Sunday, November 27, 2005

Canadian TV and the New Technology

There was an interesting article in the Friday November 25 issue of TV Times, the listing book that comes with many Canadian newspapers on Friday mornings (because of course most Canadian newspapers don't do Sunday editions and putting it in on Saturday would be just too much for people to read on one day).

The article, which unfortunately doesn't seem to be available online, is by Eric Kohanik the TV Times editor. In it he writes: "Canadian TV broadcasters are in big trouble" and goes on to explain why.

"First, ABC revealed that it will now be 'podcasting' episodes of Lost on its website....

The next logical step in this iPod craze is video. Once it really catches on, everyone will have tiny portable TVs that let you import shows and watch them whenever - and wherever - you want.

Shortly after ABC's announcement, CBS and NBC unveiled deals with American cable and satellite services to make CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the Law & Order spin-offs available via video on demand for 99 cents US per episode. VOD basically turns your cable or satellite box into a video player, letting you watch stuff at your convenience.

There's also the news that TV programming will now be available on cellphones. And at the other end of the TV spectrum, American networks are moving aggressively towards digital and high-definition television.

Add all of this to the fact that many shows are available on DVD or can be downloaded from the Internet, and you suddenly realize that TV is in the midst of a huge transition."

So far, Mr. Kohanik has basically reported material that is reasonably well known to anyone following recent technological developments. (Well except for the fact that he doesn't seem to grasp the real importance of the ABC announcement. They aren't podcasts; what ABC is offering in cooperation with Apple and the iTunes Music Store is the ability to download the complete one hour TV show to be seen on the Video iPod. In other words, what he calls the next logical step has already been taken.) He also missed - or it wasn't announced at the time that he wrote the article - that it will be possible to download shows recorded on a TiVo to the Video iPod. What he hasn't explained yet is why Canadian networks are in trouble although perceptive readers may have already figured that out.

Mr. Kohanik continues:

So why are the Canadian [broadcasters] in trouble? They've been lazy. Many have lagged behind technologically, not even embracing stereo television, let alone HDTV.

The far bigger problem, though, is content. Rather than creating a healthy appetite and market place for homegrown shows, government regulation and television welfare funds have led to shows that - with a few notable exceptions - are mostly just filler.

This isn't about Canadian culture; it's about economics. Canadian networks have become addicted to American shows because they're cheaper to air and they can simply rake in the advertising bucks.

But Canadian channels don't own the American shows they air. And so, the emerging revenue streams will flow elsewhere.

In short Canadian broadcasters will suffer because they don't have quality content of their own to offer for sale and they, rightly, won't participate in any revenue generated by the recent technological developments.

Of course by this he means the Canadian private broadcasters, and he's also speaking about English language television. For the way that people - and in particular the private broadcasters - bitch about it, the CBC has been essentially free of American programming content for a number of years. Certainly they show American movies but virtually all of the CBC's prime time programming is Canadian or British. No other Canadian English language network - broadcast or cable - can make that claim. In a world where content is finally coming to be seen as king, the CBC is better placed than networks which have treated their Canadian content requirements as a cross to be borne rather than an opportunity to be embraced.

The private broadcasters have always worked under a philosophy stated by the then Roy Thomson, later Lord Thomson of Fleet who described owning a television station as "a license to print money." For them the easiest way to make money was to show as much American programming as possible and then state that they had to because otherwise most people would watch American stations (since the largest proportion of Canada's population lives within range of American TV stations - mostly in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia) and Canadian advertisers wouldn't spend their money on TV. When cable became widespread they demanded and got the ability to overlay their signals on top of the same show running on the United States station (if it was being shown at the same time and the Canadian stations arranged their schedules so it would happen that way) to protect their revenue stream. That is as much an example of television welfare as government funding for programming but it's not something that gets mentioned for what it is.

I am less concerned about the fate of private broadcasters than Eric Kohanik is. I am sure that the Canadian cable and satellite industry will not introduce American programming "on demand" - or they won't be allowed to. If nothing else the private broadcasters will use the regulator - the CRTC - to block or delay it. Even if I had the Video iPod I can't buy Lost or Desperate Housewives at the iTunes Music Store. They don't have the rights to sell it in Canada. It may be that when we're finally able to purchase content either for the iPod or through Video on Demand, government regulation will see some funds going to the company that owns broadcast rights to the content in Canada. I'm sure that eventually the technology will come to Canada but it will come with the broadcasters kicking and screaming and figuring out a way so that they could make money on the deal even if they have nothing to do with the creation of the content.

It would be desirable if the development of new technology, which threatens the existing advertiser driven model of television, would result in Canadian private broadcasters spending money to to produce quality Canadian programming rather than make "filler" to put on the air because they have to. I don't think that's going to happen for a long time, not before the pressure to bring in the new technology become too much to resist and if they can get the right deal maybe not even then.

Friday, November 25, 2005


I just noticed the mistaken question on the Blog Poll. For that reason I've decided to extend the dealing to December 2. Sorry if you voted an answer to the wrong question.

TV On DVD - November 22, 2005 - Delayed For Your Thanksgiving Shopping Convenience

Well sort of. I got caught up in some other stuff I was writing an then I realised that if you are an American you tend to work off fifteen pounds of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, candied yams and pumpkin pie with real whipped cream by pushing and shoving your way through malls and department stores the day after Thanksgiving (and does anyone besides me hate the phrase "Turkey Day" - just curious). Weird sort of exercise regimen but I'm just a dumb Canadian so what do I know. Anyway, while I frankly doubt that there's anything on this particular list which is a must have for the TV Lover in your life here is some not bad stuff this time around.

