lovehate: Award Shows

After considering the affectation that I have for lists, I have tried to come to grips with why I absolutely abhor award shows. After all, aren't award shows simply groupings of lists that get refined to a final list of the night's winners?

I have, however, parsed down the key difference between liking lists and hating award shows: pomp.

If award shows could reduce down the core information (i.e. candidates and winners) to half an hour or less - I'd watch. Instead, the award show format of grandiose gala is perhaps the most BORING and taxing hours of television one can sit through. As much as I might like a host choice one year compared to the next, even a great host can not overcome the sheer banality of scripted humor and over-the-top musical numbers that should be consigned to the next High School Musical sequel.

I could care less about the red carpet and her red dress - who she's wearing, how much the necklace costs, how fabulous anyone looks or what's in the gift bags for the presenters.

I really don't need to see Hollywood starlets crammed into dresses with painted on smiles as their handlers tell them which direction to turn to when the cameras flash on them. I don't care to see unlikely pairings stumble over verbals fondlings of each other while trying to choke out unfunny dialogue before ripping open an envelope. I don't want to see a musical performance by an artist I don't like, and, even more, I don't want to see a watered-down uninspired performance by an artist I do like. And finally, I don't want to see acceptance speeches that contain people thanking those I don't know, don't want to know, and don't care about. I don't care that an actress wants to thank her mother or drama teacher, or a singer wants to thank his crew or god. I don't want to see people weeping or fist-pumping in joy.

I would rather award shows became more debate-oriented. Let's have some well-informed people talking intelligently about who should win, and why for an hour before the winners are announced. Let's have an awards show that lasts an hour or less and gives me the information quickly, efficiently without any envelopes. Let's have after shows that contain the same (or different) panel of "experts" consider the decisions that were made and talk about the artistic merits of the winning choices.

Like watching any faux sport that has a basis in judging instead of hard numbers, award shows don't (and in fact can't) deal with any intrinsic data: it's all subjective. And I appreciate the filtering mechanism may be knowledgeable and that the process is engrained in history and tradition, but essentially for every 3-4 hour award show, I'm waiting for twenty names that could be read in less than two minutes. Watching sixty minutes of hockey or football during a three hour span is taxing enough at a 3:1 ratio. Award shows commonly have a 240:1 ratio of unwatchable crap compared to somewhat interesting information. And this assumes that I have any investment in the nominees to begin with.

I rather we simply pack all award shows in a giant envelope and ship them off to the Lost island where all of the nominees could, in Survivor-like fashion, eliminate each other one at a time until it turned into documentary about how nature had reclaimed its territory. If such events would happen I could happily announce that the ultimate winners would be the viewing public.


lovehate: The Gates of Seinfeld

The hordes of yea and naysayers hurling their two-bits in about the latest Gates/Seinfeld Microsoft ads have, if nothing else, provided more coverage for the OS giant than almost anything in recent years. And the fact that it may be half good and half bad is at least half better than most of coverage during that time.

It's curious that media critics seem to realize the ads are no different than most other huge companies but... more on that later.

It's the so-called tech experts and bloggers that seem to have the most analysis invested into the most detailed minutae of these spots. On "This Week in Tech" last week, gdgt's Ryan Block performed a deconstruction on the first ad that made the entire spot into an allegory about the "common man's" experience in an Apple Store. On this week's TWiT, John C. Dvorak wondered why the hell Microsoft wasn't "selling" something with such an expensive campaign. Today CNET is reporting that critics are abuzz over the fact that the third installment of the ads will NOT feature Jerry and Bill and, as such, this constitutes a surrender to the bad press and a radical shift in the campaign. Of course further in the article it is revealed that Microsoft actually announced this shift last week and that the dynamic duo would return.

All of this proves one thing: no one is talking about "how bad Vista is" anymore.

Let's get back to how these ads are no different than any other mega-sized company. When was the last time you saw a Nike ad that talked about the new sole design technology or comfortable insoles or crazy grommit technology advancements for the laces. My usual Nike experience is watching someone running in slow-motion while an intended inpsiration passage in read in the background by a famous athlete while a slow string pad crescendos in the background. When was the last time you saw a Coke or Pepsi commercial that talked about the drinks themselves and not just about "wanting to buy the world a Coke" or being "part of the Pepsi Generation". Every McDonald's ad essentially says one thing: "Hey look! We're McDonald's. Try and not be dragged here kicking and screaming by your kids."

Huge brands do not have to sell product, they simply have to sell the brand. The point/counterpoint Apple commercials always have bullet point features that help to explain the great features of Macs because, simply, most people do not have a Mac, most people have not seen a Mac in operation, and most people, if they're going to switch, NEED to be sold on product AND brand but the fact that you will be paying between 30-50% more for an equally-powered system.

A used car lot often has a loudmouth talking a million miles a second trying to explain everything they've got and are selling at lower than everyone else. Commercials from the big automakers show cars whipping around long sweeping mountain curves with techno music pumps up the jam and, if you're lucky, you may get a chromakey blurb or two at the bottom with a logo at the end.

Videogames will often show a bunch of cutscenes strung together with a grandiose synthesized orchestral score. Gatorade will be similar to a Nike commercial with less talking and a lot of orange sweat. How much can you say about potato chips without talking about the thousands of migrant workers that got paid 25% of minimum wage to harvest your Wavy Lay's? How many ads for financial establishments don't include a young or retired couple sitting across from a suit smilling and nodding their heads while words like "easy", "friendly", and "future"?

