Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Television Update: 7/17/12

(Note: this blog post is spoiler-free.)

I haven't talked about television in eight months. Let's discuss!

DirecTV versus Viacom: As you may know, DirecTV and Viacom are currently in a carriage dispute, and thus, many channels (of which Comedy Central and Nickelodeon are most relevant to us) are currently unavailable, at least to us. Now...normally you can watch full episodes of The Daily Show online, but when I try going there today, I am first bombarded with an anti-DirecTV ad, followed by a message that online episodes are not available at this time. Coincidence? Keep in mind that there's no way for dailyshow.com to know that I happen to be a DirecTV subscriber.* So are they turning off online episode viewing for everyone until the dispute is resolved? (Correction - as of today, full episodes are back online again, including today's.)

(* - Some websites require you to "authenticate" your television service before viewing content online; for example, entering in my DirecTV username password. NBC does it with their online Olympic broadcasts. The Daily Show website does not do it. Yet.)

This sort of thing happens with every TV provider sooner or later. DISH Network is currently in a dispute with AMC. Time Warner Cable has never carried the NFL Network or MASN. Regardless, though, I'm certainly not considering switching just over this. It's unfortunate that the only say we have in these carriage disputes is to screw over our television provider and switch to a competitor. Is there any way for me to stick it to Viacom?

The good news is that Marla isn't old enough to know what Yo Gabba Gabba is yet.

Breaking Bad (and other AMC shows): During every new episode of AMC's Mad Men or The Walking Dead, my Twitter feed is pretty much swamped with people talking about them. I couldn't get into Mad Men (although I may give it another chance sometime), and the fact that The Walking Dead is about zombies is a non-starter for me (I place zombie shows/movies in the same category as vampire shows/movies). Breaking Bad, however...yes.

The final season of Breaking Bad started last Sunday...sort of. Apparently they're splitting up the 16-episode final season into two parts, with eight episodes airing this summer, and eight next summer. Seriously?

But I'm going to watch to the end regardless, of course. I'm kind of curious where they go from here. The last episode of the previous season could have served as a perfectly viable season finale, if they so chose. So, now what?

Meanwhile, Amber is more excited about the return of Leverage, which, interestingly enough, had its season premiere the same night.

Crime dramas: There are a million crime dramas on television these days, and half a million of those are on CBS alone. (Slight exaggeration there...maybe.) I've kind of grown weary of the genre, but...I can make room in our admittedly short playlist for a couple of crime dramas.

My dad recommended the NBC show Awake (even though he eventually stopped watching it), which is about a detective who, following a car crash, is simultaneously living two lives - one in which his wife survived the crash but his son did not, and another in which his son survived the crash but his wife did not. He has no idea which reality is "real" and which is a dream, and both feature a different psychologist who is insistent that the reality in which he/she appears is the "real" one.

The crime solving aspect of the show (about 75% of it) was "meh", but the remaining 25% of the show had some nice twists between the two realities* and managed kept my interest...only for the show to get canceled. Was this crime drama too "sophisticated" for the general CSI-watching public to accept? Was it not mind-bending enough for fans of shows like Lost? Yes and yes, but I think its biggest problem was that it was on NBC, and nobody watches crime dramas on NBC unless the show has "Law and Order" in the name.

So, in the wake of Awake, now we've started watching Person of Interest, which is on CBS, and therefore, has viewers. Haven't watched enough episodes yet to have an opionion.

Summer documentary-type shows: When summer hits, and most scripted shows are in reruns, many people turn to reality television. We usually turn to documentary type stuff on channels like History, Discovery, Science, etc. Of particular note this summer for us are Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman (the best "science nerd" documentary on television?), the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries that History aired over Memorial Day, and another History show called the United Stats of America.

Now...about that. It's a show about statistics! That's enough for me, but an hour long show about statistics is going to be too boring for most people. So how do you make a show about statistics interesting? Number one, you hire comedians to host the show (specifically, these guys, who are kind of annoying at first until you get used to their style). Number two, you only have them talk about statistics for a small portion of the show, and have them "doing interesting things" for the rest of the show. For example...one second, they're talking about how the percentage of the population that lives on farms has decreased over the years. Then for the next five minutes, we're learning how to milk cows!

The series lasted for six episodes, which is probably all you can do for a show about statistics, but it wasn't even enough for someone to bother making a Wikipedia page for it. I liked the show, but I'll be surprised if there's a "Season Two".

A word regarding reality television, including much of what airs on TLC: This is when I reveal Amber's guilty pleasure: Say Yes to the Dress. She just likes looking at the wedding dresses. That's fair. Meanwhile, I gave Extreme Couponing a try, because it's about grocery shopping, and I'm kind of a grocery shopping nerd. There was also this show called My Strange Addiction. That was TLC, too, right? I don't think we made it beyond two episodes on that one.

Many reality shows, especially those that air on TLC, look the same to me. They all focus on manufactured drama. Will Emily meet her COMPLETELY ARBITRARY GOAL of saving $300 on this order of groceries??? If they talked about the numbers more and the actual coupons they're using and how much they're saving (which they mention a couple of times before going back to manufactured drama), then perhaps I would have stuck with Extreme Couponing. I guess people must like all this manufactured drama? I really don't get it. There's no need for all this drama. It's GROCERY SHOPPING. (I can't speak for everyone, but my trips to the store are mostly drama-free.)

I see My Strange Addiction as more of an exploitation show, e.g. Hoarders. Although it's not really exploitation, because they all agree to do the show, right? It's an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, yes, they all agree to do the show. On the other hand, perhaps these people don't actually realize how weird they are? You know, come to think of it...does this qualify as a "strange addiction"? Perhaps, but it seems perfectly normal to me. Well, anyway, I think those shows are only interesting when you first meet the people, and then they kind of drag on for the rest of the time while they manufacture drama.

Cartoons: We don't get Nickelodeon at the moment, but we still get Boomerang and Cartoon Network! I've recently set up the DVR to record two cartoons: Adventure Time (not that familiar with it, but it's supposed to be good), and The Powerpuff Girls. (Yes, really. How have I never discovered this show before? It's brilliant!) So you see, even when you temporarily (hopefully) lose a few television channels, there's always something on.

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