Posts Tagged ‘television’

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class="post-8856 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-nonchalance tag-television tag-the-jejune-institute tag-videos">

The Jejune Institute is coming to the small screen

November 26th, 2019
Teaser trailer for Dispatches From Elsewhere

 

“Welcome to The Jejune Institute,” a disembodied female voice declares as someone enters a small room.

When I first saw a list of TV shows AMC was working on, Dispatches From Elsewhere immediately jumped out at me. Both the name of the show and one of the characters — Octavio — were lifted straight from Games of Nonchalance, an alternate reality game of sorts which ran in San Francisco from 2008 through April 2011.

In the first chapter, players would visit an office tower downtown at The Jejune Institute, where they’d be sent to a small room to watch a video recording about the “institute” and its founder, Octavio Coleman, Esquire.

For the show they’ve changed the setting to Philadelphia, but a lot of it looks similar — an unusual induction center for a mysterious institute, flash mob protests, cryptic messages from payphones, confusion about what’s going on… who knows what else could be in store?

According to IMDb the show will star Andre 3000, Sally Field, and series creator Jason Segel among others. It will debut sometime next year.

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class="post-8713 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-adult-swim tag-conspiracy tag-review tag-television">

Thoughts on the first episode of Truthpoint: Darkweb Rising

October 18th, 2019

Dril and Derek in a screencap from the trailer

 

There’s no easy way to explain the new Adult Swim show Truthpoint: Darkweb Rising. It’s a conspiracy theory fueled debate show, allegedly originating from the dark web. I might describe it as though aliens on the other side of the galaxy picked up Crossfire and InfoWars and somehow tried to produce new content for human viewers.

Before the show, a government warning appears telling us what we’re about to see is unfit for public consumption because it’s “too real.” The primary host is Dril, an anonymous Twitter user who has spent the last decade posting weird yet somehow hilarious messages like these:

To maintain his anonymity on television, Dril wears sunglasses over a cheap rubber mask that makes him look like a cross between Max Headroom and a burn victim.

Derek, a loud skinny white guy with a thick head of brown hair is the co-host. We’re told Derek’s list of accomplishments include inventing a new mental disorder as well as getting fired from running the Wendy’s Twitter account when he used it to promote Burger King.

The two sit at desks in front of a screen displaying images of a spinning globe, a city in flames, and occasionally a photo of Larry King. A CNN-like headline ticker at the bottom of the screen scrolls various headlines including “Spinning Around Really Fast Could be the Hot New ‘Cheap and Legal High,’ Warns Pastor.”

The hosts are occasionally joined by Truthbot, an allegedly AI character who speaks through a voice synthesizer that sounds like it would be at home in a 1970’s Kraftwerk single.

 

Episode one

The first episode “Money” jumps into a segment called “The Throw Down.” They play a clip about getting money through positive affirmations, along the lines of countless generic self-help materials.

This leads into a debate segment called “Bullet Points” which features gun-related images. Dril kicks things off, emphasizing that “money will make you rich,” and recommends selling out to someone like George W. Bush or Jeffrey Epstein.

After Drill hands Derek a pen and demands Derek sell it back to him — one of those cheap disposable Bic pens — they get into an ongoing debate about who owns the pen. Dril hands Derek three dollars and begs for it back, but Derek only returns the cap.

In contrast to Dril, Derek recommends throwing your money away because it’s from the government — which he doesn’t trust — and mining cryptocurrency instead. But he supports Dril’s message about selling out.

In a segment called “Arena of Expertise” they bring on Dr. Branson, a “Professor of General Studies” via satellite. Branson conducts a thought experiment to prove money isn’t even real.

Dril and Derek decide this expert is a moron and “flush” him away with a toilet flushing sound so they can take some phone callers, none of whom have anything interesting to say. The callers are all flushed away as well.

Towards the end of the episode the two hosts don party hats while displaying completely incoherent “internet memes” in a segment allegedly sponsored by Monsanto. They try to pick the one that best fits Monsanto’s brand image.

The episode ends with “Zero Hour” where each host makes a closing statement. Dril’s “Final Thoughts” segment reveals a new self-help affirmation condemning Derek. Derek uses “The Last Word” to show off his new pen and the three dollars Dril gave him.

 

Critical reception

Early critics of Truthpoint, who aired their grievances before the show’s premier, seemed mostly annoyed that Dril would do a show at all — presumably because it shattered the illusion that he’s the person seen in his Twitter avatar, an old blurry photo of Jack Nicholson. (Note to people of the future: if that previous sentence sounded strange, and I hope it does, go look at the real news from this year.)

