Monday, February 26, 2007

The most useless Mac Widget?

In honor of this site's namesake, I present what may be the most useless of all widgets developed for OS X (at least the German TV listings are useful for Germans): the Morse Code Translator Widget. Get it here.

It's the simplicity, stupid!

I know I shouldn't be cribbing from James Carville, but I think that description is pretty apt for why, despite the fact that all of the networks have made a concerted effort to put content on the web for free, people still keep turning to YouTube.

I realize that my experience may be tainted by my status as a Mac user (we represent only 3% of the market, why accommodate us?), but when I tried to watch television episodes, or even previews, on, the site would load the advertisement that plays prior to the video correctly, but couldn't seem to make it all the way through the actual video without freezing. After trying to reload the video three times, I turned to YouTube. Sure enough, there was the video I was looking for (several copies), and with one click it started loading. Since YouTube does not insist on streaming the video, my lower-speed wifi DSL was able to handle loading the video, and I could watch it without the desire to throw my mouse at the wall.

I think that this frustration with the tempermental nature of is all part and parcel of what should be a cardinal rule of technology - the more buttons or hoops you add, the less people will want to adopt your new technology. Outside of the type of people that read Engadget, there are plenty of people who navigate the technology of modern living like water in a stream - they take the path of least resistance. Since YouTube does not require you to a) install plugins, b) register, c) watch ads, or d) visit several sites to get the content you want, it is hardly surprising that people take that option. I think the networks would do well to remember the old adage - "once bitten, twice shy" - a bad experience the first time someone visits a site, the less likely it will be that they'll try again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why isn't "Psych" on a network?

And by "network," I mean the type that broadcasts a signal over the airwaves.

I've often wondered why shows like Battlestar Galactica or Project Runway that achieve high cultural prominence aren't shifted, or re-played, on a broadcast network under the same corporate umbrella (both Bravo and SciFi are owned by NBC Universal, Inc.). If they're important enough to merit an Entertainment Weekly cover, then surely they could be plopped in a network dead zone (say, Saturday at 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.). Hell, they might even boost ratings. And it's not like the cable networks don't re-air episodes gratuitously.

All of this, of course, brings me to Psych, a charming show that blends comedy and drama as well as any show since Gilmore Girls started slipping (we miss you Amy!). Oh, and it has a bit of crime procedural to boot! The show is an hour long - the current length du jour for network programming, and it has less gore, sex, and swearing that much of what is currently airing on network television (i.e., there's not likely to be a problem on the FCC's end). It seems like the type of show that many people would enjoy watching on a Friday night (which is when it airs).

A show they would enjoy - that is if they knew it existed. And there're certainly the indication that they don't. Now, since I'm not a programmer, I don't have demographic evidence to support this assertion. But I do have a mother who loves mysteries. She watched Jessica Fletcher until they kicked the old biddy off the air. She sought out Nero Wolfe on A&E. But she's picky - she likes non-gory mysteries. No L&O or CSI for her. She'd love Psych. But did she know it existed until I mentioned it to her? No way.

I described the show to her. She said it sounded interesting, and asked what channel it was on. I told her USA. She didn't even know if she got that channel. I told her she likely did, but I didn't know the channel. My parents, like many of their generation (baby boomers) are like lemmings. They have cable, but outside of a few specific cable channels (my dad's addicted to A&E and The History Channel), they don't really wander around in the high numbers on the dial. They turn on the tv and head to ABC, NBC, or CBS (my father still thinks the FOX doesn't really count as a network). If you put a show there that is reasonably entertaining and not too graphic, they'd likely watch it.

So that's my question for NBC Universal - now that you've built up some good shows with decent followings, why not try shifting some of them over to NBC? It's not like there's much there anymore except for Heroes, Thursday comedies, L&O, and hours of Deal or No Deal. It seems that this might be a situation in which it would be a good idea to follow the lead of professional sports teams - treat cable like the minor leagues, and once you've got a promising player, try moving them up to the majors. I think Psych is ready to run with the big dogs now.

Buy you a Chevrolet?

To be a fan of Supernatural, it is almost a prerequisite that you love the 1967 Chevrolet Impala (a.k.a. the "Metallicar") that the boys tool around in. What I didn't realize is that Chevy still makes an Impala. Of course, I immediately had to check one out.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that this:

Had become this:

My first thought: oh Chevy, how the mighty have fallen. The Metallicar is a 4-door sedan, but it is a cool 4-door sedan. The 2007 Impala? Not so much. Better than a Malibu, but if I wanted a mid-line sedan, I'd probably buy a Honda Civic instead. That thought also led me to remember the Chevy ad from the latest crop of Superbowl commercials. As James Poniewozik noted in his write-up on the spectacle, this ad does more to reinforce how iconic Chevrolet used to be, rather than how influential it's vehicles are today. After looking at the 2007 Impala, it's no wonder that Chevrolet is drowning in red ink. I mean, does anyone think someone is going to be making buttons out of a 2007 Impala forty years from now?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spring forward . . .

