, I let its British voice guide me to the supermarket, warning me of all the upcoming turns, displaying the local map in an angled format, and generally showing that it will keep me from ever again having to try to drive with a MapQuest printout in one hand. If I leave the path, it refigures the route.  Small enough to fit in a pocket and designed so that you can use it for walking as well as for driving, this’ll let me do some geocaching at some point, which I’ve wanted to try. It is currently giving me much happiness.

And yes, of course it also plays MP3s.

Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Minor celebrity run-in

When you live in the L.A. area, sometimes you see folks you recognize, just walking down the street. And it is some sort of cheap inner thrill… but you kind of got to feel for those folks, because you know that some people don’t keep it an inner thrill.

I took Saturday as an afternoon/evening off from daddying and headed into the city. Went to see The Prestige at the Arclight Dome complex (which some might know as the Cineramadome). The movie wasn’t showing in the dome itself – that had Happy Feet. But even the smaller screens are big, serious (stadium seating with reserved seats), and expensive ($11 for an off-peak adult ticket). The movie was okay, well made but I saw the twists coming well in advance. It’s the curse of being a writer, I suppose; you know how the gears work on these things.

And then, on my way back to the parking garage (“only” $2 because I saw a movie there), I saw the guy who plays Monk’s psychiatrist on Monk. He’s an easy guy to recognize, so you gotta reckon that there’s a fair number of people who do so whenever he goes out in public. And while most of us probably just do an eye-registration (“hey, that’s someone I’m not expecting to see in public context!” the brain says), there’s got to be a frequent cry of “hey, you’re that guy!” But where can it go from there? Odds are they don’t know his name, or the name of his character, or any of the more than 100 other roles he’s done (I know I’d seen him in many other things, but I couldn’t actually name any without looking them up.) He always does a respectable job – seeing him in a show is a mark of someone trying to cast well, but I suspect there isn’t some major subculture of Stanley Kamel fans (although you never know; I certainly know plenty of folks who are nuts for one supporting actor or aother, and I wouldn’t know if he had a substantial stage career). So that sort of recognition is apt to come with, at best, an honest appreciation for a show that he is but a small part of. I reckon that would be irritating after a while, being recognizable enough that you can never do anything truly private, but not getting the real benefits of fame.

Published in: on November 23, 2006 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

"Oh I did not think the girl could be so cruel…"

I got a mailing from my alma mater today.

When I started there, the name of the place was Simon’s Rock Early College. (The “early” signified their specialty – taking students who were younger than normal college entrants.)

Then they got taken over by Bard College, and went through adding a Unit of Bard College to their decriptor before settling on Simon’s Rock of Bard College.

And now apparently they’re changing it again. They’re worried about their rep, and that people aren’t getting what their about. So here it goes:

Bard College at Simon’s Rock: The Early College

Ummm, they think this is a good idea? A seven word college name? Is anyone going to bother reading to the end? Is making it sound like some sort of summer program run at another college going to garner respect? How many times does the word “College” have to be in the college name before people will recognize it’s a college?

Published in: on November 21, 2006 at 1:32 am  Leave a Comment  

City of Camden New Jersey

I was pleased to see that among the forms available from the City of Camden New Jersey was a “Birth, Death, and Marrige Application”. Quite handy if you want to apply to be born, die, and get married. In that order.

Published in: on November 20, 2006 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Groundhog's Day Break

The idea of someone who has to repeatedly live over the same day, making different decisions to see how they play out has been done before, most famously (and in my experience most effectively) in the comedy film Groundhog’s Day. See it if you haven’t; it’s a highly-polished gem.

The new series Daybreak tries to translate this concept to an action mystery drama thingy. Taye Diggs plays a cop who tries to avoid being framed for murder, to keep his girlfriend from being killed, to keep a lot of other bad things from happening… and in doing so, perhaps to figure out what’s going on (more in terms of whose behind the bad things than what’s behind the daily reset.)

Thing is, there are some inherent problems with doing this as an action piece. For one, it’s hard to be particularly concerned about the consequence of the action. We see the cop’s partner get shot? So what! She’ll return to life the next time our hero falls asleep.  The only one for whom this is not true is our hero, who maintains any physical damage that he picks up along the way (which is oddly logical; the maintenance of memory comes from changes to the physical state of brain cells, so the same effect that maintains memories would maintain shaved hair and gunshot wounds.)

And the mystery is made to look big and complicated and conspiratirial, which seems more needed to drag our heroes research out for 13 hours rather than because it’s what best fits the mystery concept.

But they are doing one thing right – close to the start of the run, they started advertising that all of the secrets would be revealed by the end of the 13 hours (12 nights, with 2 hours the first night.) We’re seeing some of the long storyline shows of this season get cancelled quickly, before they can tell their tale… and I suspect it’s because people stop watching them because they suspect they will be cancelled before telling their tale. After seeing enough John Does, Reunions, and so forth, it can be hard to inspire confidence. Add that to shows like Lost where the key secrets are still years down the road, and one can see where it is hard to inspire confidence. Thirteen episodes, it’s easier to have confidence in.

But still, I don’t think I’ll be around for those episodes.

Published in: on November 20, 2006 at 1:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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