After the episode actually aired a few reviewers who watched it praised the show for taking the mock-news comedy format in a new direction. It’s certainly true that nobody will mistake Truthpoint for SNL’s Weekend Update, The Daily Show, or Last Week Tonight.

 

My thoughts so far

Personally I’m on the fence. On the one hand, satirizing the typical debate shows these days that are just hosts yelling hot takes at one another with a show where the hosts are yelling literal nonsense is a clever subversion. There’s potential, the first episode definitely has some laugh out loud moments.

But on the other, the hour long format, filmed live, and with Adult Swim’s low budget it didn’t quite come together — at least not in this first episode. 

Over the years my favorite live action Adult Swim series have been Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, The Eric Andre Show, and On Cinema At The Cinema. All four of those mock low budget content while simultaneously being filmed on a shoestring budget themselves. Just as importantly, they do so in 15 minute increments. 

My only criticisms of Truthpoint so far is it’s kind of long, and the live element doesn’t add much. I realize Adult Swim has 24 hours a day to fill on their web stream but this particular show would greatly benefit from tight editing to keep the humor moving along at a steady pace.

Regardless I do hope the argument about ownership of the pen is resolved by the end of the season. We’re through the looking glass here people, and we need answers.

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class="post-6858 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-humor-2 tag-elaine tag-frank tag-george tag-jerry tag-kramer tag-newman tag-seinfeld tag-television">

Top 6 worst Seinfeld episodes

December 21st, 2018

During its nine season run, Seinfeld had plenty of memorable hit episodes. But there were also a few clunkers here and there. Even the most hardcore Seinfeld fans have forgotten about many of these flops entirely, and rightfully so.

Here are the worst six episodes of Seinfeld in the order they were aired. Enjoy!
 

“The Construction”
Season 1 Episode 2

After the pilot episode “The Seinfeld Chronicles,” the show’s writers wanted to change the laundromat setting into Monk’s coffee shop. This episode centers around a mishap where Kramer’s fictional “Kramerica Industries” is accidentally hired to renovate the laundromat into the coffee shop. Rather than admit his company is fake, Kramer tasks George, Jerry, and Elaine with the required construction work. Critics found the premise funny but ultimately weren’t amused after watching the characters perform laborious construction work for 30 minutes.
 

“The Gun”
Season 2 Episode 9

Uncle Leo gets mugged and decides to buy a gun for self defense. Later that day while practicing at a firing range he accidentally shoots himself in the leg. Leo gives the gun to Kramer, who accidentally shoots himself in the leg too. Kramer gives the gun to Newman, who, after accidentally shooting himself in the leg, insists Jerry take the gun. Jerry doesn’t want it; but when a police officer sees Jerry holding the gun, the officer shoots Jerry in the leg. Elaine and George both come up to Jerry’s apartment, see the gun, and accidentally shoot one another in the leg. Though some critics praised the episode’s focus on gun safety, there was near unanimous agreement that so many characters getting shot in the leg required a complete suspension of disbelief. Fortunately the writers learned their lesson from this one and it was the last time any character on the show was shot in the leg.
 

“The Other Contest”
Season 5 Episode 1

This one attempted to piggyback on the fan favorite episode “The Contest” but critics slammed it as derivative. In the episode Jerry, George, Kramer, and Newman hold a contest where the last one to get circumcised wins. Unfortunately for Jerry he’s already circumcised so he’s out of the contest immediately. None of the other characters get circumcised during the episode, though the possibility arises when Newman accidentally gets his penis stuck in a mailbox.
 

“The Future”
Season 5 Episode 20

When a flying car crashes through the window of Jerry’s fifth floor apartment, Jerry, Kramer, and Newman discover their building was pulled through a time vortex into the future. To return to the present, Kramer builds a time warp generator out of quantum flux crystals while Jerry fine tunes the warp energy by reversing the polarity of the laser diodes. Critics panned this episode’s storyline as focusing on science fiction instead of comedy. The writers clearly learned their lesson as the show never relied on science fiction tropes for the rest of its run.
 

“The Death”
Season 7 Episode 12

George, Elaine, and Kramer attend Jerry’s funeral after he dies of a heart attack in his sleep. They each try and fail to deliver a heartfelt eulogy: George complains that Jerry still owed him five dollars when he died, Elaine says she doesn’t have anyone fun to go to the movies with anymore, and Kramer knocks over the open casket before he can say a word. Critics had mixed feelings about this episode: though it was funny, it also made no sense to kill off the show’s title character halfway through the seventh season. The writers attempted to sweep this mistake under the rug by bringing Jerry back to life in the next episode without explanation. Fun fact: This episode was never shown in syndication and only appears in the season seven DVD set as a special feature.
 

