TV


I had previously experimented with storing and using data from the cloud, even thought a bit about purchasing a netbook as my laptop of use when biking around the city (when the weather was bike-able).  There were a few hiccups with the transition and I decided not to invest the time to learn how to make it really worthwhile.  Well, to-day is my trial by fire.

The Swede has to wake early in the mornings and in the wee small hours of the morning our computers look alike, so I grabbed the wrong one.  In any case, so far so good.  I guess my cloud integration was more advanced than I had suspected.  The book is not updated but I can always add pieces to it and then integrate later.  Thanks to Dropbox I have access to some important files.  RSS feeds will keep me up to date on my reading.  It seems as though my current MacBook is, in reality, a netbook.  An expensive netbook, but one nonetheless.  I am not sure how I feel about that.

I even fretted about music for a bit but…(1) I am at Spyhouse where the best of Bill Withers is playing so that’s righteous enough background noise and (2) Last.fm.  If I were good about updating, which Dropbox does automatically had I been smart, then the transition would be seamless.

On another, yet similar, note Verizon will soon be launching an Android based 3G smartphone.  I have been with Verizon for years now and unwilling to change because the travel schedule makes Verizon a superior carrier in some locations.  Plus, the few people I am in constant contact with also use Verizon which means those communications are covered in the basic plan.  If anything could lull me away it would be a 3G smartphone and I qualify for a new phone in December, birthday!, which is well after the planned release of the Droid.  Now I am a mere few months away from always being on the cloud.  I am excited about this even though most of my daily frustrations are about me spending too much time on the computer and not enough in analog land.  I am walking proof of loving gadgets for gadgetry’s sake.

I have always been a proponent of MTV. People mock it, like pop music, but I think there is value to watching it, or at least keeping abreast of it. Not only because I think it is important to be culturally relevant but also because there are important concepts to be gleaned. It may take more work than listening to NPR does, but there is value in there.

I remember a few seasons of The Real World ago there was a marathon with commentary by Coral, a fixture among the franchise. She was commenting on an episode where one of the cast members cheated on a significant other that was back home. Corals’ comment was “and here comes the reveal.” I thought this was particularly insightful since the only thing that was happening was a conversation between the cast member and the significant other, but the name of the other was mentioned. Here is how it usually happens:

Significant other: “What did you do last night?”
Cast member: “Oh, not much. Just hung out with Thomas/Tammy. It was a pretty boring night.”

I thought it was insightful because not only did Coral demonstrate the name dropping was a hint, but that it was an intentional hint – what I guess the kids these days call fishing for a reaction. Zizek (2008) makes the same observation in his latest tome: “the question to be raised is: what more is there hiding in this statement that made the speaker enunciate it?” (49) Zizek and Coral have the same lesson for us: if it was no big deal then why was the name of an-other mentioned? The Real World teaches us that the motivation is to get a reaction. The cast member wants to feel important and the best measure is if you can make another person feel badly by behaving badly.

Zizek’s illustration in In Defense of Lost Causes is eerily similar to the above, a husband and wife in an unspoken open relationship except the husband one day mentions the affair. The wife now responds hysterically because the affair(s) are now spoken therefore something has changed in the relationship.

Gavin Edwards uses the latest Rolling Stone (November 30, page 44) to talk about what ails NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” except he misdiagnoses the problem. His solution is to make the sketch comedy, in case you do not follow “Studio 60” is a show about a Saturday Night Live-like sketch comedy show, funny. This is not the problem, rather I think it speaks to a larger desire Edwin has, and that is the real problem for NBC.

If Edwards’ theory is correct then it means people tune into an hour long show for a glimpse of A joke (usually at the end of the show.) I doubt that is what motivates people and consequently I doubt making that change would keep people coming back for more. If the sketch comedy were funny maybe there would be more viewers in the last half hour, just as SNL these days is viewed exclusively (at least by my friends) for the first half hour, but this seems to be a pretty low mark in quality that I doubt would make any show’s producers happy.