Before I start with the list though, I want to vent about one thing. People at BlogExplosion - you, the ones in authority - what you have done with the Battle of The Blogs sucks, bites, blows and and an assortment of other verbs and adjectives that are synonyms for stinks. While you may think that what you have done is made it fairer for blogs with minority subject matter to get noticed by competing against other blogs with similar subject matter if they so wish, what you've actually done is create a huge bottleneck of blogs that can't find opponents. I watched entranced (well actually bore to tears) for four hours last night (not continuously of course) while a blog about gardening sat waiting for an opponent, slotted into the "Hobby" category. It was still there when I woke up in the morning.Change things back to the way they were so that blogs like that can find opponents (preferably me so I can inflate my win/loss record).

Okay, rant over. Back to the list.

Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection
- Aeon Flux was an MTV series that apparently aired on YTV in Canada. The current release of the short-lived cult animation series is of course related to the release of the new live action movie featuring Charlize Theron. From what little I've seen of the graphics, the animated films, some as short as two or three minutes have an incredibly beautiful (and presumably incredibly expensive) style that is really a mix on the very best of Anime with the European graphic novel tradition. Interesting for that quality if for nothing else.

The Best & Worst of American Idol (Limited Edition)
Best of American Idol
Worst of American Idol

- Question: How do you market American Idol on DVD. I suppose you could release each season and see how they sell, and as a matter of fact they did exactly that for the first season with Kelly and Justin. I don't think it was a great seller. The other option, since what people really like are the really great performances - because they're good singers singing good songs - and the really bad performances - because they're funny - is to release a "Best of" and a "Worst of" DVD set. The real genius though is to put the two together, slap together a third "bonus" DVD and label it a limited edition so that you can stop making it when you choose.

The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Fourth Season
- One of the great series, and the fourth season is one of the most memorable. The season's first episode is the famous one where Opie accidentally kills a mother bird and tries to raise her chicks, while the final episode has Gomer Pyle joining the marines and meeting a certain Sergeant Carter. In between plenty of the Darling Family and Ernest T. Bass, as well as Barney and Gomer in conflict.

Astro Boy: The Collection
- Okay I think I've figured this one out. This is the 1980 series, and consists of eight discs and 51episodes plus a few special features including comparisons between the Japanese version and the censored version that was seen on American TV. Well worth it for the fan.

Batman vs. Dracula [With Toy]
- The Batman Vs. Dracula was in fact released earlier this year. This release is a "Gift Box", the "gift" being a Batman toy and a Dracula toy. The question is are the two toys worth the extra 12 bucks (Canadian) which is the difference between the ordinary set and the "Gift Box". For the fanboys the answer is YES!!

C.S.I. Miami: The Complete Third Season
- Of the three CSI series this is considered by a lot of people to be the weakest, largely because of the dominating presence of David Caruso. The third season had to cope with the departure of Rory Cochrane, who played the increasingly sullen Tim Speedle, and replaced him with Jonathon Togo as Ryan Wolfe. It was also the season that saw the final resolution of the Raymond Caine story line and the departure of Sofia Milos. There are good episodes but on the whole I've always found the original series more involving and the lead character on CSI: New York more likable.

Captain and Tennille: Ultimate Collection
- Didn't I preview this earlier? Oh well, I just can't imagine that there's a huge market for this series even if it was nominated for an Emmy. It was the '70s - we didn't know better.

Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 21
- More episodes from maybe the only soap opera yet (and possibly ever) to be released on DVD.

Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Season One
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is one of the great "feel good" series currently on. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a show that gives us feel good stories and then leaves the people the "help" with houses they can't afford to maintain or even pay the taxes on, not to mention making sure that the people they intend to help aren't tossed out into the streets by the people who own the house that was fixed up. I started watching this series but increasingly find it uncomfortable, the more I find out about the aftermath of many of these stories.

French Chef, Vol. 2
- It has always surprised me that there aren't more cooking shows out on DVD. It would seem to me that cooking something that a TV chef has done would be so much easier if you could pause, rewind, and watch technique in detail as you are cooking, not to mention recipes and tips on DVD-ROM files on the disk. Julia Child was one of the great television cooking instructors as well as one of the great personalities (both as a TV presenter and if you knew even a little of her personal history) but her shows could be difficult to follow. If you like to cook this is probably a must.

The Golden Girls: The Complete Third Season
- The longer this show ran the less of a fan I became. By Season 3 it just wasn't watching.

Home Improvement: The Complete Third Season
- On the other hand, by the Third Season of Home Improvement I was a devoted viewer. The third season included the addition of Debbie Dunning as Tool Girl Heidi, and she was really given a lot more to do than her predecessor Pamela Anderson. It always felt as if she fit in more. Beyond that the chemistry between the characters was becoming increasingly strong. It's hard to explain the attraction, but Tim Allen was maturing from being "just" as stand-up comedian into a reasonably competent actor (largely due to be surrounded by competent actors), something which a lot of people who do stand-up and then get shows never manage.

Kenny Vs. Spenny: Season One
- Okay I'm totally clueless I don't know who these people are or what this show is about except what I read in the IMDB and Wikipedia. Apparently it's about two guys who are always competing against each other. It's supposed to be funny but I really don't know.

King of the Hill: Complete Season 5
- If you look at the PTC list of the ten worst TV shows for families, you will observe that only two shows from the Fox Sunday night lineup are not on that list. One is King Of The Hill. Even with that endorsement the few episodes I've watched haven't been that bad. The humour has been adult in a way that is different from the approach used by The Family Guy which may be one reason why the PTC likes it. I'll even suggest that while Hank is no Ward Cleaver, he's a lot better than some of the live action parents on TV and that's without even putting the War At Home parents into competition.