“The Bank”
Season 9 Episode 3

The final season was already off to a rocky start by the time this stinker rolled around. The entire episode focuses on Frank Costanza starting a bank specializing in subprime mortgages. While most critics at the time were puzzled by 30 minutes of Frank interacting with his bank’s clients and helping them fill out page after page of loan applications, looking back the episode predicted the subprime mortgage crisis almost a decade in advance. Although the writers took a lot of heat for this episode back in the day, perhaps they had the last laugh.

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class="post-4567 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-film tag-bbc tag-ghosts tag-haunted-house tag-reality-tv tag-television">

Ghostwatch reviewed by an American in 2016

October 29th, 2016


 

For Halloween this year I thought I’d so something a little different — I got my hands on a copy of an infamous British TV horror special and decided to write a review.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Ghostwatch is a 1992 Halloween TV horror special from BBC. It never aired in the US, nor has it ever been made available to US viewers through legal means (unless you have a region-unlocked DVD player.)

The TV special scared many viewers at the time because it masqueraded as a live, non-fiction TV show featuring hosts familiar to BBC viewers. You can read more about the effects the show had on its audience over on Wikipedia.

I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, so I’ll just give you a brief rundown. The 90 minute show alternates between a talk show host with a paranormal investigator, and two on-scene reporters investigating an allegedly haunted house where two girls live with their single mother. The talk show segments include everything from “live phone calls” to interviews with a skeptic from New York.

 

 

The type of horror leans toward the subtle variety one would expect from BBC. Think Doctor Who and you’re not far off. There’s no terrifying violence or jump scares here. As an American viewer, I’d say the closest analog would be if The Blair Witch Project had been a TV special hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

One minor spoiler: the ending won’t be a surprise to you if you’ve seen The Onion’s Halloween episode of In The Know. For all I know The Onion could have been making an homage to Ghostwatch.

Overall I can say it’s entertaining, but twenty four years later it feels very dated. TV shows don’t do call-in segments anymore, for example; instead they read responses on social media. But the biggest problem isn’t the format, it’s the storytelling. The haunting theory presented toward the end casts the ghostly villain as two lazy stereotypes; mentally ill and transgender.

I don’t mean to say that a mentally ill transgendered person returning as a ghost couldn’t be compelling, but Ghostwatch doesn’t make a case for this. Instead these attributes only serve to advance the story while neglecting any potential motivations behind the ghost’s actions.

The horror aspect also deserves some critique, as the host segments tend to deflate the sense of dread building up in the on-scene segments. For the most part the tension built up inside the haunted house dissipates once the show returns to the comfort and safety of a TV set.

 

 

There are two paths Ghostwatch could have gone that would have made it a more timeless classic. One, it could have played its cards closer and have never tried to explain away the details of the haunted house. Two, it could have gone the opposite route and explored the alleged ghost in more depth.

That said, I could easily imagine the show doing well in the US market in the early 90’s when similar “truth seeker” reality shows were popping up on Fox, cable TV, etc. But stripped of its cultural context, the show seems more enjoyable for its curious novelty factor than its ability to scare.

 
Verdict: B-/C+

Good for: People curious about unusual television history, those looking for a mildly scary 90 minutes of television.

Not good for: Those bored by typical horror tropes, anyone seeking modern horror.

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class="post-4348 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-humor-2 tag-nintendo tag-satire tag-seinfeld tag-tapes tag-television tag-vcr">

Introducing the VCR Classic Edition

July 24th, 2016


 

You may have heard the bad news recently: the last company making VCRs is about to stop production. But worry not, VCR fans: the VCR Classic Edition is here!

No, this won’t play your old tapes. Following in the steps of Nintendo, the VCR Classic Edition is 50% smaller than your old VCR and comes preloaded with 30 exciting tapes some guy in Cleveland recorded from his TV back in the day!

Tapes bundled with the VCR Classic Edition include:

  • A rerun of the final episode of MASH
  • Couple of really funny I Love Lucy episodes
  • News clip about a dead body some kids found down by the lake
  • That one Seinfeld episode about masturbating
  • …and many more!

Don’t run out to the store yet, the VCR Classic Edition hits shelves this November. We’ll update when we hear more, but early reports confirm that it won’t work with your existing remote control, but it does include HDMI output and relies on USB for power.

