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Posts Tagged ‘television’

It’s no fun going home to your 25-inch CRT after watching movies on your buddy’s new 50-inch HD flat screen.  It’s a concept most people are familiar with: try a product of higher quality, and the old stuff will seem like garbage in comparison.  Alright, maybe not garbage, but the difference certainly becomes more noticeable than it may have been before.  The same is true of the content you watch on that screen.  I don’t mean half-hour sitcoms, or documentary programs that air on Discovery.  I’m talking about the drama, action, and supernatural shows that usually have sixty-minute run times.

Thanks to channels like HBO, Showtime, and AMC, I’ve been exposed to a multitude of awesome shows, causing me to watch regular television with an even more critical eye.  (And I was pretty critical to begin with.)  The entertainment bar is being held insurmountably high by the likes of Dexter, with its fantastic acting and characters; The Walking Dead, complete with suspense, action, and special effects; and the superbly epic medieval fantasy, Game of Thrones.

The Walking Dead

I know that there are those who might disagree with me about The Walking Dead, claiming that there is room for improvement in the acting department, but I actually thought it was pretty decent.  Sure, there was a character or two at whom I could point a finger, but really the action and cinematography more than made up for whatever thespian shortcomings there may have been.

Now there are shows on regular networks that I, and possibly others, unfairly brush aside.  I probably could have enjoyed ABC’s Once Upon a Time once upon a time, but with my now refined palate I’ve sampled it, pooh-poohed it, and tossed it in the pile along with others like Grimm and Lie to Me.

I know, I know—not all programs have the budgets and special effects that the big guys do, so it’s not completely fair to put them all in the same bracket.  And it is worth mentioning that the standout shows I mentioned all existed previously as celebrated written works.  Nevertheless, the overall effect on me, the viewer, remains the same.  In some sort of weird reverse-desensitization process, I’ve been left constantly expecting breakout acting, jaw-dropping plot twists, or scenes so gruesome that they make me go “Whooooaaaahhh!” and cover my mouth.  Am I so wrong to be disappointed when, instead, I get shoddy green screen effects and evil knights who look like they’ve got helmets made from old Koosh balls?

Once Upon a Time - Koosh Knight

Yup, they really look like that.

Really, once you’ve seen the higher quality programs, the old stuff is ruined. You just can’t watch it without making comments and rolling your eyes at every scene. And if that’s not enough, the good shows are so good that viewers who don’t subscribe to the premium channels resort to Netflix and DVD rentals to watch a series like Dexter, getting hopelessly addicted and winding up going through an entire season in a lethargic weekend of binge watching. But who can really be blamed? Those shows are damn entertaining.

And so, to HBO and its friends I say both sincerely and sarcastically, thanks a lot!

Dexter

Video: HBO via the Game of Thrones Youtube channel
Walking Dead image: AMC (screencap)
Once Upon a Time image: ABC (screencap)
Dexter image: Showtime (screencap)

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Chicken: delicious, tender, dramatic . . . wait, what?

Maple Leaf’s “Dinnertime Is Prime Time” commercial shows that not only can chicken satisfy your hunger—it can move you. Depicting scenes of close relationships combined with a poetic voice-over and topped off with a poignant piano melody, they’ve created the most moving ad for chicken that you’ll ever see. Don’t believe me?
 


 

The clincher in this ad is really the music, so naturally, I went looking for the artist. First stop: YouTube. Apparently I’m not the only one enamored with the tune—something I realized after watching several videos of people performing their renditions of it on piano.

After finally locating Maple Leaf’s channel on YouTube (that’s right, Maple Leaf has its own YouTube channel) I read that the music was composed specifically for the ad. Kind of a bummer, as I would have liked to hear more of the same.

During my search, though, I had looked into someone’s claim that the music was a trance song called “Make a Miracle”, so I made another quick visit to YouTube. The arpeggios in “Make a Miracle” are played in a different order, but the melodies of the two songs sound oddly similar. And strangely enough, the artist is called Prime Time! Coincidence? Probably.
 


 

In fact, if you listen to a lot of trance, you’ll find similar arrangements all over the place. Most likely because the note pattern in question produces that familiar “moving” feeling.
 

First video: Maple Leaf Foods via the Maple Leaf Foods YouTube Channel
Second video: Primetime via YouTube
 

Apologies to any vegetarians who were offended by my description of chicken as delicious.

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People have been saying it for a while. The film and music industries have not crumbled due to piracy. They continue to flourish.

An interesting article on Geek.com talks about a report that was created by research company GfK Group for an undisclosed client. The report was initially intended to further the negative view of media pirates but, in fact, showed that pirates are generally better customers than their straight-and-narrow cousins.

