Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Videos – Top Rated Series 1970-1974

It’s been a while since I’ve done a video posting, so I thought I’d do another one featuring top-rated series. This time around we enter one of the great transitional periods of American TV, the 1970-1974 period.

To remind you again about the “rules” of this project, as imposed by me on myself., I will list the top three shows for each season along with the percentage of the nation's televisions that were tuned to that show during the season. These figures are drawn from the Complete Directory To Prime Time Network And Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. If the season's top rated show has already been featured either in this post or in the previous post in this series I'll find a clip from the second highest rated show, provided that it also hasn't been featured before, or the third highest rated show if the first and second place shows have been featured, and so on. The same procedure holds true if there are no clips of the show available online. I will be including the overall rating for the show. Previously I've expressed these in percentages however in 1960 the way that A.C. Nielsen calculated ratings changed and I'm not sure that percentages is a precisely accurate manner in which to describe these numbers. Finally I will be including my own comments about the shows.


1. Marcus Welby M.D. 29.6, 2. The Flip Wilson Show 27.9, 3. Here’s Lucy 26.1

Marcus Welby M.D. was a big shift from the way that medical shows had been done up to this point in time, and indeed from the way that such shows are done today. Virtually all medical shows up to that time and since have focused on big city hospitals and cutting edge medical solutions. Contemporary with Marcus Welby M.D. were shows like The Bold Ones: The New Doctors which debuted the season before Welby and Medical Center which debuted in the same season. The medical episodes of The Bold Ones focused on cutting edge medical science, or what was cutting edge at the time, while Medical Center dealt with a large university hospital. Marcus Welby M.D. was about a pair of general practitioners working out of what looked like a private home in a California suburb. What Marcus Welby M.D. had in common with Medical Center was that you had an older doctor working alongside a younger hipper doctor. In Welby you had the eponymous doctor played by Robert Young while his partner Dr. Steven Kiley was played by a young James Brolin (before he became Mr. Barbra Streisand). You could tell that Welby was the older supposedly conservative doctor even in the title sequence because he drove a big pile of Detroit Iron, while the hip Kiley got around on a Japanese motorcycle. The pilot episode of the series made the two men uneasy allies – Kiley was “discontented” with the idea of working as a General Practitioner; he was going to be a neurologist and made it clear that as soon as he could, he’d be gone. However as the series developed, the relationship between Welby and Kiley became a strong mentoring partnership. Welby tended to be the more unorthodox doctor, treating the whole patient and being concerned not only with their ailment but also their temperament, fears and family environment. Kiley tended to take a more textbook oriented approach to medicine. The only other character to be on the show for its entire seven year run (up to that time the longest run for a medical drama) was Welby’s dedicated nurse, Consuelo Lopez, played by Elena Verdugo. This 1974 episode guest stars Lois Nettleton, and Sharon Gless is also in the episode in a recurring role, but isn’t seen in this clip.

1. All In The Family 34.0, 2. The Flip Wilson Show 28.2, 3. Marcus Welby M.D. 27.8

They say that William S. Paley hated All In The Family…right up to the time when he saw the show’s ratings. It’s probably true. Paley has a reputation as an ace programmer who had a “nose” for what the public wanted but All In The Family, based on the British series ‘Til Death Do Us Part can’t have been easy for any programmer to see the appeal of. The concept for the show had been at ABC since 1968 without being picked up because of the controversial nature of the material. Mickey Rooney was considered for the role of Archie Bunker but reportedly rejected the role when he read the script. It is a fact that Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton were in all three of the pilots developed for the show while the actors playing the younger characters changed. Eventually Producer Norman Lear settled on Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers to play the younger generation of the family. O’Connor’s Archie Bunker was a loud, opinionated, bigoted conservative working stiff who loved his country and didn’t like what was happening to it. This made him the perfect target for his brand new son-in-law Michael Stivic who was equally loud and opinionated but on the other side who didn’t like the way his country was behaving. Caught in the middle were Archie’s wife Edith and their daughter Gloria, who was married to Mike. While it was expected that the audience would usually be supportive of Michael over Archie, what happened was that Archie became the breakout character of the show. I think there are a lot of reasons for this. For one thing, there really were a lot of Americans who, if they weren’t as bigoted as Archie was, still had a lot of the same beliefs that he carried with him, including a strong patriotism and a concern with the direction that the country was going in in terms of riots, and “youth rebellion.” At the same time Mike could come across as obnoxious, and he had his own preconceived notions which were in their own way as wrong-headed and prejudiced as Archie’s own. The show debuted in January of 1970 and became a national sensation by its first full season, even being discussed by Nixon on the Watergate tapes (Nixon didn’t exactly understand it, and the nature of the show had to be explained to him). This episode from Season One doesn’t introduce Lionel Jefferson, but it does bring the Jefferson family into the neighbourhood and into conflict with Archie.


1. All In The Family 33.3, 2. Sanford And Son 27.6, 3 Hawaii Five-0 25.2

A year after All In the Family debuted on CBS, Norman Lear brought another British property to the American market. The British series Steptoe And Son was transformed into Sanford And Son in the United States. The story, about a widowed inner city junk man and his son who yearns for something better. What made the American version of the series was the casting of comedian Redd Foxx as junk man Fred Sanford. Foxx, at the time known mainly for his nightclub act and the comedy records that he did of his act (mostly not suitable for radio). Foxx played Sanford as being greedy and lazy, definitely the boss of the business that he co-owned with his son who he frequently fought with and manipulated. Fred’s son Lamont was played by Demond Wilson, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who was a comparative novice at acting (his first TV role was in Lear’s All In The Family). The dynamic between Fred and his son was more complicated than the Archie and Mike relationship in All In The Family; Fred frequently called Lamont “Big Dummy” while Lamont sometimes called Fred “Old Fool”, but the two legitimately loved each other despite their conflict (unlike the British series Wilson and Foxx were close off the set). The show had a large supporting cast, some of whom friends of Foxx’s from his night club work. One of these was LaWanda Page who played Fred’s sister-in-law and biggest nemesis Aunt Esther (Page had worked with Foxx’s wife at the time). The other major supporting character was Grady Wilson, played Whitman Mayo. When Foxx left the show for a season in a contract dispute Mayo, who was probably the most experienced actor in the cast, took over the position of the older lead. The show ran from January 1972 to 1977, and was only out of the top ten in its last season. The show ended primarily because Foxx left the show, this time for keeps. This clip is from late in the show’s run and includes a scene with the great Frank Nelson: “Yeeessss?”