Leave It to Beaver: The Complete First Season
Leave It to Beaver: The Complete First Season (Limited Edition)

- When it comes down to it, Leave It To Beaver was the epitome of the vision of the 1950s which so many Social Conservatives yearn for. It never existed out side of the TV set of course, and certainly anyone who was an adult or a teen in the 1950s and had their eyes open would tell you that. Still, it was a great series. Reality, no, but you wanted to know people like the Cleavers. The "Limited Edition" has a "Cleaver Family Album" and is packaged in a '50s lunch box style container. Given the slight difference in price, probably worth it.

Life in the Freezer
- Given the fascination with the recent documentary March Of The Penguins, it isn't surprising that the BBC has released this 1993 series about the natural history of Antarctica on DVD. Presented (as the British would say instead of hosted) by not produced or directed by the legendary nature documentary producer Sir David Attenborough, it gives a wider picture of the Antarctic ecosystem than the more recent documentary, but of course it has more time.

Naked City: Box Set 2
- "There are eight million stories in the Naked City." These are some of them. When I reviewed the first boxed set of these I commented that Image had collected some of the individual DVDs they had released previously to be on that set. I was corrected by Ivan Shreve, and that makes there efforts at getting this legendary series out even more praiseworthy. The price - $24.49 from - for a three DVD set is amazing as well. If you have any interest, this set is worth having.

Seinfeld: Season 5
Seinfeld: Season 6
Seinfeld: Seasons 5 & 6 Gift Set

- I have literally never watched an episode of this show which I suppose sets me apart. The gift set contains a "hand written" script and a puffy shirt. Oh Joy!

The Tom Green Show: The Complete Series - Inside and Outside the Box
- This was Green's early Canadian show. I find Tom Green about as amusing as dropping both of my five pin bowling balls onto my hand from a height of 6 feet, but I suppose there must have been people who liked him. Somewhere.

The X-Files Mythology: Vol. 4 - Super Soldiers
- The last of the X-Files "mytharc" series of boxed sets. This one covers the last episodes of Season 8 and the arc related episodes of season 9 including the birth of Scully's son, and the series finale. This set is the final installment of a fascinating way of repackaging elements of a series that has been available for a long time. If only other series which have been rereleasing old material in new packages were this inventive.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I Knew It!

You Are Japanese Food

Strange yet delicious.
Contrary to popular belief, you're not always eaten raw.

Personally I prefer Turkey (dark meat hot or at least warm, white meat for sandwiches) but Sushi is high on my list. On the other hand some of the things the Japanese do with ice cream would be considered torture if fed to POWs.

To my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving from a country which has yet to perfect the four day weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Holmes-House Connection - New Revelations

Now I will freely admit that I can be fairly dense at times. By the time I figured out that a particular girl in high school had been hitting on me fairly consistently for several months she was already two boyfriends beyond me by which time I figured it was too late to do anything about it. Like I said, dense. So it's really no surprise that I didn't pick up on something about House MD and its relationship to the stories of Sherlock Holmes.

Oh sure, I got the link between Gregory House and Sherlock Holmes. That was so obvious even a blind man could see it so it only took someone who is as dense as I am a few minutes longer to pick up on it. It wasn't until an incident last night that I picked up on something else. It was a scene at the very beginning of the episode where House and his friend James Wilson are emerging from a building which I assume is House's townhouse or apartment building (sorry, I missed the first 30 seconds of the episode - sue me) where they encounter the man House refers to as his stalker, but that's not important. The number on the building, that's important. 221B. I mean seriously, all that it needed is for the street to have been named after a Mr. Baker for it to be absolutely perfect and for all we know it is. Ah, but I'm dense you know, so it took until this morning for the pieces to really fall into place for me.

Wilson is Watson! James Wilson=John Watson

Yes I know that traditionally Watson has been the old fuddy duddy to Holmes's brilliant young man but in fact the books made it clear that Watson was Holmes's contemporary, a military doctor who had been shot at least once in an unfortunate encounter with Afghan tribesmen. Watson's weaknesses are that he sees rather than observes and he tends to think down rather conventional lines. Wilson is an oncologist and (with all due respect to my friend Orac) like many doctors he tends to think down conventional lines - that is to say not crossing boundaries to look for answers outside his specialty. That of course was what sets Holmes apart from other detectives and House apart from other doctors - they're universalists who consider all possibilities rather than specialists. Even Wilson's several marriages link him with Watson. Although we know that Watson married Mary Marston at the end of Sign Of The Four, Watson's periods of residence at Baker Street have suggested to many enthusiasts (including William S. Baring-Gould who wrote the Annotated Sherlock Holmes - a massive two volume work which I happen to own) that Watson was married more than once.

Ah, so now I'm on a roll. It seemed obvious to me that Cuddy was Mrs. Hudson, Holmes's devoted housekeeper and the actual owner of 221B. No, on reflection, that's not right. Cuddy is Lestrade and all of the other cops that Holmes confounded, dumbfounded and infuriated over the years. As for Stacy, House's lost love, well she is so clearly Irene Adler the only female adversary Holmes had and the only person who got the better of him who according to Watson was always referred to by Holmes as "The Woman".

