Category Archives: Television

Fringe Dodges a Bullet

I think Fringe is one of the smartest shows on TV. They're juggling a freaky premise (two alternate universes are trying to survive under the shadow of possible demise) and some subtle character work at the same time.

But the multiverse they've constructed assumes that for every person 'here', there's an exact duplicate 'there'. Same looks, same age, same name. That makes it fun for the actors, most of whom get to play alternate versions of themselves. But that also presupposes that every couple has their children at the exact same time… and has for all of history. If any one person has a different set of offspring anywhere in history, the entire doppelganger concept falls apart.

In the recent episode "6B", the climax relied on the situation of an elderly couple having children in one universe, and no children in the other. In fact, they had at least two, since they were referred to as "the girls".  Uh-oh! The entire construction of this multiverse may be faulty!

But wait. The Walter from 'here' broke into 'there' to steal Peter. That, theortically, means that everything from that moment on (in 1985) is up for grabs. Children born after 1985 wouldn't necessarily have doppelgangers.

In the episode, the old woman claim to have been with her husband since they were 20, and said they were together "almost 45 years". That means she's almost 65.  1985 was twenty-six years ago, when she was almost 39. She might have had two children (even twins) at such an age.

Bullet dodged! All is right with the multiverse!

Of course, I haven't dodged the bullet of excessive geekiness. But that's okay, too.  That ship sailed long before 1985.

I Would So Have Paid $40 Mil to Keep Firefly On the Air

I’ve wondered this myself.  SyFy’s Craig Engler:

SyFy Q) @paulidin Let’s pretend a billionaire really liked a show. Could he just give money to someone to keep it on the air with few viewers?

SyFy A) Probably yes, and probably at least 50% of the cost of an episode. Say, $500k-$1 million for cable, $1-3 million for broadcast

If I’d been a billionaire in 2003?  Floating the cost to keep Captain Reynolds and crew around for at least an extra season would have been a no brainer.  For the record, I would also have bought Rhode Island and had it towed out to sea, so funding a TV show would have probably looked relatively affordable.

The TNG Cast Goes All Twittery

Brent Spiner has joined Wil Wheaton and LeVar Burton on Twitter.

R. I. P., Majel Roddenberry

Majel Roddenberry, widow of ‘Trek’ creator, dies

Apple’s Latest iPhone Ad is Brilliant

The format of the ads in the series, as may you know, are that they posit one of those little problems in modern life, then demo an iPhone apps that solves the problem.   In this latest ad, the problem is, “you know when you don’t know what song is playing, and it’s driving you crazy?” and the app demonstrated is Shazam, one of several iPhone apps that will identify a song based on listening to several seconds of it playing.

Where it gets clever is that they incorporate the hooky tune that’s been the instrumental background for all of the iPhone 3G ads as if it’s being played out of a speaker on screen—then identify the song just like Shazam would.  So the commercial itself is not only actually useful to people who like the song, it gives proper credit to the artists, which you rarely see in TV ads.  (The song is “You Me and the Bourgeoisie” by The Submarines, by the way).  Then, at the touch of the screen, the ad transitions seamlessly into the vocal version of the song (also clever), which swells to fill your TV’s speakers as the AT&T and Apple logos appear.  It’s very well done. 

Of course, the song itself is about the materialism and excess of those of us in the developed world—how if we love more we need fewer physical things, and how “we not living the good life / Unless we’re fighting the good fight.”  Yet it has become the theme song for one of the most well known, most influential mass market commercial products in recent memory, sold by a company built on selling premium electronics to the bourgeoisie?  I think if I wrote the song, and really felt its message, that might annoy me a bit.  On the other hand… if you’re an indie band from LA, and you can get over the philosophical implications… how cool would it be to have one of your songs picked as the theme song for one of the most well known, most influential mass market commercial products in recent memory?

One last thought.  I went online and bought the song immediately after hearing the ad; I’ve always like the instrumental version, and I liked the vocal version even more.  But I bought it from the Amazon MP3 store, not from iTunes.  Know why?  DRM.  I’ve gotten into the habit of buying from Amazon instead of iTunes, because I won’t tolerate someone else trying to lock up my music.  As it turns out, “You Me and the Bourgeoisie” is an iTunes Plus track—it has no DRM.   Too bad for Apple I didn’t know that—their ad did a great job of closing a sale for their competition.  Getting rid of DRM sooner, rather than later?  Probably a good idea.

links for 2008-11-04

Top Ten Fictional Presidents

We're poised to select a new President today, so in honor of that occasion, I offer my picks for the best fictional Presidents:

10) Joseph Staton (Rep/TX?) – played by Dennis Quaid in "American Dreamz"

Really?  This guy?  The vague gloss on W designed to lampoon the current administration's dim bulb view of global terrorism?  Sure, because Staton betters himself.  He realizes that he doesn't know everything, and stops relying on advisors and starts to learn things for himself.  Imagine a President growing in the office, rather than simply going gray.  One can only dream.