1. All In The Family 31.2, 2. The Waltons 28.1, 3. Sanford and Son 27.5

Just two years after CBS cancelled “everything with a tree in it” (to use Pat Butram’s famous reaction to the network’s “rural purge”) a rural show came back to the network with a vengeance. The Waltons was a show that seemed unlikely to be popular: it was based in the country rather than the city; the focus was on a family rather than the TV triumvirate – doctors, lawyers, and cops – and the family weren’t dysfunctional and funny; and it was a period piece set in the 1930s. A show like that wouldn’t even get to the pilot stage these days, and when the show debuted in 1973 it was generally expected that it would be blasted off the air in short order by the popular Flip Wilson Show. Instead The Waltons basically killed off Wilson’s variety series. The Waltons was introduces with a highly successful holiday movie called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. Written by Earl Hamner Jr. The Waltons is a semi-autobiographical series based on Hamner’s life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in the 1930s (Hamner had previously fictionalized his family life in the book and 1963 theatrical movie Spencer’s Mountain). While most of the actors from The Homecoming were kept for the series, there were three important changes: Ralph Waite replaced Andrew Duggan as John Walton Sr., Michael Learned took over the role of Olivia from Patricia Neal (Hamner and the producers were concerned about Neal’s health), and Edgar Bergen gave up the role of Gandpa Zeb Walton to Will Geer. The only adult character not to be recast was Grandma Esther Walton, played by Ellen Corby. The focus of the show was on the oldest Walton son, John Jr. but universally known as John-Boy played by Richard Thomas. An adult John-Boy (voiced by Hamner) was the narrator of the show, and most episodes center around his life and ambition to become a writer. When Richard Thomas left the show – he was said to have gone to New York to become a professional writer – the focus moved to the other members of the family, brothers Jason, Ben, and Jim-Bob and sisters Mary-Ellen, Erin and Elizabeth. One of the show’s most memorable episodes concerned the return of Grandma to the Mountain – Ellen Corby had suffered a stroke and was written out of the series but her health recovered enough to be able to return to the series. Will Geer died in the hiatus between the sixth and seventh season and the character was stated as having suffered a heart attack at the beginning of the seventh season. The clip that follows is from the show’s first season (identifiable because the title sequence is filmed rather than using sepia toned photos).


1. All In The Family 30.2, 2. Sanford And Son 29.6, 3. Chico And The Man 28.5

Chico And The Man, created by James Komack, was an instant sensation when it debuted in 1974. Oscar winner Jack Albertson took a back seat to stand-up comedian and novice actor Freddie Prinze. Albertson played Ed, the owner of a broken down garage in an ethnically diverse neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Ed, refused to acknowledge the changes in the neighbourhood and had few friends left. When a young Hispanic man named Chico Rodriguez comes looking for a job, Ed throws him out. Chico does come back to clean up the garage and eventually moves into an old van that Ed keeps in the garage. The relationship between Ed and Chico grows increasingly close. While Ed can still be acerbic towards Chico the bond between the becomes almost like father and son. The show had a good supporting cast, most notably Scatman Crothers as one of Ed’s few friends, Louie the Garbage Man (“Bring out your can’s because here comes the garbage man.”) The show also had a number of high profile guest stars. In fact I had hoped to be able to find the third season episode “Old is Gold” for a reason that my friend Ivan G. Shreve would readily understand; it was the last on-screen appearance of Jim Jordan, Fibber McGee from the radio series Fibber McGee and Molly. Unfortunately Chico And The Man is one of those series where no episodes have been posted onto YouTube. Like Sanford And Son, Chico And The Man was based on the relationship between the two leads; because of that the show was unable to survive Freddie Prinze’s suicide at age 22. The producers did try to keep the series going, replacing Prinze’s character with a 12 year-old Mexican orphan name Raul, adding Raull’s aunt (played by Charo) and finally added Julie Hill as Ed’s 18 year-old niece who moved into Chico’s old van. None of it worked and the series was cancelled after its fourth, Chico-less, episode. As no episodes have been posted on YouTube, what I’ve got for this show is the title sequence for the show featuring Jose Feliciano’s great theme song, and as a special bonus, clips from Feliciano’s appearance on the show where he sings “Light My Fire,” and the series theme.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Grey’s Grey’s, Grey’s Of The Jungle

offthemapI have been anticipating the debut of Shonda Rhimes’s new ABC series Off The Map. Anticipating it like a trip to the dentist. Where I know that there will be drills involved. And Novocaine.

From that I’m sure you can guess that my anticipation was mostly negative. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not that I don’t think that Shonda can’t carry three series. I’m not sure that she can, largely because I’m not sure that anyone who doesn’t have a factory behind him (or her) like Jerry Bruckheimer can pull off three series at a time. However I’m willing to give her the opportunity to try. No, my problem is that when I first heard the concept I thought that it was something that was a bit distasteful for some reason. The more trailers for this series that I saw the more convinced I was that I wasn’t going to like this. Maybe it was the scene with the one of the two female doctors claiming that they  “objectifying one of the greatest humanitarians of our time.” Somehow it just didn’t feel “right” somehow. Maybe it just came across as a trifle self-important? Or maybe just silly? Whatever it was, I came into this show predisposed to dislike it. What I wasn’t expecting to find something that felt, to me at least, more than a little familiar. Yeah, as I say in the title, this feels more than a little like Grey’s of the jungle.

The premiere episode opens with the three senior staff at a clinic “somewhere in South America” (but actually Hawaii for reasons I’ll get into later) watching local life guards struggling to rescue a swimmer and talking about a group of new doctors who will be arriving soon. They are Ben Keaton (Martin Henderson), Otis Cole (Jason Winston George), and Zitajalehrena – call her “Zee” – Alvarez (Valerie Cruz). Zee seems pissed about having another bunch of gringo doctors coming in to pad their résumés, but Ben and Otis seem more interested in the rescue, as if waiting for an excuse to dive off the cliff and lend a hand. And sure enough it happens. First Ben dives in then, after giving Zee his stethoscope so does Otis. And that ends the teaser scene, which I only really mention because it introduces us to the senior staff and because it is mirrored – minus the rescue – by a scene at the end of the episode with the three younger doctors.