. . . into a huge honkin' headache. Apparently not content with spreading anarchy in other countries, the US Congress decided a while ago to sow a bit of domestic chaos as well by moving the date Daylight Savings flips over up a few weeks. Unfortunately, the US Congress apparently forgot to consult with our new overlords before making the change, resulting in a situation in which lots of people's computers will be a bit confused about what time of day it is. Apparently the big names in software have been working on patches to correct the problem, but this depends upon users actually installing those patches. If they're anything like my mother, I'd guess that millions of consumers will simply be one hour late to all apointments for most of March and April. Let the mayhem begin!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Frak" is the new "Frell"

James Poniewozick may be right that "Jack Bauer is the new Janet Jackson", but I'll take issue with the statement that "a f___ is a f___" in terms of obscentity. I don't doubt that in the eyes of the FCC (at least at this point in time), that statement is true. But TV writers are nothing if not creative. Can't say "f___" on television? Just create a stand-in that starts similarly, and have the cast say that word as if it were an invective - voila! - instant curse word.

Generally, this approach is most popular on science fiction shows, but I've noticed a bit of bleed over into other shows that chafe at the squeaky cleanliness of network television. "Veronica Mars" seems particular fond of BSG's "frak," which has so much of the harshness of "f___" that I'm kinda surprised they get away with it (especially on the CW or when a couple of episodes of BSG aired on NBC).

I guess so long as the FCC is content to regulate only the objective terms themselves (s___, f___, etc.) it will be safe to fake-cuss. I suspect that they might not have a choice under the First Amendment, whatever the PTC might think. To me, this is a relief, since there are many shows on television where "darn-diddly-arn" as a cuss word just won't cut it.

Dear Network Executives,

At least those that don't work for Fox.

Hi. I'm a 24 year-old female with disposable income. I'm in the market for a car, and I'm a sucker for iPods. And I don't watch American Idol. Now, I know that you all think that no one would ever want to watch anything but American Idol, but that's just not true. And I've got to tell you that a 3 week hiatus while you all cower in the corner waiting for the boggart to leave is just not cool.

I know, I know, AI pulls in more than 30 million viewers each week. But still - there are 300 million Americans, which means that at least a few of us might want to watch something else.

I know this is a shell game, and that all you care about is boosting your ratings to increase your advertising revenue, but I bet there are plenty of people out there like me who don't watch American Idol and are just pissed off that now there's nothing to watch but re-runs or melismatic histrionics. There is something to be said for keeping your customers happy, you know.

A Concerned Viewer

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I'm addicted to "Supernatural"

Well, I'm addicted to "Heroes" too, but since everyone seems to be addicted to that show, I'll register my love for another highly addictive piece of television. At least, unlike "Heroes," "Supernatural" is not so serialized that some episodes feel like they are going to collapse under the weight of all of the character arcs that must be included therein. Instead, this show's got two leads and one main ongoing plot (though they seem to have added a sub-plot recently).

And the stars are hot. Who couldn't love that face?

Looks like I was right...

... about "Bridge to Terabithia" - the trailer is a complete misrepresentation of the actual film. Apparently, all evidence to the contrary, the film is pretty damn good, and a pretty faithful adaptation of the book (including that giant WHAM! at the end).

I pity the poor parent who goes into this thinking it will be a "Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"-lite sort of film. More like "What Dreams May Come."

Thursday, February 8, 2007

I wish I had a soundproof room . . .

Where I could scream out my frustration with impunity. I guess I'll settle for the vacuum that is my own little corner of cyberspace.

What, you may ask, would prompt such an outpouring of rage? Well, I keep being treated to televisions commercials for the upcoming film adaptation of "Bridge to Terabithia." Especially on ABC (what a shock...). Now I, like many children born in the 1980s, sobbed my way through "Bridge to Terabithia" as a young girl. I read it while on a car trip, and I think my parents thought I was having a breakdown in the back seat. Later, in film school, I used to imagine what an adaptation of "Bridge to Terabithia" would look like (I've heard there is a pretty wooden TV adaptation from 1985, but I've never seen it).

So, when I heard that Disney/Waldenbooks were adapting "Bridge" into a feature film, I wasn't sure how to feel. I've been burned before - as a fan of "Dinotopia," I was pretty much insulted by the TV movie treatment that book received (it has the gorgeous visuals built-in - how hard is it?) - but I've also seen some pretty great adaptations. "Babe" and "A Little Princess" (Alfonso Cuaron version) come to mind. I thought I'd give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then I saw the trailer. Now, having not seen the film itself, I don't presume to judge on how the final product has turned out. Trailers can be awful deceptive. Still, the trailer for "Bridge to Terebithia" left me with the feeling that there were two likely outcomes to this venture:

One. The digital trolls and fairies and knights mean just what I think they do - "Bridge to Terebithia" has been turned into a sort of "Spy Kids" type film. And they've copped out on the tragic ending.

Two. The film is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book with perhaps an excessive amount of CGI. But since it is represented as a kiddie action-adventure flick, parents take their children to see it, only to end up seriously bummed out (with sobbing progeny).

In option one, you piss off the purists. In option two, you piss off the people who paid to see one type of film (action! adventure! trolls!), who get another (senseless tragedy!).

I guess only time will tell if I'm right on this matter. In the meantime, rent "A Little Princess," 'cause it's great.

Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo!

Never let it be said that it takes a long time to set up a blog. I think establishing this one clocked in at 10 minutes, and 8 of those were taken up with trying to find an open URL (no, I do *not* want ""!). Now let's see if I actually use this blog, eh?