Which leaves us with House's little acolytes; Foreman, Chase and Cameron. Foreman and Chase are easy - they're the Baker Street Irregulars, the little street urchins who were always out gathering bits of information for the great man in return for sixpence and a kind word - but Cameron is a problem. More than Foreman and Chase she has injected herself into House's life even though he doesn't want it and she's reluctant about it. Is she Mrs. Hudson? Well the assumption is that Hudson was a widow (Cameron is), and given that the relationship between Holmes and Mrs. Hudson lasted from 1871 when he took the rooms at her home to perhaps as late as 1914 (the elderly housekeeper in His Final Bow is only known by her first name so it could have been Hudson), Hudson can't have been that old when they first met. It is also not impossible that there was some sort of romantic attraction on her part at least. On the other hand Hudson never got high and had wild animal sex with a Baker Street Irregular the way Cameron did last night, so for now let's make her a sort of hybrid of Hudson and an Irregular.

As for Professor Moriarity, I give you Chi McBride's character Edward Vogler.

It really is elementary... if you aren't dense.

New Poll - What Reality Show Would You Do Best On?

Something a little lighter this time, a little palette cleanser if you will. With November Sweeps coming to the end we are also approaching the end of the fall contingent of reality competition shows, so I thought I'd ask which one you thought you'd do well in. Not the ones you like to be on or the one you enjoy watching the most, just the one where you'd most likely to be successful. A couple weren't on in this fall's rotation but they are among the biggies so I'll includie them. Oh and by the way, I will be voting in this one.

Feel free to comment.

Poll Results - What Show Rated Badly By The PTC Do You Watch Most?

And the results are in. There are a couple of minor surprises but on the whole the results were exactly what I was expecting. There were 13 votes cast this time around. The War At Home and The O.C. each tied for fifth place with no votes. In fourth place with one vote - 7% of the total - was American Dad. In third place with two votes (15%) was None of them. You may recall that in the poll about shows recommended by the PTC, None of them was the highest rated category. In second place with three votes or 23% was the original C.S.I. but on top with a majority of the votes - seven out of thirteen - was Family Guy. If this poll and the previous one show nothing else it is just how irrelevant the views of the PTC are to people, or at least to the people who read this I Am A Child Of Television and responded to the poll.

I have to confess that if I had voted, the only one I could have voted for was C.S.I. because except for the episode of The War At Home which I reviewed I haven't watched any of them. That The War At Home was so poorly regarded by readers of this blog is unsurprising. It is one of the worst excuses for a TV show that it has ever been my misfortune to view. The fact that The O.C. was as poorly regarded is a much bigger surprise for me. Either my blog's demographics skew older than the audience for the show or it really isn't as well regarded as the people at Fox think it is (or a combination of the two). Of course this argument about demogrphics becomes a bit moot when C.S.I. is considered. That show is after all one of if not the highest rated series on TV and the other two series in the franchise are also well regarded in terms of viewer numbers. So it's not surprising that it placed in the top two, but a little surprising that it wasn't the top show.

I've left the two animated offerings on this list for last for a specific reason. While the poll found that American Dad was one of the less well liked show of the five surveyed, and indeed fell behind None of them, it and Family Guy which is the most highly watched of the five by my readers share one thing in common - they're animated and the PTC has a particular hatred for them because of this. Apparently the Council buys into the old myth that cartoons are for kids and kids alone. Certainly none of the people who made them - going back at least to Friz Freleng at Warner Brothers in the 1930s thought that way. However the PTC sees Family Guy and American Dad as being particularly harmful to children because they're "cartoons" but contain adult themes. That's one of the reasons why the matricidal Stewie and his clan are regarded as the second worst TV show by the PTC. The fact that enough people realise that these shows aren't for kids but are enjoyable nonetheless - so much so that fan support was able to bring it back after it was cancelled in 2002 - shows that in this case as in many others the PTC and its views are irrelevant.

I think I'll try something a little more fun for the next poll.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Poseidon Adventure Redux

I paid good money to see the original Poseidon Adventure back in 1972 and if you want to know the whole truth, I enjoyed it. Then. Over the years the movie seemed to become increasingly unbelievable, as many of Irwin Allen's projects did. Therefore it was with less than high expectations that I approached the television remake of the movie, particularly after having been subjected to such projects as Vampire Bats, Category 6 and it's sequel Category 7 and of course 10.5. All are of course the sort of subjects that Irwin Allen would have enjoyed, and might even have made in his day. I have to admit that I braced for something of less than high quality. Fortunately the television version wasn't as bad as it very well could have been. It wasn't great, it wasn't really even above average, but it was still an enjoyable bit of entertainment.

I think that everyone is sufficiently familiar with the story of the original Poseidon Adventure that I don't need to go into detail about most of the plot of the remake except in so far as it differs from from the original. There are really two major points here. First there is a whole terrorism plot, which is what causes the ship to "turn turtle" in the first place (I'll go into that shortly). The terror plot is briefly touched at the start of the movie, with a raid by American special ops forces on a terrorist organization which is arranging a series of attacks against "soft targets" on land and in the air for New Years Eve. The pattern is such that the investigators "know" that there should be a sea component but that part of the information has been destroyed and there are no living terrorists left at their headquarters who can explain what is going on. It is however enough to cause the Department of Homeland Security to put an "sea marshal" aboard the cruise ship Poseidon. He's Mike Rogo (played by Adam "no I'm not related to Alec or the rest of that bunch" Baldwin). By the way, here's a trick question - why is a Homeland Security "sea marshal" abord the ship when there are virtually no US flagged cruise ships in existance (lrgely thanks to union rules and tax structures). The notion of a bomb on a ship actually borrows from a movie that is one of my favourite thrillers, Juggernaut. The other major plot aspect is the tensions within the Clarke Family - dad Richard, mom Rachel, daughter Shelby and young son Dylan. The Clarkes are a "family in crisis" - dad is a failed writer who is living off of mom's fortune (she turned a small boutique into a multi-million dollar clothing chain) - and their marriage is going through such a rough patch that when they get a suite aboard the Poseidon Rachel and Shelby sleep in one bed while Richard and Dylan sleep in the other. So naturally when the comely masseuse aboard the ship comes on to Richard he succumbs as often as is physically possible for a man of Steve Guttenberg's age. I found the terrorism plot interesting, and it did provide a couple of the best scenes in the movie. In one a terrorist kills the bridge crew, turns off all of the equipment that might save the ship before blowing his own brains out lest he be tempted to turn them back on. The other has Captain Paul Gallico (played by the criminally underused Peter Weller - the name is a nice tribute to the author of the original book by the way) striding up the main staircase from the ballroom, the only man left who can save the ship, and being shot by the remaining terrorist. On the other hand I found the concentration on the travails of the Clarke marriage to be tedious. It took time away from us learning more about other characters.