The episode really begins with the arrival of an aged wreck of a car, conveniently labelled “jungle taxi” carrying Dr. Lily Brenner (Montreal based actress Carolyn Dhavernas), one of what Otis and Ben refer to as “the new shipment.” The driver’s reaction when he finds out that she’s going to be working at the clinic is to hand her his card and tell her that when she’s ready to go back to call him. She insists that she’s here to stay but as if on cue another young woman comes running out of the clinic building in a fury and demands that the driver take her to the airport. Inside Lily meets the rest of the “new shipment.” They give each other their names and their specialties. Besides Lily (Trauma) they are Mina Minard (Infectious Diseases) played by Mamie Gummer who is Meryl Streep’s daughter), and Tommy Fuller (Plastic Surgery) played by Zach Gifford, who most of us know as Matt Saracen from the TV version of Friday Night Lights. The three are quickly put to work by Ben and Otis. Because Otis heard Tommy say something that he didn’t like, he is given a house call, which Otis means as a punishment but which Tommy thinks is some sort of honour. Because Lily has brought her own portable trauma kit to the clinic she goes with Ben on an emergency call. This leaves Mina at the clinic with Otis and Zee to deal with patients at the clinic.

Lily’s emergency is Ed, an older man (played by Michael McKean) who slammed into some trees while riding a zip line over the jungle. The immediate problem is that he’s dangling in the middle of the zip line run since part of his arm has become stuck in the braking mechanism of the line. And because the zip line can “probably” hold the weight of two people at most, Lily has to go out on Ed’s line to attend to him – because she’s lighter than Ben – while Ben supervises her on the other zip line. Although the braking mechanism on Lily’s zip line malfunctions and doesn’t slow her down so that she crashes into Ed, she manages to calm down his panic and carefully cuts away the part of his arm that is jamming his braking mechanism. After they get him back on solid ground they take him back to the clinic. They determine that he has internal bleeding and probably a ruptured spleen. While waiting for Ed to stabilize Lily develops a bond with him, particularly after hearing the story of why he was in South America. Ed and his wife had come down to the region on their honeymoon many years ago and promised to come back. The everyday stresses of living prevented that, and then Ed’s wife died of just before they were to come down again. He’s there not just for his own memories but to scatter his wife’s ashes in Lago de Luz, a lake where bio-luminescent algae light up the lake when they’re disturbed. Lily it seems had lost someone too, her fiancé, which led her to quitting her residency program. Lily is there when they perform Ed’s surgery. A crisis arises when they discover that he is bleeding out and losing more blood than expected. They don’t have enough of his blood type or of Type O blood. Ben dashes out of the clinic taking Lily with him. He’s looking for green coconuts. According to Ben, green coconut milk has the same electrolyte balance as blood and was used as a blood replacement during World War II. Ben states that he has the most experience with coconut transfusions, which sound great to Lily…until she finds out that that means he’s done it once. The surgery is successful but when they prepare to evacuate Ed to the city, Lily begs and demands that they take Ed to Lago de Luz so that he can scatter his wife’s ashes in the water.

Tommy’s house call involves a long trek through the jungle led by thirteen year-old Charlie, who is also to serve as a translator for Tommy. Tommy is following up on a woman who Otis was treating for Tuberculosis. He had given her medication but after Otis left her husband decided that the drugs were making her sicker and stopped giving them to her. Tommy discovers that she has died. He wants to treat the man’s children, one of whom is coughing up blood, but the man refuses to allow it. Instead Tommy writes up a note that says that the man is refusing treatment AMA – Against Medical Advice – and goes back to the clinic. Otis explodes over this and reveals that he, Ben and Zee know all about Tommy and the others. In Tommy’s case this means that they know that while he is smart enough he’s always just slid by and devoted most of his time to drinking and strippers. Otis orders him to go back and “be a doctor,” or don’t come back. Fired as much by a desire to prove Otis wrong as anything else, Tommy and Charlie trek back to the husband’s shack and makes an impassioned plea to the husband – entirely in English (and without Charlie seeming to translate) in which he explains that his expulsion from the residency program he was in (as a result of the drinking and strippers) so disappointed his family that they tried to intervene. When they did he told them to get out of his life, and they did and now he’s lost his family. Tommy insists that if he treat the children the man will lose his family as well. The man lets Tommy treat the kids.
Mina’s story is the simplest. Her first clinic case is a man who is suffering from joint pain. She immediately thinks that it’s haemorrhagic fever because they are in one of the hot spots for infectious diseases. Otis tells her to treat it with an analgesic. She insists it could be an infectious disease but he response that it could be tennis elbow. When she asks how her patient could get tennis elbow, Otis responds “from playing tennis.” She backs down and treats the patient as Otis directs. Her next patient is an old woman who has trouble breathing. Mina immediately diagnoses her illness as a cold and tries to make it clear that there is nothing that a doctor can do for a cold. The woman keeps hanging around the clinic while Mina tries to get her to go home. Finally the woman collapses to the ground. Immediately Mina calls for epinephrine, and after this revives the old woman, Mina goes off to try, unsuccessfully, to find an corticosteroid to treat the woman’s asthma. In the dispensary she meets Lily who commiserates with her about the initial missed diagnosis, saying that “when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras.” Mina then explains that she was bounced from her residency program when she started working “at County Emergency” in addition to her regular shifts at her own hospital. While working at County for her third straight day without sleep she treated a boy for flu without tests because there were about twenty cases of flu coming through the ER every day. The boy died of bacterial meningitis and the death could have been prevented if she’d run a simple lumbar puncture. Because she was unable to find any steroids in the dispensary Mina, who is asthmatic, gave one of her inhalers to the old woman. A day later the old woman returns with her daughter (who speaks English) who explains that for the first time every her mother has been able to take a deep breath. The old woman gives Mina a chicken in return.

The episode ends with mysterious figure approaching Ben’s office. It’s Dr. Ryan Clark, the young doctor who took Lily’s cab from the clinic. Ben was expecting her back and asked how far she got this time. She made it all the way to the airport. It’s revealed that Ryan is sleeping with Ben, sometimes, but there is – or was – someone in his life before Ryan. Ryan reminds Ben that she isn’t coming back. The final scene is of the young doctors at the same cliff that the older doctors had been standing on at the beginning of the episode. One by one each of them leaps into the sea.

