Back in 2011 I read an article on the A.V. Club by Sam Adams called “The convenience trap: What the changes at Netflix reveal about an insidious trend”. Obviously it was about Netflix, but what Adams was really getting at, beyond discussing the announcement that Netflix was going to be focusing more solely on streaming video, was that the act of prioritizing convenient entertainment would mean forgoing a lot of other great entertainment simply because one would have to work for it or wait to get it.
As a Netflix DVD-only subscriber, the article really rang true to me. If I’m going to watch a movie, I want it to be a movie that I want to see, not just one that I can see at that moment. But despite my flimsy ‘fight the power’ attitude, I’m certainly guilty of choosing easy entertainment in many other scenarios. After all, television is probably the biggest convenience trap of them all.
Between the hundreds of channels available, OnDemand services, Hulu.com, Amazon streaming, iTunes, Netflix, and even YouTube there is always something to watch. Endless entertainment is available on just about every screen in your house, at the touch of a button.
It’s a wonder I even go outside. But you know, every now and then it’s really great to get off the couch to see some live entertainment. As good as an episode may be, or however much fun you’ve had live tweeting, there is something uniquely awesome about seeing a live performance and being surrounded by a crowd of people who share the same level of enthusiasm as you do.
A couple of weeks ago, after work, I hopped on a train to NYC to see the Shaping Sound Dance Co perform its last show of their 13-city North American Tour. Now I don’t dance, (believe me when I say I can’t), but I really really love So You Think You Can Dance, which in a roundabout way is how I even knew what Shaping Sound was.
Nick Lazzarini, the season one winner of SYTYCD along with Travis Wall, the season 2 runner-up and Emmy-nominated choreographer, teamed up with two of their other dance friends (Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson*) to create the Shaping Sound Dance Company. And I know this because their efforts were chronicled on the reality show All the Right Moves, which aired on Oxygen last summer. (Most everything I know, I learned from watching TV.)
In the final episode they were approached by Gil Stroming, founder of Break The Floor Productions who showed a real interest in producing their tour. Obviously he was serious because tour dates were announced this spring.
Long story short, on Monday June 17th I found myself in a packed theater in New York City sitting two rows behind SYTYCD alum Billy Bell, and one row ahead of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a self-proclaimed dance fan, occasional SYTYCD guest judge, and one of the stars of ABC’s hit sitcom Modern Family.
Yeah, I was totally nerding out, but honestly the dancing and the show itself was the real highlight of my night. At one point I even had goosebumps, that’s how incredibly captivating the performance was. Not only was the dancing mind-blowing, especially for an uncoordinated person such as myself, but the lights and the music – everything just came together.
I left the theater that night in awe, feeling like I witnessed something that only existed in that time and space. And I know that might sound cliche or over-dramatic, but the sentiment holds true when you apply it to other live events like concerts or even sports. My feelings were only further confirmed when I watched a YouTube video of one of the dance numbers a few days later. It was exactly what I’d seen that Monday night, but it also wasn’t. When I was sitting in the theater I could feel the excitement radiating from my fellow audience members and even see the facial expressions of the dancers, both of which were sorely lacking from the YouTube video.
So turn off the TV (that’s what DVRs are for), step outside of your comfort zone, and go see something live. Anything at all. Catch a baseball game, a concert, or even a local theater production. And if you’re really set on sticking with TV, well then find a convention that appeals to you, or mark the dates on your calendar for next year’s PaleyFest or ATX Television Festival. TV is great, but there is a lot of other great entertainment out there too. You just can’t always find it from the comfort of your couch.
*Fun Fact: Kyle Robinson was the Abraham Lincoln bachelorette party stripper on Parks & Recreation (“Two Parties” 5×10).
This year’s annual ATX Television Festival just wrapped up, but for anyone who didn’t have a chance to attend now is the time to hit YouTube and search for all of those awesome panels that we missed.
One of which was a Boy Meets World reunion panel attended by Michael Jacobs (Creator), Ben Savage (Cory), Rider Strong (Shawn), Maitland Ward (Rachel), Matthew Lawrence (Jack), Lily Nicksay (Morgan #1), Trina McGee, (Angela), and Betsy Randle (Amy Matthews).
Between constant re-runs of Boy Meets World in the mornings and all the recent hype about the Girl Meets World pilot, I can’t exactly say the show has been missing from my life, but the panel is a nice way to enjoy what the series was from the point of view of the very people who lived it and created it.
Also, Rider Strong finally answers the the burning question: Whatever happened to Shawn’s sister Stacy who was only mentioned once in the 4th episode of the very first season?
(In case the video is taken down or for some reason you don’t feel like watching it – there was supposed to be a 2nd best friend for Cory and Shawn but when that character never materialized Shawn just picked up all ‘other friend’ storylines.)
A couple months ago I shared a short list of fictional TV places that I wished existed, even in a purely touristy way. And although it’s fun to dream, here’s a few places that you can actually go to…just like your favorite characters in your favorite TV shows.