This remake of The Poseidon Adventure is scarcely perfect, or even quite as good as it might have been had it been presented in the manner it was intended when it was produced as a four hour miniseries. The overwhelming sense I got when watching it was that there was significant information that was missing which would must have been in the hour or so that was cut. There were questions which needed to be answered which might well have been if that hour had been included - how did young Dylan Clarke know that Mrs. Rosen could make the swim and what were all those "challenges" he was referring to. For that matter why was Dylan given virtually free run of all areas of the ship simply on the authority of the Restaurant Manager (or whatever he was). In another area, I may have missed something but it's only in the last few minutes - where Bishop Schmidt is arguing that he should set off the second bomb - that I found out that Rogo was married, although his wife wasn't on the trip. There are other structural problems. I wasn't particularly happy that we were almost immediately "told" who we were supposed to care about and be interested in through the device of the characters having their ship ID pictures shot and the ID card - with name - shown on screen. I'm just enough of a stickler for dramatic tension that I'd like to be kept guessing about who is going to live and who is going to die. For me it would have been far more interesting to let us get to know a larger number of people so that when the ship capsizes and the ballroom scene occurs we're shocked when some characters that we've invested some interest in die by crashing to the floor or ceiling. There's no dramatic tension in knowing from the beginning which characters are going to be the prime focus of our interest. Dramatic tension is further undermined by intercutting scenes of the rescue effort focused mainly at 5th Fleet Headquarters and with the Navy SEALs. For me the problem with this is that the movie should be almost entirely confined within the ship - will they make it out and if they do,will there be someone out there to help them. The way that this was written, we know that there will be rescuers waiting for them and able to help them with more than just getting off the hull of the ship and into boats. The original benefits from the sort of claustrophobic nature of the audience being as trapped as the people on the ship.

There's been a lot of talk elsewhere about the implausability of the single terrorist bomb causing the ship to turn over. Actually I think it is far more realistic than the whole "giant rogue wave" scenario which was used in the original movie. I am far more willing to suspend my disbelief over this method of inverting the ship than I was with the rogue wave theory. The ship being inverted did lead to one of the biggest technical goofs in the whole movie though. It is a key plot element that Rachel Clarke be able to email a message telling about the emergency to her "Christmas List" using the ship's Internet cafe. The only trouble is that a passenger ship at sea connects to the Internet using a satellite link, and all of the ship's satellite gear was pointing to the bottom of the ocean so sending the email was impossible. One thing that really bothered me even more than this was the fact that the only survivors were from the main ballroom. Now I get that this is TV and there isn't the budget to show even a tenth of the ship's 3,500 passengers but why was there no one alive outside of the ballroom? Even in the original movie there is a sequence where the survivors from the ballroom encounter another, larger, group led by one of the ship's officers heading in a different direction - as it turns out to their deaths. Yet we are left thinking that anyone who wasn't originally in the ballroom and thus under the influence of the ship's hotel services manager - a man suddenly given the sort of petty dictatorial powers that such a fool dreams of without really knowing what he's supposed to do or being able to make the right sort of decisions - just laid in their bunks and died. It's just impossible to believe that only the fifteen or so people who left the ballroom were the only ones to survive the initial accident and tried to escape the ship. Another problem I had was with the ease with which Rogo was able to find Richard and the second party of survivors and reunite them with the main group with seemingly greater ease than the other group had faced. On some level it makes Mrs. Rosen's sacrifice less significant if there's another route to the opening in the hull that doesn't require the survivors to go through the same trials that the original group did.

The cast of this version is nowhere near as strong as the original which included five once or future Oscar winners (Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Jack Albertson and Shelley Winters who also earned a nomination for the role of Belle Rosen in the movie). I wasn't terribly impressed with Rutger Hauer as Bishop Schmidt. He didn't seem to have the same sort of passion that Gene Hackman brought to the part of Father Scott. In the original so that I didn't believe him as someone who was having a crisis of faith. As for Steve Guttenburg in the role of Richard Clarke, well the less said the better about him - I've never been a fan. On the other hand Adam Baldwin is always enjoyable even though in this movie he doesn't get the chance to reveal his funny side. I rather liked Sylvia Syms version of Mrs. Rosen and her death scene was a rather tender moment.

