Tag: Network

Day 999: Buh-Bye, So Long and Hallelujah

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It’s a completely valid question.

For the past 50 or so days I have been fielding one question more often than most: what am I going to do for Day 1000? Will the final kilograph reflect upon the 999 that came before, like some extended clip show of my greatest guffaws and most aww-rending moments? Will I spend my final entry in closing-credits mode, thanking those who have made this all possible and put up with my considerable dearth of free time over the last 2 years and almost 9 months?

In short… no. While my original intent was to meander down that self-serving footpath for my final article, I decided that I would only do so if I could cite the Wikipedia page that had been created about me – as it turns out, that doesn’t exist yet.

In order to figure out my final missive, I felt I should turn to the moulder of my wisdom, the sage oracle who has helped to shape my morality, my perception, and even my understanding of the world: television. I have experienced the highs and lows of series finales – certainly at least one of them could illuminate the road to a poignant, entertaining, and (most of all) worthy coda to this monstrous undertaking.

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My first option is the beloved trope of bringing back a classic character for the finale. In my case I could introduce a surprise cameo by Yoko Ono, Craig David, Mary Nissenson, or if I really want to stretch to my roots, Phineas Gage. I could style the entire piece in a blend of haiku, musical theatre and secret code (did anyone ever figure that one out?). It sounds trite and cliché, but that’s always a place to start, isn’t it? Read more…

Day 935: Ah Yes, But Is There Any Evidence Of Semen?

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You can have your John McClanes, your Alex Murphys, your Jimmy McNultys. When it comes to picking out the Hollywood super-cops, we shouldn’t look any further than network television’s procedural potentate: the CSI family of formulaic programming. On the CSI shows, the stars are scientific swamis, investigative prodigies, precocious and apt interrogators, and almost inevitably the gun-bearing heroes who take down the guilty party, usually within 44 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, in the 14 years since Gil Grissom first suited up and embedded CBS’s flag atop the summit of Mount Nielsen Demographic Age 34-55, enrollment in college forensic courses has exploded, while the public’s perceived understanding of crime scene minutiae has ballooned. That’s perceived understanding – if one bases one’s knowledge on what Horatio Caine says or does right before he takes off his sunglasses and elicits Roger Daltrey’s unrestrained shriek, then one is most assuredly not a forensic specialist.

Experts in the fields of law, law enforcement and science call this the CSI Effect, and the reverberations of its repercussions can tingle the spines of professionals all across the justice spectrum. We know more, we expect more, and we understand more, but all stemming from the basis of fiction. If that doesn’t scare you just a little, then you simply aren’t trying hard enough.

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CSI was not the first dramatization of the justice system to throttle public perception into a bewildered shimmy. Jurors who regularly feasted upon the antics of Perry Mason between 1957 and 1966 often awaited the dramatic confession on the stand; one juror actually admitted to a defense attorney that his jury had voted ‘guilty’ because the prosecution’s key witness hadn’t erupted in a tearful admission of wrong-doing. Read more…

Day 764: Happy Super Day!

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As you may have noticed by the disturbing lack of available Doritos at your local corner store, today is among the most revered and holy days in western culture. No, not the groundhog thing – around here that’s just a joke anyway. I live in a town where six more weeks of winter after February 2nd is actually a shorter sentence than we’re used to. No, it’s Super Bowl Sunday, the day when western culture grinds to a 3.5-hour halt in front of its TV.

But not everyone is a football fan. I get that. I live in a country where the blood is only as red as the centre line and our footsteps echo with the clatter of pucks against a garage door. American football fans here are more scarce. I grew up with a father who poured a heaping bowl of football into my Sundays every fall and winter, and I’ve found a distinct advantage to being an NFL fan in Canada: I have no geographical obligations, team-wise. I can cheer for the Denver Broncos because Peyton Manning is a blast to watch, but I can also get excited when the Seattle Seahawks show off a cartilage-crumbling defense.

So I’m a fan of 31 out of 32 teams (I still can’t bring myself to like the Patriots – they’re just so damn smarmy). Today’s game will feature the two teams who most deserve to be there, and I’ll be riveted to the screen – Big Rock beer in hand and home-made chili tickling my palate. And since I won’t be slapping a kilograph onto my creative grill every day next year at this time, I will take this last topical opportunity to write a little something about the big game.

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On the left is former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, presenting the sacred world championship trophy to Green Bay Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi after his team had won the first Super Bowl in 1967. Four years later, once the upstart American Football League had sewn its hem permanently to the NFL and the Super Bowl had officially acquired its name, the trophy was posthumously named in Lombardi’s honor. Unlike the Stanley Cup, which is perhaps the most sacred single trophy in professional sports, a new Lombardi trophy is minted every year for the winning team. Read more…

Day 651: When The Whole World’s Watching

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A couple Sundays ago, over the course of 75 minutes that some of us are still trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to wash out of our brains, Breaking Bad aired its series-concluding episode. 10.3 million people tuned in, scoring a 5.2 share – a phenomenal success, considering the previous season’s finale (the unforgettable Face Off episode that wrapped up the Walter White vs. Gus Fring conflict) only drew in 1.9 million viewers.