The gist (although I encourage any readers to check out the original article) is that movie pirates don’t just download. They spend a lot on DVDs, Blu-rays and cinema tickets. Likewise, music pirates spend money on music because they like music.

From the article:

The conclusion of the study is that movie pirates are generally more interested in film and therefore spend more money and invest more time in it. In other words, they make up some of the movie industries best customers.

This makes perfect sense to me. If a person downloads a certain form of media, it’s probably because they’re keen on it. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t downloaded a few movies and television shows, but I also consider my hard copy DVD collection to be quite large and my cinema attendances common.

Now, the question is . . . who commissioned the report. I think we all have a pretty good idea.

Also from the article:

The reason given for shelving [the report] was that the contents proved “unpleasant.”

 
Original article: Geek.com

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Everyone knows what a pawn shop is. But do you know how pawning actually works? If you don’t, there’s no need to be shy about admitting it. I never used to know what it was. Pawn shops are frequently depicted in movies and TV shows as places to sell your stuff for quick cash. Buying and selling is a service they do provide, but until I started watching Pawn Stars, I always assumed selling and pawning were one and the same, and that pawning just meant the sale took place at a pawn shop.

 

 
Once in a while, I’ll catch a bit of Antiques Roadshow. I like seeing the old items, hearing the stories behind them, and finding out how they fit into history. But the show is just too bland and slow-moving for my taste. That’s why I like Pawn Stars. It’s kind of like Antiques Roadshow with a kick.

 

 
That video is a bit out of date, so the show isn’t exactly “new” anymore, but if you haven’t seen it, Pawn Stars is a half-hour reality show that documents the goings-on of Rick Harrison’s pawn shop in Las Vegas. The main cast includes three generations of Harrisons: Rick’s dad, AKA “The Old Man”, Rick himself, and his son, Corey. Also a regular is employee Chumlee, who’s often on the receiving end of some kind of intelligence or weight-related joke.

Though I’ve never really looked into it, the show is probably semi-scripted. The clients seem genuine enough, as does their chatting and haggling with the guys behind the counter. But there are usually factoids and the like presented by Rick in a seated, interview-style setting that are likely rehearsed, as well as little humourous interludes here and there (at least, they’re meant to be humourous) that are clearly written prior to filming.

So you get some interesting tidbits of information with a couple of laughs thrown in for fun. Overall, it’s usually an entertaining thirty minutes.

 

 

Video credits: Pawn Stars via the official History YouTube channel

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June 2nd was the series premiere of Ami James’ new show, NY Ink, on TLC. You may know Ami from his first show, Miami Ink (which was also the source for spin-off LA Ink). The show focuses on the establishment and goings-on of Ami’s new tattoo shop in New York City. For this installment, Ami is accompanied by a fresh team of artists and shop managers.

I remember when Miami Ink came out in 2005, I was initially torn between it and its counterpart, Inked, which had begun to air the same year on A&E. I watched a few episodes of each. Miami Ink seemed to be more about people getting tattoos and the meaning behind them, whereas Inked focused largely on the often shaky relationships between the artists themselves. Guess which series I decided to follow.

When I found out about NY Ink, I thought, “Cool, Ami’s got a new show. I bet they’ll focus on the tattoos.” I was wrong! Well, that’s not really fair to say. They do have the same aspects that I liked about Miami: the clients talk to the artists about what tattoos they want, opinions are given and necessary changes are proposed, the art is hand-drawn, stenciled, and finally tattooed while the client is casually interviewed. Generally, an interesting and detailed look at the entire tattooing process. But they seem to have added a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of drama. I guess they think drama sells, which, if you look at a lot of what’s on TV these days, must be true. (It’s also why I don’t watch much TV anymore.)

 

For more clips, visit NY Ink on TLC.
 
Don’t get me wrong, the work they do on the show is phenomenal. The tattoos come out looking great, and all the clients love the results they get. I just can’t stand the extra garbage that goes on while the artists aren’t working.

I’m not saying that Miami Ink was completely conflict-free. There was a bit every now and then. But it’s as though the producers of the New York edition said “Ok, this time, we really want drama. We don’t care what causes it, just make it happen.” It’s drama for drama’s sake—created out of nothing. And of course, there’s Ami’s old buddy—the local guy—who is “hired on the first episode”, and whose sole purpose is obviously to be an instigator.

As I said, I don’t watch much television as it is, so I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to this one, unless it’s during the commercial breaks.

 
Video: TLC via the official TLC YouTube channel

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Who says that blogs have to be consistently full of original material and personal opinions? In light of that question, I present you with existing material! Things that were written by others, but that I’d like to draw your attention to. Here are some quotes from Futurama, one of my favourite TV shows that has always been somewhat overshadowed by its big brother The Simpsons. These are some lines that actually made me laugh out loud. And because I’m all about the opinions, there’s a short note on Futurama at the end.

