The Leftovers is Must-Watch TV


“I hate to be hysterical about it, but The Leftovers is absolutely clowning the rest of television in this quantum leap of a second season. It’s doing monster-truck wheelies over the competition. There’s been a lot of amazing television in 2015, but with every new episode of The Leftovers comes the very real possibility of seeing a “top 10 episodes” list violently upended.”

Source: “Lens” · The Leftovers · TV Review The Leftovers just won’t stop kicking the rest of television’s ass · TV Club · The A.V. Club

This is spot on.  The Leftovers was just OK the first season.  It has reinvented itself into something otherworldly and mesmerizing this season.  It’s a must-watch show. Even the opening credits are phenomenal.


The TV Walls Are Starting to Crumble


Hulu is a great idea, with a horrible execution (so far), because of ads.  Like many people, I spend significant amounts of money each month (Netflix, Spotify, XM radio, DVRs, etc.) in an effort to avoid ads.  Hulu has previously been unbearable because not only does it have ads, it has a lot of repetitive, brain-inflaming ads.  If I have to choose between ads and a cord, I’ll take the cord.  That Hobson’s choice has been one of the biggest issue in cord-cutting.  Now it seems like that’s about change.

Hulu is planning to offer an ad-free plan.  Apple inches closer and closer to announcing and releasing its streaming television service (the sleuth in me wonders if Hulu’s ad-free announcement is an effort by its owners- some of the very nervous content providers-  to get in front of the forthcoming Apple streaming avalanche.).  Weekly, we see new announcements from content providers making their content available via streaming, and apart from the traditional and obsolete cable bundles.

It will take some time, but the walls are crumbling and one thing technology has shown us is that once cracks start appearing in obsolete, unwanted gatekeeper monopolies, those cracks are almost impossible to repair.  The generation of consumers, like my kids, who have never felt tied to a cord will ensure victory for the cord-cutters (by way of example, my daughter loves Teen Wolf, but isn’t watching the current season because she doesn’t know or care what channel it’s on or how to record it on the DVR; “I’ll just wait ’til it’s on Amazon or Netflix.”).  The only question is how long it will take.

I still have a DirectTV package, which I would love to abandon in favor of something as close to a la carte streaming as possible.  When I can get the channels I want reliably and at a comparable cost, I’ll cut the cord, for sure.  The big, unspoken, hitch in this giddy-up is the requirement for fast, reliable broadband (a decade or so from now, all the pipes and waves currently delivering television content will be delivering data, which will vastly increase the size of the pipe, but for the time being pipe size will be an issue.).  My broadband at home is plenty fast enough to accommodate all the content my screen-addicted family wants to consume.  The farm, like most of rural America, is another story.  I am fortunate enough to have fairly reliable wireless broadband at the farm (because I am at the top of a hill with a good line of sight to the tower), but I am the exception, and the broadband I have, while perfectly adequate for web surfing and the occasional Apple TV download, is nowhere near fast and wide enough to accommodate mass streaming consumption.  I don’t know how this problem can be solved, but once cord-cutting becomes a more realistic option, at least we’ll have one less obstacle standing between us and our scissors.

The End of Saturday Morning as We (Used to) Know It


I don’t know when the ritual of Saturday morning cartoons went on life-support, but it was sometime between when I was a kid and now.  It probably had a lot to do with the hundred or so channels kids have today compared to the 3 or 4 we had back in the day.  Videos, both the DVD and on-demand kind, surely played a role.  As did the ability to time-shift via video recorders.

Well, whenever the decline started, it has now ended.  There are no exactly zero cartoons on major television networks on Saturday morning.  Pajiba sums up the melancholy that many of us Bullwinkle and Touche Turtle fans feel:

Saturday morning cartoons were an institution for a couple of generations of American children, our first introductions to stories and characters that we cared about as things made real instead of just the noisy blur of younger entertainment.

Saturday morning cartoons were a big part of my young life.  I remember looking forward to Saturday morning in front of our television, paddling around the few channels we could get, looking for my favorite shows.

I’m sure many of my favorites have been forgotten over the years, but some of the ones I remember seeking out include:

Quick Draw McGraw

Touche Turtle

Wally Gator

Jonny Quest

Speed Racer

and, of course, one of the few that remained popular with all three of my kids, Scooby Doo.

My kids haven’t thought of Saturday morning as a special time for cartoons in a long time, if ever.  But it’s still a little sad when something that used to be so special is finally and forever gone.