There is another problem with Edwards’ theory. I do believe the American public is able to watch TV with a necessary suspension of disbelief, not everything has to be an accurate representation of our current world. People know the sketches are supposed to be funny in the world of “Studio 60.” This is the same world where Matthew Perry’s character is established as a comic genius. This is the same world where everyone in Pahrump, Nevada is a country yokel. This is not our world and yet Edwards’ basic complaint is that it is too different. “Lost,” “Battlestar Galactica,” and “30 Rock” are some of the success stories that disprove Edwards’ need for realism.

The real problem of “Studio 60” is that it is based on SNL, a successful SNL. I suspect Edwards longs for the good-old days when SNL was funny. I suspect it is this appeal which compelled NBC to buy Sorkin’s latest text book – writing text books is what Sorkin does. “West Wing” was his way to educate us about politics. “Sports Night” was an education about ESPN. And this should teach us about SNL. The problem is that SNL is an anachronism. Maybe the quality has dropped and that has led to its demise as a cultural force, or maybe its importance was declining which is why it is no longer a quality show (maybe both) but the result is the same.

“Studio 60” is held on by NBC not as a vehicle in itself to make profits, but also as a way to invigorate a once great NBC institution. I will admit I watch SNL more than I used to because of what I am learning from “Studio 60.” While I think the comedy writing for “Studio 60” is not funny, I do not think it should be. SNL is based not on just being funny but also on being witty (even though those moments do not make it onto the greatest hits highlights). People know what is funny, they need to be taught on what is witty and why it is witty. “Studio 60” does a great job teaching that. The last episode contained a brilliant running commentary on humor, Quentin Tarantino and gore. I feel smarter having seen the last episode.

People are judging the show based upon the show it purports to be, a SNL that is a cultural force. No show airing these days matches up to that standard and a new comparison for profitability needs to be found.

That better model for “Studio 60” to follow is “ER”. The big concern then was if people would watch a show that was steeped in medical knowledge and refused to dumb it down. But people watched, learned and loved it for a long time. Surely the educational quality was not the sole reason people watched but regardless it was a bold gamble. I am confident the “Studio 60” gamble will pay off. It could be funnier and have more of a draw, but I am happy with the show and I will continue to come back to NBC on Mondays.

If I were at NBC I would wait until the show was losing money before pulling this plug. It may take some time, but I think it will pay off. This is, after all, what leadership and being a cultural manager is all about. Sometimes you may think things can be better, that does not mean you can just plod ahead, but you need to plow through resistance. I am confident people will come around.

Last night’s (November 5) episode of Heroes was an interesting one. I was able to successfully watch the show while doing some work, which means the show is not complex and not one of the better shows on TV (I would never try to watch an Aaron Sorkin show or Friday Night Lights in this manner.)

Another problem with this show is exemplified by what happened last night: there are too many “mutants” and their powers are too diverse. I place mutants in quotation marks because I fear the explanation for these strange powers will not all be mutations. This show is beginning to resemble a comic book universe with too many characters and too much going on, which is why both Marvel and DC have to periodically clean house by killing off some characters.

The other problem with these new revelations is that they are too convenient. We learn that a little boy has an ability to manipulate electronics at precisely the moment when he needs to call his mother and the pay phone just happens to be out of order. The cop can read minds but the power is not activated until the story needs a clairvoyant to find a little girl. It is just all too clean. It would make more sense for there to be a single mutation that several people around the world have, but some are more experienced in the use of the mutation. I think that would make for a better story and some more interesting scenarios. It would make for a greater constraint on the writers, which is what I (and I am guessing others) respond to, to see how the writers work there way out of problems. If there are any comic book illustrators out there, let me know as I have some rough drafts of books that need some illustrations for this plotline. I think it could be fun and entertaining and also a good seller.

Despite all of these frustrations, I will continue to watch Heroes because it is, after all, a good show. I enjoy some of the people and I am hooked by the mysteries they have yet to explain. I think there are ways to improve the story, most of these problems are not fatal and some can be uncorked, but it would require a more subtle touch than I fear the current writers possess.