News anchor: . . . and the discoverer of Popplers, Captain Turanga Leela.
Fry: Turanga?!
Amy: That’s her name, Philip.
Bender: Philip?!

 
Fry: Whoah, whoah, wait a second. You mean Bender is the evil Bender? I am shocked. Shocked! Well, not that shocked.

 
Elzar: You folks still doin’ alright?
Bender: Oh, yes, Elzar!
Elzar: Good, ’cause it turns out I forgot to cook that chicken.

 
Morgan Proctor: Why is there yogurt in this cap?
Fry: I can explain that. See, it used to be milk, and, well . . . time makes fools of us all.

 
Zapp: Men, you’re lucky men. Soon you’ll all be fighting for your planet. Many of you will be dying for your planet. A few of you will be forced through a fine mesh screen for your planet. They will be the luckiest of all.

 
Announcer: Futurama is brought to you by Thompson’s Teeth: the only teeth strong enough to eat other teeth.

 
Leela: I’m going to remind Fry of his humanity the way only a woman can.
Professor: You’re going to do his laundry?
Amy: [Slaps the professor]

 
Fry: To Captain Bender: he’s the best . . . at being a big jerk who’s stupid, and his big ugly face is as dumb as a butt!

 
Zoidberg: We’ll need to have a look inside you with this camera.
Fry: [Opens his mouth]
Zoidberg: Guess again.

 
Zoidberg: Well, I have a lot of experience telling patients bad news, so . . . let me break it to him gently. Fry, you have no nose! Your nose is gone! You have no nose on your face! Where it is I can’t say, but on your face it’s not!

 
I could go on and on. These are just a few of the laughter inducing lines. The show is absolutely hilarious, so you can imagine my devastation when, in 2003 after four seasons, it wasn’t renewed by FOX. Futurama execs later began to deal with a different network and released four movies as a fifth season, and have since produced a sixth season (which I haven’t seen yet, shame on me). I’ve enjoyed the series over and over, and would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it, especially if you enjoy the style of humour employed by silly characters on The Simpsons, such as Homer or Chief Wiggum. It’s also a must for geeks, as the scientific and sci-fi references are endless.

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Don’t Cry “Paranormal”

I identify with skeptics.  I like indisputable proof and hard, reliable evidence.  Nevertheless, I occasionally watch TV shows in which so-called “paranormal” events are either investigated by a crew or presented documentary-style.  You know the shows I mean.  Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, Paranormal State, The Haunted . . . the list goes on.

There is one annoying trait (among others) common to all the programs of this type that I have seen.  Most of the investigators are too liberal with assignations of the term “paranormal”.  If they are unable to find a simple explanation for something, well then it’s paranormal.  Destination Truth is the only show I’m familiar with that at least leaves alternative possibilities available by occasionally saying things along the lines of “due to lack of evidence, it may or may not be paranormal”.

The investigations that are seen being performed in these shows are pseudoscience.  Frequently, when monitoring an environment for paranormal activity, devices such as electromagnetic field (EMF) meters and thermal imagers are used, together with audio and video equipment, and sometimes they’ll even bring in someone who claims to have psychic abilities.  (Let’s pretend I didn’t mention that last one for now.)  In my opinion, the A/V gear can at least be put to good use if something is seen or heard, but who decided that ghosts emit EMFs or create temperature variations?  In addition, the investigations often take place in natural, outdoor areas rendering most thermograms practically worthless.  In an uncontrolled — and usually night-time — outdoor environment, who’s to say your mysterious temperature readings aren’t coming from a raccoon or some other manner of nocturnal animal?

I would love to see a TV show where debunking is the goal, rather than proving.  I have yet to find a program where the investigations are carried out by true skeptics who won’t cry “paranormal” whenever they can’t explain a strange hot spot on their thermal imager.  If you know of a show with skeptical investigators, be sure to let me know.  I want to watch it.

Being skeptical means that if you want me to believe in Bigfoot, you’ll have to show me a Bigfoot — one that you can prove isn’t a man in a suit, and that has been scientifically confirmed as a new species by several professional and qualified members of the scientific community.  A foot print isn’t going to cut it, even when it’s claimed that the footprint is completely perfect and has all the right contours, measurements, and signs of weight distribution that could only have been made by the foot of a huge ape-like creature in an upright walking motion.  Humans have built skyscrapers that tower hundreds of feet in the air; humans have sent astronauts into outer space; humans have built pyramids.  I’m pretty sure that a human could fake a convincing Bigfoot foot print.  And don’t you dare say that the pyramids were built by aliens.

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