9) "The President" (?/?) – played by Henry Ford in "Fail-Safe"

Poor guy had no choice, really.  Through exactly no fault of his own, he has to decide between total nuclear devastation of the planet, and the destruction of New York City.  He makes the choice–anyone would.  But he doesn't simultaneously lose his mind.  For that, he gets a spot on the list.

8) Thomas Whitmore (?/?) – played by Bill Pullman in "Independence Day"

Refused to respond quickly to the threat of alien invasion, then overcompensated with a nuclear strike.  But he flushed the idiot NSA out of his administration and weathered personal tragedy before rallying his troops with one of the best pre-war speeches since Henry V.  (Flying into battle with those troops gains points for coolness, but immediately loses them again for putting his life at risk unnecessarily.)

7) Andrew Shepherd (Dem/WI) – played by Michael Douglas in "The American President"

He dates a lobbyist, then gets her fired.  That might be enough to put him at the top of the list!  This was Aaron Sorkin's appetizer before the feast of "The West Wing", so Shepherd has most of Bartlet's virtues, without the yawnfest stories about the Visigoths.

6) Dave Kovic (as Bill Mitchell) (Dem/DC) – played by Kevin Kline in "Dave"

So, he wasn't really President, technically, but he got his hands dirty working out a budget for child education, he charmed the pants of every person he met, and he deftly and unselfishly weathered a scandal that he never actually created.  We could use a few fake Presidents with Dave's heart.

5) Jackson Evans (Dem/?) – played by Jeff Bridges in "The Contender"

This tale of a controversial choice to replace a dead Vice President is mostly about the "contender" in question, but this shark-eating POTUS is insidiously charming, and very presidential.

4) James Marshall (Rep?/?) – played by Harrison Ford in "Air Force One"

His no holds barred policy on terrorism triggered an attack on himself, thus endangering both his family and his country.  But then he literally kicked the main terrorist right off the plane.  Yeah!

3) David Palmer (Dem/MD) – played by Dennis Haysbert in "24"

Palmer didn't always make the right play–trusting his horn dog brother springs to mind.  But he stood by his shrewish wife like a good husband… until she was literally a national security crisis waiting to happen, and he broomed her.  He successfully survived a play by the Vice President to knock him out of power.  And he almost always trusted the advice of Jack Bauer, which pretty much guarantees your survival in the 24-verse, at least until Season 5…

2) Tom Beck (?/?) – played by Morgan Freeman in "Deep Impact"

And W thought 9/11 was bad.  Beck had to contend with the possibility of the end of all life on the planet.  He steered the country through the mind-bendingly awful crisis with dignity and humility.  You had to love him… as long as you were under fifty years of age.

1) Josiah Bartlet (Dem/NH) – played by Martin Sheen in "The West Wing"

He was compassionate. (Seeing him talk to a scared radio man on a ship in a hurricane is tear-jerking TV gold.)  He was tough.  (He thought long and hard about cold-bloodedly killing that terrorist-intelligence guy from Kumar, but in the end he did it.)  He was the devout Catholic who fought for a woman's right to choose.  He started the series as a neophyte in matters military, and ended it by committing US troops to Central Asia for who knows how long.  And, honestly, would YOU have told the world you had MS?

Bonus List – 6 Useless Fictional Presidents

  • President Blake – played by Perry King in "The Day After Tomorrow" (Wait?  There was a President in that movie?)

  • "The President" – played by Donald Pleasence in "Escape from New York" (What does it say about the politics of the time when the President is portrayed as a punching bag?)

  • President Ashton – played by William Hurt in "Vantage Point" (Harrison Ford would have totally kicked those terrorists' asses!)

  • Allen Richmond – played by Gene Hackman in "Absolute Power" (Keep it in your pants, Mr. President!)

  • James Dale – played by Jack Nicholson in "Mars Attacks!" (By the end, you're glad when he's skewered by a creepy alien mechanical hand.)

  • Paul Hollister – played by Beau Bridges in "10.5" (Everything about that mini-series was really, really awful.)

Ratings Slater’s Own Worst Enemy?

TV Squad:

My Own Worst Enemy, the new Christian Slater spy series that I'm really enjoying, continues to drop in the ratings. The premiere episode did only so-so, and this week's second episode saw a drop of 22%.

It’ll be too bad if this show doesn’t make it.  While I’m not convinced the show’s central premise makes any sense—why put your best agent in a position where even he doesnt’ know who he is, again?—I too enjoy how it’s played out.  Meanwhile the steaming pile that is the new Knight Rider gets a full season order?  Wow.

Fall TV Preview

In case you were itching to find out what Russell thinks of the new fall lineup of TV shows, your prayers are finally answered!

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Rush On The Colbert Report

“The band Rush is here.  Either that, or a drum factory exploded in my studio.”  In case you missed it, as I did, Rush appeared on The Colbert Report last week, their first television appearance in 30 years.  The complete episode is available here online.  Stephen’s first interview question: “You’ve been touring for over 30 years.  Do you ever get tired of being so awesome, and kicking so much ass?”