Awesome Songs on TV Shows

Pajiba, an awesomely named site that is a fairly recent edition to my daily feeds list, has a good post on The 12 Best Songs to Close TV Show Seasons.  I can’t argue much with the list, at least as far as the listed episodes I’ve seen.  But they got the one they picked from The Wire (yes, it is the best TV show ever) wrong.

They picked the song that played at the end of the series finale: The Blind Boys of Alabama’s “Way Down in the Hole.”  And that’s a good one.

But the best season-ending song from The Wire, and maybe the best ever, was this one from the end of Season 2.

Sobotka, Ziggy, Clay Davis, Beadie (Beadie!), Lester, Proposition Joe, Nick at the end….

Every camera shot in every scene in every season of that show was perfect.

David Collins Was a Cream Fan!

I am re-watching the entire original Dark Shadows series as treadmill fare.  I’ve watched it twice before, once as a kid when it was on the air and once when it was on the Sci-Fi Channel back in the nineties.  It’s good stuff.

I have been struck this time by the complete lack in the series of any cultural references from the era.  It was mostly set in the late 60s to early 7os.  Other than an occasional reference to seeing an (unnamed) movie, there are virtually no references to music, film or television.  In fact, I can only recall seeing a television in one scene.  A woman’s boarding house room as she was terrorized by John Yaeger.

As a result, I’ve watched closely for any intentional or unintentional cultural references.  I noticed a cardboard animal in David Collins’ room that said “Chicken Little was Right.”  A google search didn’t turn up anything interesting.  There are some interesting posters in David Collins’s room, but until today there was never a close enough shot to see what they were.

But today.


There was a scene where I could read this poster.  It says Aug 29 – Sept 3.  I gave google a shot, and much to my surprise and delight it turns out TO BE A CREAM POSTER!!!


Specifically, a Fillmore poster for Cream’s Aug. 29-Sept. 3, 1967 shows with the Electric Flag and the Gary Burton Quartet.

How awesome is that?

A close look shows that they removed the references to the bands and the Fillmore, but it is clearly the same poster.


There’s another Cream poster in David’s room too.


This one from Cream’s  Aug. 22-27, 1967 shows with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the South Side Sound System.

Winter is Coming: And Here’s a Great Song to Prove It

So we all know that Game of Thrones, books and TV show, are just about perfect.  To say I am immersed in George R.R. Martin‘s expansive world is an understatement.  In fact, I have dreamed on more than one occasion that I was in Westeros.  Those are my third favorite dream topics, behind only the times I’ve dreamed I was a member of the Grateful Dead and….  Well, other stuff.

While we wait impatiently for the next book in the series and season on TV, here is one of the most rocking songs I’ve heard in a long time.

I was previously unfamiliar with Dominik Omega and The Arcitype, but if this is indicative of their work, they should be performing in stadiums full of crazed fans.  This is really good stuff.

Must See Video: The Visual Style of The Wire

Everyone knows The Wire is the best show in the history of television.  It’s so good, I wish I could erase my memories of it so I could have the pleasure of watching it again for the first time.  Since I can’t do that,  unexpected pleasures like this video essay on the visual style of the show are a real treat.


Here’s  Erlend Lavik, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Science and Media studies at Norway’s University of Bergen, discussing some of the techniques used in framing and filming our favorite show.

And for those stubborn few who deny themselves the pleasure of the best show ever, the montage that ended Season 2.


(via A.V. Club)

Alialujah Choir: Sad & Beautiful Sound

I admit I didn’t see the Julia thing coming at the end of the last Being Human.  Great, sad scene.

As usual, there were a couple of great songs in the episode, including this beautiful number by Alialujah Choir (featuring the Portland Cello Project).

Simply beautiful song, with an excellent video to go along with it.

Alialujah Choir is not a one-trick pony either.

More great music.

5 Reasons Why I Dig the Biggest Loser

I was late to the reality show party, but at the same time I cannot stand it when a bunch of eggheads blather on about how reality shows are beneath them, and all that.  I already have a job, so what I want from TV is entertainment.  Mindless entertainment is much preferred over some high-brow nonsense that reminds me how much I hated all those books they made me read Cliff’s Notes for in English Lit classes.

image So, once I discovered Survivor and The Amazing Race a few years ago, I became a fan of both.  In fact, I bought bootleg copies of some of the old seasons that aren’t on commercial DVD.