On the whole, The Poseidon Adventure wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been and significantly better than some of what we've seen recently. Comparisons with the original movie are misleading, to the point where, if this weren't called The Poseidon Adventure reaction from some people might be different. The cruise ship business is booming right now, and mega-ships resembling the TV movie's Poseidon do exist and represent a potential target for terrorists. However calling this The Poseidon Adventure does lead to comparisons with the original, most of which aren't going to be favourable. Setting those sorts of comparisons aside, if I were grading it I'd give it passing marks, although not with high honours.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Slight Delay

I had planned to post a review of Poseidon Adventure tonight but a couple of things got in the way. First I had to crunch some numbers for my bowling league. Second, I taped it because I watch Desperate Housewives and Gray's Anatomy with my mom - except tonight we missed the start because Little Brother was cooking at his place and there was a Bruins game on. Don't interfere with Little Brother and his Bruins. Finally - and most importantly - the movie is three frigging hours long and I'm feeling like crap right now.

I should post something tomorrow.


One thing though - why oh why did NBC have to put it on opposite TCM's Harold Lloyd Festival?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Time Switch That Works

You know, I thought I had already reviewed Close To Home but I suppose all the writing I've done about The Amazing Race for that show's newsgroup has kept me from it. You would not believe how much time writing recaps of that series can be. Still the fact that I haven't written about Close To Home doesn't mean that I don't like it; far from it since I've watched every episode. It isn't often that changing timeslots helps a show, but it appears that moving Close To Home from Tuesday night to Friday may be its salvation.

Jennifer Finnigan (a veteran soap opera actress who played a young coroner on Crossing Jordan) plays Annabeth Chase, a prosecutor for the Indianapolis District Attorney's office. She's an extremely hot prosecutor - in both ways but I'm talking about her abilities as a lawyer - but she's hasn't been advanced in her job because she's just come back from maternity leave. Yes, after one maternity leave she's been "mommy tracked". The promotion that she should have had has instead gone to Maureen Scofield (Kimberly Elise) who is an equally hot prosecutor - again in both ways but I'm talking about her abilities as a lawyer again - but one who seems dedicated to advancing her career at the expense of a personal life which includes inconveniences like a husband and children. They can come later, after she's established herself, or so she says now. Their boss is Assistant District Attorney Steve Sharpe (John Carroll Lynch in a fairly good rug; Lynch has done a lot of stuff but I'd say he's probably best remembered as Marge Gunderson's painter husband in Fargo - the fact that I didn't recognise him until I checked the IMDB shows how good the toupee is) and you just know that he's never had any trouble blending family and career. In fact in his position having a wife and kids is probably a significant asset. Rounding out the cast is Christian Kane (best remembered as Lindsay on Angel) as Annabeth's contractor husband Jack Chase.

The concept behind Close To Home is that it focuses on crimes that occur in suburbia. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's idea is that the closed doors of suburbia hide crimes that are every bit as horrendous - possibly even more horrendous - than the sort of crime that occurs on the mean streets of the city, which some of his other shows focus on. The crimes themselves are not the typical. On the episode which aired on November 18 for example what seemed to be a simple hit and run was revealed to be a murder, and the murderer was herself influenced by her husband... who was also the husband of the victim, in a case of bigamy for profit. The twists and turns of the case come out gradually. In that particular situation what seemed to be a promising lead, concerning the death of the bigamous husband's first wife, turned out not to be a crime but in turn provided a valuable insight into the motives of the man. In the "B-plot" of the episode a murder case which Maureen had previously prosecuted was facing appeal because the witness who had been crucial in the original case recanted his statement, four years after the original trial. It was left up to Sharpe to learn why the witness changed his story.

For the most part I like the show. Bruckheimer and series creator Jim Leonard have taken an idea that Alfred Hitchcock was rather fond of; the idea that behind the closed doors of small towns otherwise ordinary people are capable of the most horrendous crimes. Hitchcock used this idea in most effectively in his 1943 film Shadow Of A Doubt. What this series does is transplant the idea of the small town to suburbia. It's a good concept, although I think it could work better if instead of making the locale of the show Indianapolis itself, it were to take place in a smaller town - perhaps a bedroom community for a larger city - simply because it is hard to believe that Annabeth's cases are all crimes that occur in the suburbs. Why isn't she prosecuting cases which take place in the inner city of Indianapolis? Obviously of course we're only seeing the cases she deals with which fit the premise of the show but if the series were set in a town in Connecticut or Long Island where the people commute into New York (just as an example) the focus would be entirely on crimes that occur in that mostly middle class community. It fits the premise but also adds the complication that the police in the community may not have all the resources that a bigger city - even if it is a place like Indianapolis - would have. Of course that's a minor point, albeit one that interests me.

The fact that the show focuses on the prosecution side of the equation is probably an inevitable result of the popularity of Dick Wolfe's Law And Order franchise, where the prosecutor is the hero and the defense attorneys are just barely better than the criminals they defend. This series isn't nearly as bad in its portrayal of defense council (it's hard to imagine that they could be as bad as in a typical Wolfe series) although inevitably they tend to be seen as somehow less capable and honorable than the prosecution. This is a huge change from the days of L.A. Law and Perry Mason, where the defender was the hero because they were on the side of right. One thing that they have done which I appreciate is that on occasion the series looks at a crime that is something other than murder. In previous episodes they've had cases involving child abuse, kidnapping, and housewife prostitution. While it's not a common event on the show it is at least more than most shows dealing with either police work or the criminal justice system have done.