After watching this show, and thinking about it as I have been writing this, my overwhelming feeling is one of disappointment. This show could have been more than it was. The acting talent is there, particularly in the actors playing the young doctors, while some of the “older” actors (who really aren’t that much older than the “kids”: the oldest of the three, Jason George, is six years older than Caroline Dhavernas and nine years older than Gummer) have solid filmographies.

No, I think the problem lies with the concept. For most of the pilot episode at least I was thinking of just how much the characters on this show reminded me of some of the characters on Grey’s Anatomy. Ben is pretty much Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, while Otis reminds me a lot of Dr. Webber (The Chief), which kind of leaves Zita as Bailey. The similarity is also there with the young doctors: Lily is definitely Meredith, while Tommy is Karev and Mina is…well Mina has a lot of Christina in her and maybe a bit of Izzy. I mean these comparisons aren’t exact, and future episodes may erase the comparisons and make the characters stand on their own, but as it stands the similarities in everything but setting seem rather obvious.

There are aspects of this show that strain credibility to the breaking point as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not talking about the whole “green coconut milk is as good as a blood transfusion” thing (though that is in the mix). The biggest problem for me is that none of the “new shipment” appear to be able to speak Spanish! Ben and Otis are hiring doctors to work in a clinic in Latin America who are treating people who often speak only Spanish, and yet Spanish doesn’t seem to be deemed an asset by them in hiring staff. We saw the problems that Mina had in communicating with the old woman; had she been able to ask the right questions and get an explanation from the woman it would have been easier for her to make proper diagnosis. Similarly Tommy had difficulty explaining to the husband who took his wife off of the medication that Otis had prescribed that the medicine was need for his children, even with Charlie available as a translator. And yet when he returned to the man’s hut the second time he had no trouble getting his point across – in English without Charlie translating – so effectively that the man eventually gave him permission to treat his children.

And speaking of Tommy’s case I had a lot of problems with Otis’s reaction when Tommy returns to the clinic the first time. He seems to blame Tommy for not forcing the man to let him treat the children, but Otis wasn’t able to get the man to keep up the treatment of the wife that he himself prescribed. In North America this sort of case would have at least had follow-up care from a nurse to make sure that the treatment regimen was being followed. Here follow-up consisted of sending a young doctor newly arrived at the clinic with no prior knowledge of the case out to check up on things a week or two after the initial visit and treatment. And then blaming the young doctor for not being able to get the patient’s husband to allow his children the treatment that the husband withheld from his wife.

And I guess all of this brings me to the part of this show that loses me. I know that for Tommy, Mina, and Lily – and probably Ben, and maybe even Otis – working at the clinic represents a second chance (and probably redemption, though we don’t really know enough about Lily’s story to know if she has anything to seek redemption for) in an exotic location. A lot of good fiction has been written about people seeking a second chance and redemption in an exotic location. It’s not uncommon in real life either. Robert Louis Stevenson sought a second chance in an exotic location, as did Gaughan. Where this idea falls apart for me is that I don’t really believe in these characters. If Ben is supposed to be “one of the greatest humanitarians of our time,” why are these doctors the “best” candidates to work in this clinic. In other words, why are they getting the chance to have this particular second chance? Surely there would be applications from people who haven’t quit their residency program or have been forced out because they were slackers or because of overworking themselves or missing diagnosis. Surely there would have been applications from people who speak at least enough words of Spanish to get information from their patients. Indeed you would think that more than one of the doctors working at this clinic would be from this South American country that bears a striking resemblance to Hawaii. And yet the clinic is largely run by Americans (Ben and Otis) and is staffed with young residents who are all Americans. My willing suspension of disbelief really falls apart on this point.

It’s a fact that I didn’t expect much from Off The Map. I was hoping that I was wrong about the show but I don’t think I was. Even though I am basing my opinion on just the pilot, and it is entirely possible that the show could improve, I don’t expect it to improve so much that I would be able to buy into the premise of the show. I may keep watching it for a while – my mother sort of likes it, and I can catch this and another show that is on in the same time slot thanks to time-shifting – but how long that will last is anyone’s guess. For those of you who don’t have this option, there’s at least one better show on in the third hour of Wednesday nights. Give Off The Map a pass this week and watch Blue Bloods instead.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Good Old Days Weren't Always THAT Good


Ah the good old days, back before HD, PVRs, DVD players and recorders, VCRs, Cable, Remotes, and Colour TVs, when if you were supremely lucky there were three networks and if you weren't there was just one channel.
If I'd known any better I would have hated it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Boston Rob vs Russell, Round 2

The upcoming season of SurvivorSurvivor: Redemption Island – will feature two familiar faces for fans of the show, “Boston Rob” Mariano, making his fourth appearance on the show (in addition to two season of The Amazing Race) and Russell Hantz making his third appearance.  This is in addition to sixteen other contestants who have never appeared on the show before.

On the surface at least the result seems preordained: the new players will vote out the two returning players fairly early in the proceedings. Maybe. Survivor tends to be filled with surprises and there does seem to be a pecking order in the way that people are eliminated. In the “Team Phase” the initial impulse is to keep the team strong by voting out the weakest players. It is only as the “Team Phase” is winding down and the merge is approaching that attention is redirected towards the strongest players. In addition, this season adds a quite deliberate twist in that a player who is voted out isn’t immediately eliminated. Instead they go to "a new area – called Redemption Island – where they subsist in exactly the same sort of circumstances that the players who are still in the game are surviving in. As each new player is eliminated they are sent to Redemption Island where they compete against the person who is already there. Whoever wins stays on the island alone and waits for the next person to be eliminated. Eventually the player who survives on Redemption Island returns to the main game and is eligible for the main prize. So even if Rob or Russell is voted off they aren’t actually out of the game until they’re beaten by someone on Redemption Island.

Mostly though this is a personal battle between Rob and Russell. They went head to head in Survivor: Heroes vs Villains where they were on the same team, and while Rob quickly saw Russell for what he was – a backstabbing conniver who would be your best friend at one Tribal Council and be working to get rid of you the next (or even the same day, as in the case of Tyson) – Rob was unable to develop a truly united front, mainly because of Russell’s ability to persuade people to vote against their own best interests. The animosity between the two was palpable from the beginning – at one point Russell told the confessional that he wanted to burn Rob’s trademark Red Sox cap – and boiled over at the Heroes vs Villains reunion show where Rob told Russell that, “given the opportunity, I’d gladly go back and kick your ass all over the island.” In this particular season the other sixteen is just a side show – the real battle is between Rob & Russell.