I was even later to The Biggest Loser party.  I started watching a year or so ago.  First last season on TV (how awesome were Danny’s and Rudy’s final numbers!?), then a couple of seasons via iTunes, and finally some bootleg DVDs of other seasons.

Good stuff, and here’s why.

1. Physical Reality TV is My New Pro Sports

When I was a kid and a young adult, I loved pro sports.  Football, basketball, baseball, I watched and followed it all.  Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about the game and became about the bling and the money.  That stuff doesn’t interest me.  I still watch a lot of college sports, and a little Major League Baseball.  But, other than the occasional game I attend for business purposes, I haven’t watched 5 consecutive minutes of an NBA game in close to a decade.  After my fantasy football league folded last year, I didn’t watch one minute of an NFL game this past regular season.  And only the second half of the Super Bowl.

Over time, reality shows that emphasize physicalimage challenges have filled the void left by pro sports.  Survivor (which also has significant outdoor and camping elements, which also appeal to me), The Amazing Race and The Biggest Loser have become my new pro sports.

And let’s not overlook the actual sports embodied in many of the challenges the contestants face.  Marathons, rock-climbing, etc.  The actual sports elements of The Biggest Loser are often more interesting that what passes for pro sports.

Which I guess makes Rupert, who I happily get to watch tonight, my new Kenny Stabler.  I think that’s just fine.

2. It Generally Shows the Good Side of Human Nature

Sure, there’s a game element to it, and some people play the game full-on.  But there are many more examples of people being supportive, and doing the right thing.  Last season, among others, contestants actually asked to be voted off, because others needed more time with the trainers.  People generally support each other, both physically and emotionally, which is uplifting.  It’s nice to see people on TV making, for the most part, good decisions.  Sadly, that’s a rare thing these days.

A related element I really enjoy are the emotional transformations people often go through while on the show.  For many, weight gain is a symptom of some other problem.  For others, weight gain causes emotional issues that further complicate recovery.  I love to see someone get their head on straight while getting their body fit.  Mark in Season 5 and Courtney in Australia’s Season 2 are great examples of this.

It’s really cool when these transformations are embodied in amazing feats.  Consider Courtney, who faced- in epic fashion- a fear of heights.


3. It Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle

Without going into the rant that I could easily give, I think just about every single thing we see on TV these days promotes an unhealthy lifestyle in one way or another.  So a show that teaches people how and why to exercise and eat right is a fresh and much needed change of pace.

I have learned a little about training, and a lot about nutrition from watching the show.  My kids like the show for the drama and the excitement, but I have seen them, perhaps subconsciously, using things they learned from the show, in the kitchen and at snack time.

4. It is Great for Multi-tasking

One of my core approaches to life is to try to do more than one thing at a time, where reasonable to do so.  I don’t have a ton of free leisure time, so what time I have needs to be used wisely.  As a result, I watch the lion’s share of my TV in the garage, where we have set up a family gym.  I can run on the treadmill and watch TV at the same time.

Some shows (think Lost) just aren’t conducive to multi-tasking.  The Biggest Loser is perfect for it.  Plus, you can’t help but be inspired to work harder when watching others working out.

5. I Really Like the Trainers

I really like Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels (even if she does make some interesting endorsement choices).  I think they care deeply about the contestants, and I think they do a good job of being tough (in a world that needs a lot more of it) and supportive.  I loved it when Jillian refused to back down from her statements this season about Melissa’s game-playing failure to lose weight while having immunity.

When I think of people who have positively affected a lot of peoples’ lives, Bob and Jillian always end up near the top of that list.

So, yes, I’m a Biggest Loser fan.  Sure, there’s a lot of manufactured drama and a few too many tears shed, but for my money, it’s among the best entertainment out there.

And unlike most TV shows, it’s good for you.

A Glimmer of Hope for Jericho?


The Associated Press is reporting that CBS is considering bending to popular demand and bringing back Jericho for a mid-season run.

According to the story, a source close to the Jericho production team says that CBS is reconsidering its decision to cancel Jericho, based largely on viewer calls and emails.  Apparently the fact the Jericho is popular with young adult viewers, a demographic coveted by networks and their advertisers, is a factor working in the show’s favor.

Disgruntled viewers also delivered 50,000 pounds of peanuts to CBS’s New York office, a reference to the word “nuts,” which was used prominently in the season finale.

Jericho was/is a great show, and I hope CBS does the cool thing and brings it back.  This time without the ratings killing hiatus.

Technorati tags: , ,