The cast is for the most part quite good. To me Finnigan seems a little weak as Annabeth. She does quite well in the courtroom scenes but doesn't seem entirely comfortable in the domestic scenes. Kimberly Elise seems comfortable in her part, perhaps because it's a little less complex. Her character doesn't have much life outside of work (from our perspective of course) and the dilemma of the modern woman - whether to focus on career and delay having a family perhaps until it is almost too late - is integral to the character. Similarly John Carroll Lynch is excellent as ADA Sharpe who mixes competence as an administrator - only in the most recent episode have we seen him in a situation outside of the office - mixed with a significant portion of publicity seeker (he's always worried about how the public will perceive his office's actions). There is also just the slightest hint of pomposity. Of the regular cast, perhaps the one with the most difficult situation may be Christian Kane. The problem is that the character is given precious little to do and we see precious little of him. We need to have Jack Chase and Annabeth's new daughter to be real presences to us, to give the character some grounding within the community that she serves but at the same time Jack is entirely peripheral to virtually every episode of the series. It has to be a difficult situation for any actor to be in.

Close To Home is a good show although not one which rises too far above the crowd either in terms of performances or situations. The problem it had in its normal timeslot - Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. (CST) - is that it was facing two popular series in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Boston Legal and wasn't building on audience from The Amazing Race: Family Edition. The move to Friday nights, which was originally meant to be temporary, has been beneficial to Close To Home. Close To Home and Ghost Whisperer have compatible audience demographics, something that didn't exist with Threshold. While there hasn't been an official announcement yet, even the people at NBC seem to expect the move to become permanent - they've reduced the previously announced extension of the episode order for Three Wishes. The only loser in this situation is probably Threshold, the series which has held down the Friday slot that Close To Home now occupies. Since the show has yet to air on Tuesday nights, it is difficult to know if Threshold (a show that I like) will be able to survive opposite where Close To Home did not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

TV On DVD - November 15, 2005

Apologies for not doing last week's list of TV Shows on DVD. A lot of stuff caught up with me and by the time that I was able to free up the time to write it up it was already Saturday. Not much point in writing it then. Too bad as I had a couple of interesting points - like why, on Space: Above And Beyond, did they used a squad of highly trained pilots basically like infantry grunts - but I'm sure I'll find interesting stuff to write about this week too.

1st & Ten Complete Collection
- Only available at Wal-Mart, and presumably only Wal-Marts in the USA. This is a rather obscure - to me - half hour HBO series that was on from 1984 to 1991. There's a mix of actors and professional football players (and a couple of people who blur the boundaries, like O.J. Simpson). Another notable in later seasons was Shannon Tweed (who was a year behind me at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon).

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: Season 5, Collection 2
- The final part of the final season of Andromeda. I think I gave up on the series around the end of the Third Season.

Blue Murder
- Do you have any idea just haw many series have been named Blue Murder? The answer is two series (one British, one Canadian), two TV movies (one British, one Canadian) and this miniseries about real life police corruption and murder in Australia. It has acquired a reputation as one of the best things Australian television has ever produced. High praise indeed.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection
- Usual advisory - if you don't have any of the previous box sets this might be a viable option otherwise caveat emptor.

Charmed: The Complete Third Season
- Okay, I've never been a huge fan of Charmed. I've watched a few episodes, mainly from the first season, but even though I love and adore Holly Marie Combs I have just never been able to sustain my interest long enough to watch it as a series. Season 3 is the one where Shannen Doherty's character "Prue" is killed off - reportedly either because she had "conflicts" with Alyssa Milano, or she felt that her best work was being wasted on a show 'for 12-year olds.'" Maybe that's why I could never get into the series.

Cheers: The Complete Seventh Season
- The thing about Cheers is that for the most part it didn't matter which season you were watching. Oh sure, characters came and went - notably Woody Boyd, Frasier Crane, and Rebecca Howe - but for the most part the goings on at the bar were the focus. That doesn't mean that the series wasn't funny or inventive though, far from it. I'm just saying that there wasn't that much to distinguish Season 7 from, for example, Season 4 or 9. Things changed - Lilith was pregnant in Season 7 - but most things stayed the same.

Davey and Goliath Snowboard Christmas
- Not available on this is an updated version of the classic stop motion animated series, with new actors but presumably the same moral compass which made the original recommended viewing.

Fantasy Island: The Complete First Season
- ABC made Saturday night in the late 1970s and early '80s into a haven for light dramatic programs, with the combination of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. While The Love Boat was an entirely feel good series about love and romance, Fantasy Island always seemed to have a slightly darker aspect to it, with the featured patrons' fantasies usually being meant to teach them something or bring them together with someone they were supposed to be with. The partnership of Ricardo Montalban as the mysterious Mr. Roarke and Herve Villechaise as his enthusiastic and somewhat libidinous assistant was perfect to the point that it was Villechaise

The Flintstones: The Complete Fourth Season
- Although the term hadn't been invented at the time I'm convinced that The Flintstones "jumped the shark" around the time they aired an episode where Pebbles and Bam-Bam become baby singing stars which I believe was sometime in season 5. Certainly the shark was well and truly jumped by the time The Great Gazoo appeared on the scene. But Season Four, with Pebbles born and Bam-Bam about to appear on the scene (in the second episode Barney and Betty wish on a star for a baby and the next morning there he is, club and all) is one of the good ones. And believe me I know - the local TV station played The Flintstones every weekday at Noon for something like 25 years.

Frasier - Complete Seventh Season
- Frasier is one of those series which seemed to just keep on going and either not running out of ideas or cleverly recycling various themes in a way that they didn't seem to be recycled. I mean the premise is basic - Frasier and Niles are snobs while their father is so down to earth it's amazing that they came from his loins; Roz is man-hungry but isn't in a mood to settle down, Daphne is clueless that Niles is desperately, mind-numbingly in love with her. At least she is until the end of this season when the two of them run off together ignoring the minor fact that Niles has been married for less than a couple of weeks and Daphne has just walked down the aisle and walked back up it. So why does this show work? Excellent writing and acting seems to be the obvious answer.