For those who spend a much more logical amount of time thinking about television than yours truly, that 5.2 share means that 5.2% of running televisions during that time-chunk were tuned into AMC’s broadcast. In 2013, that’s pretty impressive, especially for a cable series. When The Sopranos clocked out with a cut-to-black curtain in 2007 the numbers were only slightly better, with 11.9 million fans watching. Somehow they can tweak the numbers to account for PVR recordings, but of course the ratings-counters can’t keep track of illegal downloads, a very real player in how a lot of people catch up on their favorite shows. But still… 10.3 million? I feel like that number should be higher.

The fact is, we live in a world filled with gazillions of channels – undoubtedly it was hard for some viewers to turn away from 12-year-old reruns of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on the Game Show Network to catch some fresh drama. We’ll probably never hit the big numbers that have defined our most shared TV experiences again.

Sometimes you just can't beat some classic Regis.

Sometimes you just can’t beat some classic Regis.

Any list of the most watched shows around the world is bound to be suspicious. FIFA would have us believe that their World Cup broadcasts – inarguably the most beloved sporting event across the globe – bring in billions of viewers. But even they have admitted that some of their figures are exaggerated while others are an outright guess. Read more…

Day 611: Scrolling Through Sputum – Worst TV Part 5

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As my television dependency shifts more and more from standardized broadcast schedules to the liberating realms of Netflix and Hulu and torrent dowloads, I find myself less and less interested in the annual fall offerings of fresh meat, filtered through tried-and-tested formulae. There was a time when a new slate of pilots would whet my curiosity at the next direction of pop culture.

Looking back, the year that ultimately steered my obsession with network TV into the shallow waters of rehabilitation was 1990. Some good shows found their way out of the sludge of mediocrity that year: Law & Order, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose all popped up in 1990, but we were also handed more than our fair share of drek.

This year… who knows? I hear Seth McFarlane has a live-action sitcom and AMC is plugging the ever-loving hell out of Low Winter Sun, but that’s all I’m really aware of. Twenty-three years later and my expectations are still tempered by the crapfest from 1990. Will we ever sink this low again? My guess is probably.

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This really happened. While NBC was pushing that giant Law & Order boulder down the mountain – the fragmentary pieces of which are still rolling along with a steady momentum – ABC felt that what was really missing from the standard police procedural was the bright splash of musical theatre. Read more…

Day 593: Network #1’s Belated Obit

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Amid the seemingly infinite waterfall of random thoughts that saturate my brain and prevent it from doing anything particularly beneficial to society comes the realization that my children have grown up in a world where the Fox Network has always existed. They have never known the confines of a 12-channel world, nor have they experienced the end of a broadcast day, when content gave way to a static test pattern image (or, in some cases simply static) after a rousing rendition of the national anthem.

But then, even my own perspective of the technology is somewhat limited in scope. I remember the three-channel world (four if you count the French one) of not having cable, though I never actually experienced it myself. For me, there has always been a PBS, a CBC, a smattering of local channels and at least three equally massive networks.

But even I’m too young to remember that other network. The DuMont Network was long dead once I came around, even though its legacy deserves more than the hushed tones of seldom-referenced history.

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Allen B. DuMont was an inventor. After performing some magic necessary to the birth of the medium by revolutionizing the cathode-ray tube in 1931, DuMont slapped down the first consumer-ready all-electronic television set in 1938. Throughout the 1940’s, DuMonts were the Lexus, Cadillac and BMWs of the television world. The only problem was, there wasn’t anything to watch. Read more…

Day 515: Show Me That Smile Again… 1987 On TV

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Having grown up as a non-hockey-playing only child in a Canadian town that was either winter or winteresque for more than half the year, I watched a lot of TV. I had a small handful of friends who lived within walking distance, but hundreds of friends who lived in that little box in my living room, from Fonzie to Latka. Sad? Maybe. Lonely? Perhaps. Pathetic? Hey, watch it.

Okay, so I spent much of the 80’s skitting from primetime show to primetime show, despite having only three networks and thirteen total channels (one of which was French) to choose from. When I see how much time my own kids spend looking at gifs of Benedict Cumberbatch on Tumbler, I don’t feel so bad. At least I had Moonlighting.

So when Wikipedia decided to hurl 1987 in American Television at me, I opted not to flip the channel.