So much yes!

We’re looking forward to the VCR Classic Edition and can hardly wait to find the right tracking settings on some forgotten old tapes. This is a perfect example of how to preserve everyone’s favorite technology. We can’t wait!

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class="post-3256 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-film tag-arrow tag-desperate-housewives tag-doctor-who tag-john-barrowman tag-television">

The John Barrowman Theory

February 6th, 2015

2013_JBAR_ERH_024
Image credit: Phoenix Comicon
 

What if the television shows Doctor Who, Desperate Housewives, and Arrow are all part of the same universe? Crazy, you say? Well sure. But let me explain The John Barrowman Theory to you anyway.

After the events in Doctor Who and Torchwood, the enigmatic man who calls himself Captain Jack travels forward in time and discovers Earth is destroyed by an environmental disaster. Rather than work with Torchwood he decides to take matters into his own hands. He travels back in time and assumes the name Patrick Logan to conceal his identity from Torchwood.

As Patrick, he becomes an eco-terrorist to stop the impending doom. To escape his crimes, Patrick fakes his own death in an explosion (an easy feat because he’s immortal) then changes his name to Malcolm Merlyn. In the face of tragedy Malcolm decides to become even more of a badass and trains with Ra’s al Ghul’s assassins. When things take an ugly turn, what does Malcolm do? He fakes his own death again, that’s what.

 
See? There’s a pattern here — morally ambiguous, vengeful, mortality-challenged. Jack, Patrick, and Malcolm could easily be the same character in the same universe. And that’s the John Barrowman Theory.

Mind = blown.

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Ugly building in “Silicon Valley” show

April 16th, 2014

Mike Judge’s new show “Silicon Valley” satirizes Bay Area tech culture. From Peter Thiel paying kids not to attend college to unconventional social norms to strange business practices, the show has some pretty easy targets to mock.

One of my favorite aspects of the show is the unusual architecture it highlights on the Peninsula. From the Google-inspired “Hooli” campus to the incubator housed in an Eichler, the Bay Area’s architecture has the same experimental quality as everything else here.

Not all experiments are successful. One particularly notable example of bad Peninsula architecture is highlighted in this scene: (click for larger version)

It’s an unusually ugly building on an unusually ugly stretch of El Camino in Palo Alto. Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps:

According to LoopNet this building was constructed in 1961. One can only imagine that drugs were a factor in the decision to attach those garish metal panels to the upper floor of what would otherwise be a tolerably bland building.

But it may not have long for this world — plans are afoot to replace it with a larger office building (PDF warning.)

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class="post-2624 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-journeyman tag-sanfauxisco tag-television">

Journeyman’s San Fauxisco

September 24th, 2013

Did you ever see the 2007 TV series Journeyman? No? Neither did anyone else. The short-lived series is about a newspaper journalist in San Francisco who accidentally travels through time to hang out with his ex-fiancee.

And if that wasn’t strange enough, this man lives in a bay area mansion on a journalist’s salary.

The show is set in San Francisco, yet filmed mostly in San Fauxisco, a strange and magical land where it’s cheaper to film.

But audiences are stupid and require frequent reminders about a show’s setting. Rather than limit themselves to the 100 seconds of footage actually shot on location, Hollywood prefers cheap set pieces and inexpensive effects.

Here’s two examples from the very first episode. Our time-traveling hero Dan wakes up in Golden Gate Park. Which, of course, has an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge:

Later, Dan’s wife Katie walks down a suburban street, which obviously needs a Bart/Muni subway stop:

Click any of the images to enlarge.

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class="post-2362 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-film tag-arrow tag-iphone tag-television">

The iPhone with the untraceable manufacturer

January 20th, 2013

“The tech inside is military grade, I can’t even trace the manufacturer.”
— Arrow season 1 episode 10

Come on, your average Best Buy employee could “trace the manufacturer” of an iPhone 4. I’m starting to think this town only needs Archer McRockabs because of their incompetent police force.

Arrow hooks you with action and drama, but you’ll stay for the facepalm-worthy moments.

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class="post-1349 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-fail tag-muni tag-photos tag-quinn-martin tag-san-francisco tag-television">

The Treats of San Francisco

June 5th, 2011

The Treats of San Francisco

A Quinn-Martin production!

Wait… what? This is some kind of cheesy Muni ad for buying a Muni Passport and visiting Ghirardelli Square. It has nothing to do with Karl Malden and/or Michael Douglas.