Friends: The Complete Tenth Season
Friends - The One with All Ten Seasons

- The last season of Friends suffers I think from the knowledge that it was the last season of Friends and the necessity to wind up all of the story lines before the end, as well as the knowledge that Matt LeBlanc was going to get his own show. So Ross and Rachel have to get together, and Chandler and Monica have to have some impediment thrown in the way of their having a perfect suburban family (but an impediment that can be overcome), but Joey has to stay Joey - unattached and after any woman he can get for one night - so that people will recognize him in the new show. As for the Collectors Box set, see my comments on Buffy The Vampire Slayer above.

Home Movies: Season Three
- I've never seen this series, which was done with Flash animation, despite the fact that it was a mainstay of Teletoon as well as the US Cartoon Network.

Huckleberry Hound - Vol. 1
- Huckleberry Hound, along with Yogi Bear and Quickdraw McGraw were staples of my childhood. The shows came about after MGM closed their animation shop on the grounds that it was too expensive despite the suggestion from Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera that the studio move into TV animation to supplement the theatrical production. So they did it themselves, cutting costs by reusing movement sequences and shooting fewer new frames per second than they had for theatricals. Hanna and Barbera first started with a series called Ruff and Reddy before launching Huck Hound and company. In this series they also recycled their main MGM characters - Tom and Jerry - as Jinx the cat and the two mice Pixie and Dixie. These shows may well be my earliest TV memories. Amazingly, when the studio heads at MGM saw what Hanna-Barbera were doing for TV (and remember they had pitched this to the MGM execs) the studio heads reportedly said "Why couldn't you do this for us?"

Lifetime Intimate Portraits: The Golden Girls
- Not an episode of the show but an "intimate portrait" of the women behind the characters. Think Biography but split between four actresses. I sort of liked the show, but not enough to recommend this.

King Kong Box Set
King Kong Volume 1
King Kong Volume 2

- This is the 1966 animated series and not available from You think that Sony is trying to cash in on the Peter Jackson movie? Nah, they would not do that.

Man Show: Season Four
- I've never watched it. If I'm not mistaken this was the last season with Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel, which is to say - according to many fans anyway - the last vaguely funny season.

Murder One: The Complete Second Season
- While the first season of Murder One was one of the undiscovered gems of television and a direct ancestor of 24 the second season can only be described as a train wreck. The original premise of the series - one court case continued through a season of the show - was abandoned and replaced with several cases (the initial plan was for four cases but I don't believe the series lasted that long). Worst of all Daniel Benzali's character was dropped from the series - as were several other characters - and he was replaced by Anthony Lapaglia who was totally inadequate to replace him.

The Oprah Winfrey Show: 20th Anniversary DVD Collection
- Well what can I say, it's Oprah. Never been a fan, never will be. And she's nowhere near as funny as her namesake spelled backward.

Scrubs: The Complete Second Season
- People love the show but I've never been able to get into it so I won't comment.

Stargate Atlantis: The Complete First Season
- The spin-off which sort of isn't a spin-off. While the original Stargate SG1 has been seen on broadcast TV and on Space: The Imagination Station here in Canada, the spin-off is only available on the premium movie channels up here in the Great White North (and my part is finally starting to get white - snowfall on Sunday night Monday morning) and no matter how good the product they have is I'm not paying $19.95 for five channels when all of the shows they have that I want to see are on one.

That '70s Show - Season Three
- Never been a '70s Show watcher, although I am aware of Topher Grace and Laura Prepon not to mention Ashton Kutcher (and I try to not mention him as much as possible). Those of us who lived through the '70s didn't want to see it the first time - hence the drugs, the sex and the discos none of which I ever participated in (and I don't regret most of it - well except missing the sex). The funny thing is that having seen only bits and pieces of the show I can name people that I knew who fit the archetypes that are being depicted on the show. I knew Kelsos, Hydes, Donnas (one of them was even named Donna) and Jackies. Not to mention a lot of Erics.

Three's Company: Season Five
- Season 5 was the ignition point for the soap opera that was Three's Company although you wouldn't know it from the cover of this box set. No one was talking to anyone and the initial plan was to have Sommers do only a short one minute scene in each episode, shot on a different day from the rest of the episode. By the sixth episode Suzanne Sommers was being listed as a guest star in the show that had catapulted her to fame. It was her last major appearance, with Jennilee Harrison showing up as Chrissy's ever-so-slightly less ditzy - but far more clumsy - cousin, a development which gave even more opportunities for John Ritter to do the sort of physical comedy that had always been a hallmark of the show. The whole the season could probably be described as a "jump the shark moment."

Tru Calling: The Complete Second Season
- Another season that died a'borning as the saying goes, courtesy of Fox of course. True Calling featuring everybody's other favourite vampire slayer - the bad one - Eliza Dushku, was renewed for a second season but then was abruptly pulled from the lineup. Five of the six completed episodes were unceremoniously burned off this past April. And people are surprised by Fox cancelling Arrested Development. I'm surprised that it lasted as long as it did given what happened to this and Firefly among so many others.

Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Fun with the Cat
- Faux Cat In The Hat stories from the 1996 series. Sorry, but if I want Dr. Seuss I'll watch the animated specials.

Yogi Bear Show: The Complete Series
- Here's the funny thing about Yogi Bear is that even in the original series run I always thought there were more than the 33 episodes that make up this four DVD set. The characters are all here though, Yogi and Boo-Boo, Yakky Doodle and Snagglepuss the theatrical mountain lion (Exit, kicking and screaming, stage left).