I'll be the first to admit that these Microsoft ads are clever while not brilliant, and I'm not trying to be an MS Apologist 3.1, but the inner Samuel Beckett in me could not help but revel in the absurdity of the first ad's punchline: "Just wondering, are they ever going to come out with something that will make our computers moist and chewy like cakes so we can just eat them while we are working?" That the agency behind this was brave enough to make it (as every other big company's ads) about nothing, makes me love not the ads themselves, but the mindset that acknowledges the quirky, the bizarre, and the just plain ridiculous still has a place on television. And if anyone spends too much time sitting around WTF'ing their television while these spots are playing, maybe they'll understand when Godot appears.

gates robot

lovehate: The New TV Season

After, so recently, having any remaining faith in television programming executives quashed with Fox's Japanese rehash of Hole in the Wall, I do have to admit that perhaps my second favorite season is the new network television season that, while becoming more staggered in it's tenure over the past decade, usually spirals out of Labor Day with great aplomb. Sure, the parameters of the network season were blown wide open with cable and access to some of the great programming on the BBC that often run more like epic mini-series than seasons, but there is no comparable storefront of the magnificent to the craptastic as one can get when the big US four crank out the pablum every fall.

The BitTorrent movement has created the ultimate time-shifting for me. There will be entire seasons I download that I will not watch until the following summer. Bruce Springsteen once sang of 500 channels and nothing on. There's plenty of stuff on; it's just that the viewing public used to only have to wade through 13 channels to find a good show. The time it takes to sift through the 500 channel sandbox means there's now a good chance the good stuff remains buried.

Incredibly, last season I managed to follow, through the torrent time-shift or otherwise, a roster of shows that was way too great in numbers for the average viewer, including some I'm loathe to having to admit watching. This fall I'm looking forward to a major network roster that includes The Big Bang Theory, Chuck, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, How I Met Your Mother, Heroes, Boston Legal, Fringe, Bones, Pushing Daisies, Sons of Anarchy, Dirty Sexy Money, Smallville, My Name is Earl, The Office, Supernatural, Grey's Anatomy, 30 Rock, Eleventh Hour, Life on Mars (although the BBC version of this show will NEVER be outdone by this already tweaked US attempt), Ghost Whisperer, Sanctuary, Numb3rs, The Simpsons, Dexter, True Blood, Family Guy, American Dad, The Unit, Californication (strangely, both not about porn), and Entourage.

Of course this is in addition to whenever they show new episodes of 24, Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Bonekickers, The Sarah Jane Adventures, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and South Park.

Some of these shows are guaranteed for the season, but some may die off, which is good because now that football season is well in swing and my favorite season (hockey) is on its way... I'm going to have to schedule to time on my Google Calendar to work on my cloning project.

While I'm happy to count on reality TV providing hours' worth programming I will never watch, I really need to find a way to pair down some of these shows, but when the winter storms roll in on weekends and I have a new 67" HDTV with a hard drive full of commercial-free programming... I'll be a happy man. Strap on your crap waders people. TV season is upon us. Build your hopes, clear your schedules, oil your recliner and tell people that being the media connoiseur you are, you have the ability to watch television on a macro-level that far exceeds their "idiot box" criticisms... it's better than Rabbit Season and Duck Season combined.

TV Season

lovehate: Hole in the Wall

Are you kidding me!?!

I thought I could spend a nice relaxing day watching some football with friends. This outside of the fact that I thought the new HD box I'd picked up from my cable provider would work... and then I found myself watching standard def. football all day. But sometime around the middle of the afternoon things took a turn.

While I'm generally okay with internet memes that flash for one brief shining moment like an old Kodak photocube bulb, the concept of "here and gone" rarely applies to television as they seem to descend to ever deeper levels until, I believe, the groundwater will eventually seep in and drown us all.

I can live with the fact that "I can has cheezburger" exists and that a year from now it will be as dead as "All your base are belong to us". I can live with Rickrolling and any other thing the web throws at me because I know the shelf life is limited at best.

I have always hated reality television. While I appreciate the economic attractiveness on behalf of the networks and slapstick or soap opera qualities that draw in the the audience looking to forget about their daily troubles by entrenching themselves in soma-induced splendour. While I've always hoped for the death of reality TV before it had drawn down the collective mindset of society to an unrecoverable level, I will now pronounce that the genre has bottomed out.

Fox TV (shock me, shock me, shock me) has announced the Series Premiere (and I hope Finale) of Hole in The Wall where, from all accounts people try to skillfully twist and contort their bodies through... wait for it... holes in walls.

I remember when I first saw the film trailer for Stomp the Yard that I was convinced it was a joke, a parody, a satire... anything but a real film. I was shocked when the trailer of Tommy Lee Jones' Man of the House turned out to be an actual theatrical release.

I've always thought that committees or boards have the distinct ability to take great ideas and water them down to where the original concept is all but unrecognizable. While we may have to suffer this aspect of the collective mindset, there should be a positive reason for them to exist - Hole in The Wall is this reason. That not only one person, but an entire programming group thought this worthy of television is a damning indictment of what TV execs think of us.

I'm posting this before watching Hole in the Wall. I know I'm being harsh in assuming this may very well be the worst show of all-time. And I'm cursing the Fox TV decision makers for letting Japan's gameshow idiocy to make it this far. Shows that are silly - fine. Shows that are goofy - okay. Shows that insult my intelligence by concept alone... all in all we are all just holes in the wall.

(edit: not to be one to criticize without at least an attempt to watch this show, I did sit through four minutes last night... the doctor says my eyesight should return within 48 hours.)

hole in the wall