Here’s the tale of the tape:

rob_mRob Mariano
Age: 35
Nickname: Boston Rob
Trademark: Red Sox Cap
Previous Seasons (Finish): Survivor: Marquesas (10), Survivor: All Stars (2), Survivor: Heroes vs Villains (13)
Little known fact: He went to Xavierian Brothers High School with Matt Hasselback, the brother-in-law of Elizabeth (Filarski) Hasselback who appeared on Survivor: Australia with Rob`s wife Amber Brkich.
Strengths: Since his first appearance on the show he has constantly improved his game. In his first season he was seen as part of the group on his tribe who “didn’t work.” In later seasons his work ethic improved. His survival skills are quite strong; he was the first cast member to ever start a fire by rubbing two sticks together (which other people on his team felt would never work). His social game has definitely improved over the years. Strong in team competitions, particularly in challenges involving puzzles. In working with members of his own tribe he’s been increasingly smooth. A sound strategist he tends to develop core alliances and work outward from there. Has a strong ability to “read” opponents like a poker player. He picked up on Russell being untrustworthy and his biggest opposition on his team practically from the moment that he met him.
Weaknesses: Limited experience with individual challenges. he only really faced those in his All Star season. Has very limited experience with the Hidden Immunity Idol. His only exposure to that was in the Heroes vs Villains season and initially at least he was quite disdainful of it. His high public profile might also be a problem when playing against new players. He may be one of the two or three best known of all Survivor contestants because of his multiple TV appearances, both on Survivor and on other TV shows, often as a reality TV contestant. This may put a target on his back from the moment he begins.

Age: 38
Nickname: Demented Hobbit; Immunity Idol Magnet
Trademark: Grey Trilby style hat, bald head and beard.
Previous Seasons (Finish): Survivor: Samoa (2), Survivor: Heroes vs Villains (3)
Little known fact: Although he lists his profession as being in the oil well services business, he also owns a bar in Lafayette Louisiana. He was arrested for misdemeanour assault and battery there after an altercation in the bar.
Strengths: Very physical player, sometimes to his own detriment. He tends to turn his work ethic on and off as necessary. He thinks a lot about his game and plans out scenarios. He seems to regard alliances as transitory, to be set aside or renewed as needed. His only enduring alliance during the Heroes vs Villains season was with eventual second place winner Parvati Shallow. His greatest strength in both seasons in which he played was his ability to find Hidden Immunity Idols, sometimes without any clues, and to use them effectively to blackmail those around him into doing his bidding.
Weaknesses: Russell has several major weaknesses. He has a tremendous ego which has been boosted by twice being voted the Player of the Season by viewers of the show. His social game is virtually non-existent, and he has in previous two seasons seemed incapable of understanding the importance of the social game. At least some of his former tribe mates have described being with him in the game as being similar to an abusive relationship. Russell also had something of an advantage in his Heroes vs Villains season in that he went straight from Survivor: Samoa to that season so that the people he was playing against had no idea of what he was capable of while the he knew a lot about many of the people he was playing against so that he could work them. Coming into Redemption Island the roles are reversed; the players that he’ll be up against will know all there is to know about him while the only person he’ll know anything about is Rob. It may be that a smart player would want to take him as far as he can knowing that a jury won’t vote for Russell, but it may also be that he’ll be regarded as too dangerous and annoying and voted out quickly.

What Probst says: Jeff Probst has literally seen them all come and go. Here’s part of what he told Entertainment Weekly about the two:
I do not think Russell or Rob will be the first person voted out of this game. Because I think they bring too much experience — 156 days between the two of them. When you’re playing a game, there’s a lot to be learned….Rob may have an easier time initially, but Rob’s gong to have a tougher time long term because Rob could win. Rob is likable enough. He could win. Russell’s not going to win. Russell doesn’t get that. He’s not gonna win. Even if he was nice this season, the payoff for past seasons won’t let him win. Rob is going to have a tough time if he makes it to the merge.

So what do you think? I want to know, so I’m starting a poll (as soon as Blogger will let me) which will run until just before Survivor: Redemption Island debuts. The question is simple enough: Who will last longest in the coming season of Survivor: Boston Rob Mariano or Russell Hantz? Don’t forget that I would also like to read your comments on this so feel free to post them here or wherever.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

On The Sixth Day Of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love – Television – gave to me… six male characters I’ve enjoyed.

Well I’m late and getting later. Beyond that I’ve got some open spots in the whole “12 Days” thing. Still I’ve got a few more things that I do have something for, so what I’ll probably end up doing is dropping the “Twelve Days Of Christmas” title and round up the rest of the stuff that I’ve got. At least the male characters are easier for me to write about than the female characters. As I’ve said, the 2010-11 season has a lot more male characters to write about than female characters. A couple of these are a bit of a surprise, even to me.

HAWAII FIVE-01. Scott Caan – Danny “Danno” Williams on Hawaii Five-0: Say what you want about the new version of Hawaii Five-0 – and I have – you’ve got to admit that the remake of the original series gave the character of “Danno” more personality in the first episode than the original series gave their “Danno” in all the time that James MacArthur played the role. This Danno is a rather defiant “fish out of water” who hates being in Hawaii, refuses to follow local habits (he always wears a shirt and tie even though everyone around him avoids that like the plague) but stays there because he’s a divorced dad who is devoted to his daughter. Caan’s version of Danno isn’t deferential to his “boss” Steve McGarrett. He is, by turns sarcastic, dubious, professional and even, on rare occasions, supportive of McGarrett. In fact, most of the time Caan makes Danno more interesting than Alex O’Laughlin makes McGarrett. The important thing to me is that which Jack Lord’s McGarrett could do reasonably well without James MacArthur’s Danny Williams – as he did in some episodes while MacArthur was on the show and for the show’s final season when he wasn’t – it is hard to imagine O’Laughlin working without Caan to play off of. It’s a great relationship the show sort of falls apart without it.

