Blog Archives

DAFOTV, part VII: By Your Command

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Last time we looked at the changes in technology related to television in the 90’s and early 2000’s.  The sum total of these changes gave us much more control over what we watched.  This in turn had effects on the content itself.  How did this happen, exactly?  Read on.

The first increases in control were cable TV (more different channels serving more niche interests) and home video (VHS).  With the first, the content was still provider-driven–you had more channels, but each one decided what it was going to air.  The second gave more control–you could watch a video anywhere, anytime–but the content was even more limited.  This followed from the mechanism itself.

A VHS tape is relatively large and clunky.  It can record up to six hours of material, but at the speed that gives optimal picture quality and resolution, it can store only two hours.  This is the perfect length for most movies, but it is not good for TV series.  A VHS tape could hold two hour-long episodes (typical for dramas) or four half-hour episodes (as with sitcoms) at optimal resolution.  This means that a typical 22 episode season would require eleven tapes for an hour-long drama, or six for a half-hour sitcom.  A single season, therefore, would fill up nearly one entire row of a media center stand.  For long-running series, one’s available space would fill up rapidly.  Sufficiently avid videophiles could tape episodes themselves, but for most of us it’s not worth the effort.

Read the rest of this entry

DAFOTV, Part VI: Enter the Internet

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted in my “Decline and Fall of Television” series.  In the fourth installment, I had proposed to look individually at the various “junk genres”, as I called them, but ended up posting specifically only on reality television.   Upon rereading the posts and thinking about where I want to go with the series, I think I no longer want to examine the junk genres individually.  What I wrote regarding bandwidth, junk genres, and reality TV applies, mutatis mutandis, to the other genres.  It’s too depressing and boring to have to think about such things as infomercials, anyway, let alone to write about them.  I do have three final reflections with which to complete the DAFOTV series, though.  In this one I want to look at the technological changes that laid the groundwork for these changes.

In the third installment of this series, I discussed the radical difference in the programming schedule of a typical broadcast day in the 70’s of my youth as opposed to now.  In that vein, I want to look more broadly at the differences in the content thus delivered, and in how we watched it.  Some content hasn’t changed that much, of course–sports are sports, news is news, and so on.  Now there are networks completely dedicated to sports, news, and so on, but the delivery isn’t that much different:  baseball in the summer, football in the fall and winter, and so on.  The changes I’m interested in are in television drama and comedy series and general entertainment.

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And One on the Rosetta Stone!

Some legitimate history about one of the greatest linguistic accomplishments of all time.

Freaky Egyptian Stuff for the Afternoon!

 

I make no claims for accuracy, but it’s fun, and fits in with today’s Egyptian theme.

Star Trek: Index

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I’m working on a multi-part review of Star Trek:  The Motion Picture.  I’ve put up two installments thus far, and will post at least two further (perhaps more).  I’ll be putting them under the “Reviews” section.  However, as a long-time fan of Star Trek in all its various iterations, particularly the original series (TOS), I may do more posts of a Trek-related nature now and then.  Thus, I’m putting up this index page for the continuing voyages of Trek writing, in which I’m also putting my earlier reviews of J. J. Abrams’s 2009 movie.  Live long and prosper!

Star Trek (reboot), Part 1:  How to Do It Pretty Much Right

Star Trek (reboot), Part 2:  How to Do It Pretty Much Right

In Keeping With the Star Trek Theme

Movie Review:  Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, Part 1–Pre-incarnation

Movie Review:  Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, Part 2–Synopsis

Movie Review:  Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, Part 3–Pretty Sounds and Colors!

Movie Review:  Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, Part 4–Script

Movie Review:  Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, Part 5–Cast

STTMP, Part 6:  A Few Words about Costumes (ugh!)

DAFOTV V: Reality TV

Updated

In the last installment, I discussed how excessive bandwidth leads to what I called “junk genres”; that is, genres of TV show that require as little overhead, planning, writing, etc. as possible.  This is necessary because the amount of quality TV—or quality anything—is relatively fixed, whereas the 24/7 structure of availability that is now the norm has increased the amount of time to be filled.   I enumerated some examples of these genres, to be expanded on later.  This is what I want to do now, regarding what I consider one of the worst TV-related phenomena of the last decade or so:  reality television.

Certainly, plenty has been said about this seemingly ubiquitous genre.  Some very recent articles of interest are here, here, and here.  I want to speak a little more generally.

To clarify what I mean in this discussion by the term “reality TV”, I refer (briefly) to my previous DAFOTV post:

I include things like Extreme Makeover: Home EditionThe Biggest Loser, the recent shows Jamie Oliver has been doing, and the various shows about hoarders, home makeovers, bridesmaids, etc. on TLC, Discovery, and such under the rubric of “reality TV”. I even include Dick Clark’s old Bloopers shows and America’s Funniest Home Videos.  They may not all purport to be documentaries (as An American Family did) or have an explicit game-show aspect (as Survivor does), but the basic principle of just letting the camera roll before “real people” is essentially the same. Also, I realize that it’s not all “real”–there’s jimmying and manipulating—but it’s still easier and cheaper than writing an actual drama or researching a documentary.

So what’s the problem with reality TV? Read the rest of this entry

Saturday Matinee

 

This was a series pilot by Gene Roddenberry, from 1974.  Most of his post-Star Trek attempts were awful, but this one wasn’t too bad.  Enjoy!

Movie Night: Quatermass and the Pit (Original BBC Version), Parts 5-8

 

 

 

Movie Night: Quatermass and the Pit (Original BBC Version), Parts 1-4

 

 

 

Afternoon Cartoon: The Little Mermaid

I saw this as a child, and it always stuck in my memory.  The Disney version was great, and revitalized the Disney animation studios, and all; but it was still Disney, lacking the depth of the original and tacking on a happy ending.  This is much closer to the original, with the original melancholy (but ultimately happy) ending.  For all the kids (including the middle-aged ones!) out there, enjoy!