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Undoubtedly the most shocking moment on television in 1987 occurred early in the year, on January 22. Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, who had recently been convicted of bribery, finished off his press conference in Harrisburg by withdrawing a .357 Magnum and taking his own life. Dwyer swore to the very end that he’d been wrongfully convicted, and stated that his suicide was an effort to have the facts of his case re-examined, and to shine a light on the failure of the American justice system. Some affiliates aired the entire press conference, right to the end. And I’m sure some viewers who saw that may have found a way to erase it from their minds by now.

I tracked down the full footage on Youtube. Trust me, you don’t want to see it. Read more…

Day 481: The Morality Cops

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Let me paint you a picture. On a Sunday night at 8:00, my family has the option of watching America’s Funniest Home Videos on ABC (channel 13), or flipping over to the latest episode of The Walking Dead on AMC (channel 39). One of these two shows contains profanity, excessive blood and gore, and the most creative violence I’ve ever seen on TV. The other contains hilarious trampoline-induced, groin-related mishaps. With sound effects!

In that same timeslot, AMC and HBO are proud to show us a protagonist who cooks meth, a 1920’s gangster who likes to be choked during sex (with full frontal wagging wang), and the visceral assault on the hormones of straight women and gay men everywhere which is contained within Don Draper’s pants.

Yet the ABC show is subject to intensive scrutiny by professional finger-pointers like the Parents Television Council. If my wife and I were not home, our babysitter sprawled drunkenly across the bathroom floor, the PTC would protect my kids from damaging television, but only so long as they can’t figure out how to use the Channel Up button to get to 39.

Stifling their counting skills is always a good idea.

Stifling their counting skills is always a good idea.

Most modern televisions have the ability to lock out channels. V-Chip technology can block network shows with questionable content for children. And for parents who are really worried, there’s always the ability to fall back on actual parenting, meaning if you don’t want them to see the bloodshed on CSI, then you don’t fucking let them watch it.

Uh-oh. Now the PTC will be on my case for that slip-up. Sorry if I’ve offended any of you. If only I had the wisdom and wherewithal of the censorship sages in their office. Read more…

Day 465: It’s Masters Week!

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“You ever watch golf on television? It’s like watching flies fuck.”

Okay, so maybe George Carlin – a noted loather of the game – was exaggerating a little. I have spent enough time watching both activities to confidently assert that the two are totally unrelated. Flies can complete the act of copulation, foreplay and post-coital cigarette included, in less than nine seconds. Watching golf is much more of an endurance exercise.

Things have changed in the world of broadcast golf though. No longer must we squint at tiny ball-specks against a blue sky, then have to sit through five minutes of people walking, choosing clubs and squinting at the fairway. The networks keep cameras on every golfer now, and the cuts between the action are much swifter, much more viewer-friendly than when I was a kid.

And so the golf-lovers of the world will turn their attention to Augusta, Georgia this week, in honor of the 77th Masters Tournament.

also the time of year when Tiger Woods annually pitches a piece of his eternal soul into the Well of Souls in a plea for public forgetfulness.

also the time of year when Tiger Woods annually pitches a piece of his eternal soul into the Well of Souls in a plea for public forgetfulness.

The Masters is the first of the four important golf tournaments held every year. It’s invite-only, which keeps the numbers down, so if you’re looking to tentatively poke your nose back into the world of TV golf, this will be the best weekend to get to know the competitors. Don’t be shy – watching golf may not be a thrill-a-minute as some other sports, like pro football, pro hockey, or pro blindfolded high-wire fire-jousting, but it still beats almost any reality show on any other channel.

And it’s still more exciting than curling. Seriously, fuck curling. Read more…

Day 461: Friday Night Lights-Out

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Are you planning on watching TV tonight?

Sorry, that was a rather personal and forward question, but I assure you, I’m only trying to survey the bleak and unloved landscape of a network TV Friday night. Purely for scientific reasons. You see, network executives have held Friday night with a degree of disdain for years. For the past three decades it has either been a deathtrap where shows were sent to die against unbeatable competition, or else it has been a vacuum. Viewers either don’t stay at home on Fridays, or else they use that night to get caught up on pay-per-view movies or PVR’ed programs they’d missed.

Hence the term Friday Night Death Slot.

For reasons that will soon become obvious, most images that turn up on a Google search for this term feature the show Fringe.

For reasons that will soon become obvious, most images that turn up on a Google search for this term feature the show Fringe.

The history of this phenomenon dates back to the 1960’s. When Star Trek failed to perform well in the ratings, NBC could have cut off its head and slapped something new in its place. But the network had begun looking at demographic profiles a few years earlier, and they knew the young crowd – the ones with the disposable income that advertisers love – dug the show. Then, in one of many acts of idiocy in NBC’s long and textured history, they moved the show to Friday nights for season two. Read more…