HumanTargetGuerrero2. Jackie Earl Haley – Guerrero on Human Target: Considering that Guerrero is sociopath who routinely tortures people whit whatever he has close to hand and whose moral compass seems to be stuck pointing any direction but North. Guerrero is Christopher Chance’s (Mark Valley) left hand man, the left hand being the one that usually gets stuck doing the dirty stuff (at least in some traditions). Guerrero isn’t a particularly complex character but he is a fun one filled with little character quirks. He doesn’t put his name down on paper anywhere and he has an almost paranoid fear of people being able to track him down. Physically unimposing – he’s short and wears glasses – as often as not just his name or a look from him is enough to get his potential victims to break down and tell him anything he wants to know. Guerrero is pretty much the polar opposite of the other major supporting character on the show, Winston. Their relationship tends to be adversarial, albeit with a grudging acknowledgement that they don’t really work well without each other. Jackie Earle Haley, the former child star and award winning actor seems to have great fun with this part.

FRINGE: When an unlikely trio uncovers a deadly mystery that involves a series of unbelievable events, they discover it may be part of a larger, more disturbing pattern that blurs the line between science fiction and technology on FRINGE airing Tuesdays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) this fall on FOX. Pictured: John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop ©2008 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Lavine/FOX3. John Noble – Dr. Walter Bishop on Fringe: Every year since Fringe started (which seems longer than it really has been) I hope that John Noble will at the very least get an Emmy nomination for playing Walter Bishop. And every year I know I’m going to be disappointed because Fringe isn’t on some high profile cable network and it is a “genre show” (which means science fiction – you don’t hear of shows in the forensic genre being called “genre shows”) with a”cult following.” Those two things are the kiss of death for mainstream awards. That’s a pity, because even before this season John Noble has been outstanding playing Walter Bishop. They say that one of the hardest things for an actor to play is crazy, and Walter is, as the British would say (or at least the class of British that we usually see on imported TV series) completely dotty. Thing is that it’s a fun kind of dotty. Walter has an endearing child-like quality even when he’s whipping up his latest device or postulating some theory which is at the same time a crackpot idea and absolutely correct. That’s the Walter that we’ve known up until this season, and I’ve thought that the portrayal was worth an Emmy.This season something new was added for John Noble: “Walternate.” “Walternate” – the version of Walter Bishop in the alternate universe that is at war with ours is in his own way probably just as mad as our Walter, but not in an endearing way. Walternate is completely ruthless, willing to kill “our” Olivia to bring his Olivia back to his side once her mission is completed, and when that proves impossible lops off pieces of the corpse of a formerly trusted associate (his Philip Broyles) to match Olivia’s weight. And that’s not even mentioning his willingness to use his son, the only remaining Peter Bishop, as an integral part of a weapon that will destroy “our” universe. And he did it all cloaked in patriotism and his role as Secretary of Defense. Playing two characters in the same show is always a trial for for an actor, and in playing both our “dotty” Walter and his polar opposite the sociopathic Walternate, I think that John Noble has truly earned the Emmy nomination that he will undoubtedly not get.

donnie-wahlberg-blue-bloods24. Donnie Wahlberg – Detective Danny Reagan on Blue Bloods: Truth be known, this is more of a case of me liking the actor and bringing the character along for the ride so to speak. I’ve basically been a fan of Donnie Wahlberg since I saw him in Band of Brothers (what? you expecting me to say New Kids On The Block?) and I also liked him in Boomtown, the series he did after Band Of Brothers, (which was created by Graham Yost, who also wrote two episodes of Band of Brothers). I did miss his very short running CW series Runaway and some of his other movie and TV work, but what I’ve seen him in I like him in. And that includes Blue Bloods. Wahlberg plays NYPD Detective Danny Reagan who is the eldest son of Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). Danny is one of those cops who bends the rules. If you follow enough police procedurals you know that just about all of them have cops who “bend the rules.” What makes Danny Reagan different – and indeed what makes the whole show different – is that we see beyond the work life and into the personal family life of Danny and the rest of his family. Thus we see and get to know Danny’s wife and how she reacts to some of the situations that she’s in; we get to see the reaction of his sister Erin – an Assistant District Attorney – to some of the things that Danny does when he “bends the rules.” This adds an extra dimension to the character and gives Wahlberg something to work with.

defenders5. Jim Belushi – Nick Morelli on The Defenders:
6. Jerry O’Connell – Pete Kaczmerik on The Defenders: This is the one that surprised me because I really haven’t liked either of these two actors in roles that they’ve had in the past. And yet, I like them in this and I think it’s because these fit the characters nicely. I’m probably less surprised with Belushi’s performance. While I, like just about anyone else who has written even a comment on a website about TV, complained about his previous series According To Jim, I am aware that Belushi has at least some acting chops both in comedy and drama. The character of Nick Morelli fits Belushi well; a Chicago-born lawyer who enjoyment of his prosperity is disrupted by the end of his marriage and his sudden return to the dating scene. As for Jerry O’Connell, I have to say that I find him the more limited of the two actors. I‘ve seen at least some episodes of the four series that O’Connell has done as an adult, and while I actually liked him in Crossing Jordan, I could barely watch a single episode of his last series, Checking In and I don’t think I saw a complete episode of Carpoolers. My impression of O’Connell is that he often plays varying degrees of the same character, always energetic and usually quite pleased with himself. In the two comedies, he was oversexed and even a bit smarmy. There is just something about O’Connell that I always find annoying. In The Defenders all of those negative character aspects are found in Pete Kaczmerik but they work. Pete is a womanizer and egotistical and over-energetic, and a bit smarmy but those are the traits that this character, a fast talking lawyer who is a few steps above being an ambulance chaser but nowhere near the top of his profession would have. Maybe putting him opposite Belushi has worn off some of the traits that I previously found annoying in both of them.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love – Television – gave to me…five female characters I enjoyed.

This one is a bit hard to write because it seems to me that this past TV season has not been a good one for roles for women. Oh sure, there were good parts for women in the CW’s new shows – Hellcats and Nikita – and on some of the new sitcoms, but with the exception of NBC’s Chase there really isn’t a new drama with  solid female lead, and while I haven’t reviewed it yet Chase really feels like a pretty bad show. In fact at least some of the shows that were cancelled this season were better than Chase. Well at least one of them was, but we won’t get into Lonestar because I have a definite theory about why this show failed to ignite on broadcast TV…but I don’t want to get into that here.

A couple of things to bear in mind. First, I really only feel comfortable in talking about shows that I see on a regular basis or have more than one episode’s exposure to . As a result I won’t be talking about most sitcoms or extolling a member of the cast of Hellcats or Nikita, and I haven’t seen enough episodes of The Event to feel confident in saying anything about Laura Innes’s character on The Event or about Monica Baccarin’s character Anna on V despite the fact that I like both actresses. Similarly, because I had DVR problems and had to delete most of Season 4 of Mad Men I won’t comment about Elizabeth Moss or Christina Hendricks on that show even though I’m given to understand that Peggy Olsen and Joan Holloway had great storylines. The other thing to remember is that the only order that these comments are in is by the day of the week that I see the show. Finally, I don’t mention Marg Helgenberg, but she’s always a presence on any list like this.

Stana-Katic1. Stana Katic – Detective Kate Beckett on Castle: Kate Beckett the voice of sanity on Castle. She’s always level headed and practical even as she’s surrounded by people who aren’t. Even the two detectives she works with, Ryan & Esposito, have their “goofy” moments when they’d be classified as comic relief, but there’s very little of that for Beckett. Of course, the Beckett-Castle relationship is the heart of the show. Romantically it hasn’t been smooth sledding for them, although there definitely seems to be a connection if one or the other of them can figure it out. Professionally he exasperates her, even as she recognises that he has flashes of brilliance. She’s also able to see beyond the part of Castle that is immature to the man beneath who can be serious, who cares for his friends is devoted to his daughter and worries as she grows older and more independent. It may not be the greatest role on TV, and Katic is unlikely to win an Emmy, or much else in recognition of her performance, but it’s a nice part.

Julie-Benz2. Julie Benz – Dr. Stephanie Powell on No Ordinary Family: I’ve liked Julie Benz since she first appeared as Darla on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Given that the character of Darla seemed initially to be a brief and not terribly well developed part – a close associate of The Master who ends up dead in the first or second episode – she managed to catch both our attention and the attention of the producers so that Darla grew in importance over the course of both Buffy’s run and then the run of Angel. I came to look forward to her appearance in other guest starring bits in other shows. I’ve never seen her in Dexter but I’ve heard good things about her in the role of Rita. Her turn as Robin Galagher, the stripper who becomes Katherine Mayfair’s lover, is one of the few highlights of Desperate Housewives for me in recent years. Stephanie Powell is a different role from many that she’s played. Stephanie is a brilliant career woman who happens to have super-powers (she has super-speed). What Stephanie isn’t is a super-hero. She has these powers but she has no desire to use them to fight crime. What she wants, and what she uses the power for is to be able to have it all. Super-speed allows her to be both the high powered scientist that she’s studied to be and is very good at, and the wife and mother side that was always coming second for her. Stephanie is very different from most of the characters that Benz has played in the past, and as I’ve come to expect from her, Julie Benz pulls it off beautifully.

amy-farrah-fowler-picture3. Mayim Bialik – Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory: Frankly I could also have gone with Kaley Cuoco just as easily; if you don’t think she’s essential to that show as Penny then obviously you didn’t see the episodes that she didn’t appear in after her riding injury. Still, Amy Farrah Fowler – the female Sheldon Cooper – is a dream role and Bialik is either just about perfect for it or, as is the case with Jim Parsons, she works hard to make the character her own, to the point where you really can’t think of anyone else in the part.  

fringe_olivia-and-fauxlivia 4. Anna Torv – Olivia Dunham on Fringe: I’ve always liked Anna Torv on Fringe. She always seemed to me to be the on the outside looking in on the in on both the insanity of the events that she’s investigating. At the same time she the observer of the relationship between Peter and Walter. It was surprising to me to find people who thought that the way she portrayed Olivia indicated that she had limited acting ability rather than it being a specific choice. With the current season and the appearance of “Fauxlivia” – the Olivia from the alternate universe – we’re really seeing that the way that Torv portrayed Olivia in the first two seasons was a conscious choice on her part. Fauxlivia was more ruthless than “our” Olivia, but at the same time she smiled more and had more of a sense of “joy” to her. It was part of the character so that Peter could look back and say that he should have realized that it wasn’t “his” Olivia that he was having a relationship with. It’s in this that most doubters have hopefully come to realise that she is a very capable performer.

AJ-Cook5. A.J. Cook – FBI Agent Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau on Criminal Minds: I spent lot of time debating this one. I could have gone with Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia (also on Criminal Minds), or Robin Tunney as Teresa Lisbon (The Mentalist), but I think that Cook’s role in the show was unique. Her departure from the show (apparently due to the producers’ desire to reduce the show’s budget) was both highly unpopular with fans and I think that it took a vital element away from the show. Agent Jareau was the one character on Criminal minds who was oriented outwards. By that I mean that the characters role wasn’t directed primarily at the solution of the crime. J.J. was the person that police agencies contacted initially and the one who chose the cases for the team. She was the person who dealt with the families of the victims on a personal basis, and she was the public face of the Behavioral Analysis Unit because she was the one who dealt with the media. While the show has mandated that Vangsness’s character will take over at least some of JJ’s duties, I still think that eliminating the character was detrimental to the series. That alone makes her a character that I enjoyed.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love – Television – gave to me… four reasons to complain about being Canadian.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love just about everything about being Canadian. I love our style of Bowling, I’m quite fond of the Queen being on the money, and after my mother’s heart attack in November, you bet I love our government run health care system and phooey on Americans for not understanding how and why it works. Suffice it to say that if we lived in the United States my mother would either be dead, bankrupt or both.

But still, there are a few things wrong about how this country works, and  how it impacts me trying to do this. Those things are of course Television related. These aren’t in any particular order, just thoughts as we go along.

1. Media Concentration: You think it’s bad in the United States? Consider this: The vast majority of private TV stations (as opposed to the CBC’s stations) are owned by three companies. These three companies also own a large percentage of Canada’s cable TV stations. These three companies are Rogers, Bell Canada, and Shaw. By no coincidence whatsoever, these three companies own both of Canada’s satellite broadcasting systems – Bell ExpressVu and Shaw Direct – and the largest and second largest cable companies in the country – Rogers and Shaw Cable. 

Five years ago – January 2006 – things were somewhat different. I say somewhat because while the three major “systems” (that has a specific meaning in Canadian TV that I won’t get into) owned almost all of the stations that aired their shows, there was a far greater variety of voices in terms of ownership. It’s true that Bell owned CTV and some cable networks, but Rogers and Shaw both owned comparatively small cable channel group. The Chum Media Group owned the CITY-TV system, having taken over the Craig Media Group two years before which gave them most of the stations in the group. CHUM also owned a fairly significant cable presence both from channels they had started and those they acquired from Craig. The Global network, now owned by Shaw, was then owned by Canwest along with a number of specialty channels. Alliance-Atlantis, now exclusively a movie production and distribution company, had a significant cable presence. In 2006, CHUM sold their broadcasting assets to Rogers and their cable channels to CTV, while Alliance-Atlantis sold its channels to Canwest and they are now owned by Shaw.

In my opinion this trend towards media concentration is a bad thing. It restricts the local responsiveness of stations in the community. Economic decisions mean that in Saskatchewan (for example) local newscast aren’t local any more. There are only two of them, and they have become more regional broadcasts than local. People in Prince Albert, which used to have its own CTV station now watch news from Saskatoon, which has a primary focus on Saskatoon but also has to serve not only that city and Prince Albert and all of the other communities in Northern Saskatchewan. 

Another part of the situation is that concentration of ownership can effectively restrict what we see. The former CEO of Shaw Media, Jim Shaw, quite famously refused to pay a fee to the Canadian Television Fund (which he was required to do as part of his license) because he felt that Canadians didn’t want to watch the shows that were being supported by the fund, and in part because he disagreed with some of the shows being funded (Trailer Park Boys in particular was a show that Shaw loathed). Back then, all Shaw could do was complain and make this sort of “grandstand play.” Today Shaw, or rather his successor at Shaw Media, can largely determine what shows will and won’t be made.

2. I can’t be on The Amazing Race: That may seem like a selfish one but it is a reason to complain about being Canadian. I can’t a participant on The Amazing Race, or Survivor, or Big Brother, or many of the prime time game shows like the current Million Dollar Money Drop, and it’s all because I don’t have a US passport. In a recent visit to Canada Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan said that if Canadians wanted to participate in The Amazing Race they should get a Canadian network to do their own version of the show. That of course is never going to happen, either in the specific case of The Amazing Race or the general idea of Canadian based reality shows. Why? Because the Canadian networks have no valid reason to do their own version of these shows. Canadians are huge fans of The Amazing Race – it is one of the top rated shows on Canadian TV – but the Canadian networks get a show like The Amazing Race for far less money than it would cost them to produce a Canadian version, particularly when you realize that a Canadian network would be unable to sell it in the international community to recoup some of the cost… like the producers of The Amazing Race (or Survivor or Big Brother, or Dancing With The Stars) are able to do.

It’s something of a shame really. There’s no real reason – beyond cost really – why we in Canada shouldn’t have a Dancing With The Stars featuring Canadian celebrities and sports figures, or a Canadian Big Brother. We do have a Canadian version of So You Think You Can Dance and we have had Canadian Idol. But Canadian Idol is no more and a large part of the reason for that is that CTV, the Canadian network that ran Canadian Idol decided that they couldn’t afford it.

3. Finding shows: It isn’t easy. On occasion I get offers to participate in phone interviews with people from shows I’ve never heard of let alone watched, or information and promotional material for shows. I’d like to at least try some of this stuff but I don’t feel that I can do a lot of this stuff because I don’t know if the show is airing in Canada or if it does air here I don’t know when, or on what channel. It’s one of the reasons why so much of what I write about is broadcast TV. I don’t know if Psych is available in Canada, or if it is where I can find it.

Another side of this is that a lot of the shows that really interest me are on the higher priced premium movie channels that I don’t subscribe to because I can’t afford them. I’d love to write about something like Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, Men Of A Certain Age and a number of other shows, but I can’t because they’re only available on two premium movie channels which would cost me $17.00 each. I can’t afford to spend $34.00 a month to watch these shows, some of which are basic cable shows in the United States. Sure, these may eventually make their way to non-premium cable here, in much the same way that Dexter and The Closer have, but by the time they do, the episodes are often a year or two (or more) old and any reviews that I could write about them would be out of date at best, irrelevant (because the show is no longer on the air) at worst.

4. Blocked feeds: These are the bane of my existence, particularly around Upfronts, but it often also applies when publicists send me links to clips. Last year all of the American networks had their trailers available on YouTube, but only NBC (and I think maybe The CW) had their new series trailers available to viewers outside of the United States. This made it very hard for me to put together a package of trailers for this blog. Even if I could find a source for clips that were legitimately available to me as a Canadian, my readership isn’t exclusively Canadian – in fact if the results from Google Analytics are correct the largest single nationality is American – and those people who aren’t Canadian won’t be able to see those Canadian legal clips. During the last Upfronts I managed to find a source for clips for all of the networks so that I and all of my readers could see them…until YouTube shut the clips down a few days later. With publicists, I’ll take the link that they’ve sent me, and usually end up being told that the clip that I’m supposed to be seeing – because the publicist wants me to see it – isn’t available in my jurisdiction. It is frustrating (to say the least).

A second aspect of this relates to people posting clips. It isn’t uncommon for people to post Hulu clips, or clips from AOL’s In2TV. Which is all very well in most circumstances – which is to say when they’re Americans serving an American audience – but when it comes to non-American audiences we’re out of luck. Obviously it’s usually impossible for bloggers or website owners posting clips like this to find an alternative source for this sort of clip that isn’t blocked, but they should at least be aware that the problem exists.

I’m constantly amused/irritated by people like Leo Laporte who say that broadcast TV, or even the current model of broadcast and cable, is outmoded going to go away because people can use services like Hulu and Netflix and devices like AppleTV, the Boxee Box, and other ways of linking your TV to the Internet to get shows online. This they say allows you to pick and choose what you want to see when you want to see it. It’s probably Nirvana for those who understand how to make it work and and can afford it or actually be bothered to use it. The thing is that so much of the technology and the services that it depends on to be able to work isn’t available outside of the United States. There is no Hulu in Canada, and given that our major content providers and Internet service providers are also owned by cable and satellite providers, I doubt that there will be anything like Hulu in Canada for a very, very long time.