Inspired by recent trips to New York City and Boston, where food and drinks were among the main attractions, here’s some real bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and other eateries that appeared on various fictional TV series, that actually exist.
Magnolia Bakery – As seen on Sex and the City and Saturday Night Live’s “Lazy Sunday” digital short, this bakery is the place to go for delicious baked good. They make some awesome cupcakes, trust me I’m speaking from experience. I highly recommend the red velvet.
They currently have 5 locations in NYC, one in Chicago, and another in Los Angeles. – http://www.magnoliabakery.com/
Central Perk – We all know Friends took place in New York City, but you won’t find their beloved coffee shop anywhere in the United States. In fact, a super fan created a mini replica of the Central Perk coffee shop in Beijing.
Fellow Friends enthusiasts will appreciate his attention to detail which includes the cafe’s familiar doorway and window, the orange sofa, and a menu full of items only ever mentioned on the show. The business has been doing so well that a second ‘Central Perk’ recently opened in Shanghai.
MacLaren’s Pub – Want to hang out where Barney, Lily, Robin, Marshall and Ted hang out? You’d better look for a place called McGee’s Pub and Restaurant. That’s the name of the real life pub that inspired MacLaren’s Pub on How I Met Your Mother.
McGee’s Pub and Restaurant is located in NYC at 240 West 55 Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. The New York TV & Movie Sites Tour, provided by On Locations Tour, also makes a stop at HIMYM’s favorite watering hole. – http://www.mcgeespub.com/
The Brick Tavern – Being on the East Coast and never having never seen Northern Exposure, I can’t vouch for the kind of establishment the Brick Tavern is, (BTW it’s the Brick Saloon in real life), but apparently its legendary.
The Brick Saloon is Washington’s oldest continuously operating bar, established in 1889. Fans of Northern Exposure can find the iconic tavern at 100 West Pennsylvania Avenue in Roslyn, WA. – http://www.bricksaloon.com/
Cheers bar – On the other side of the county is the equally iconic Cheers bar, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”.
Based in Boston, there are actually two bars to choose from. There’s the original bar, located 84 Beacon Street and the replica bar nestled in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, in the Quincy Market building. – http://www.cheersboston.com/
The Warsaw Tavern – The real Cleveland-based bar, The Memphis Plaza Lounge actually served as the exterior of the fictional Warsaw Tavern, which was frequently seen on The Drew Carey Show.
Although the interior of The Memphis Plaza Lounge doesn’t resemble the one on TV, it’s still apparently a good place to grab a beer, shoot darts, and play pool after a long day at work. Anyone in Cleveland can find this bar at 5303 Memphis Road.
Monk’s Café – Seinfeld fans should know this diner well, at least the TV version. The real one, which is located in New York City is actually called Tom’s Restaurant.
Seeing as we’ve already got a NYC-based pub and a bakery on this list, perhaps Tom’s Restaurant would be a good choice for breakfast or lunch. It’s located at 2800 Broadway. – http://tomsrestaurant.net/
Poor Richard’s – You might not be able to find The Office’s Dunder Mifflin company in Scranton, PA, but you can find their favorite bar – Poor Richard’s Pub.
It’s real and is located inside South Side Bowl at 125 Beech Street.
Jimbo’s Place – Finally, a warm weather location to grab some food and drinks. Jimbo’s Place has popped up on a couple of TV shows, most notably Dexter, Burn Notice, and Miami Vice.
It was located in Virginia Key, FL; however, just a couple of months ago Jimbo’s Shrimp Shack (it’s official name) actually closed. I decided to include it on this list anyway since the website said that they were hoping to find a proper location for this iconic place. – http://www.jimbosplace.com/
Holsten’s – And last but not least, here’s an ice cream parlor you may recognize from The Sopranos. As someone from New Jersey I can promise you that The Sopranos is not an accurate reflection of life in the Garden State, at least not for everyone.
However, with that said, there are a lot of great places to find ice cream in NJ and Holsten’s is one of them. The ‘old fashioned’ ice cream parlor is located at 1063 Broad Street in Bloomfield. – http://www.holstens.com/
Despite the ongoing un-summer and even un-spring like weather we’ve had in Jersey lately, I take some comfort in the knowledge that it will eventually warm up. I know this because summer TV has slowly started to come back (and because it’s almost June).
So here’s a quick rundown of some of this summer’s new and returning TV series, you know for those rainy and lazy days.
I’ve got a long list of hour-long series I am excited about, which is tricky to balance given my desire to also go outside. Among my favorites – Pretty Little Liars (6/11 Tuesdays 8pm ABC Family) and True Blood (6/16 Sundays 9pm HBO). Both are so ridiculous, in a completely entertaining kind of way.
Falling Skies is also on my to-watch list. TNT’s original sci-fi series has really come into its own in the last two seasons and returns June 16th at 10pm. Under the Dome (6/24 Mondays 10pm) has also piqued my interest. This new series is based on a Stephen King novel and was produced by Steven Spielberg, it also kind of reminds me of Jericho and its cast is highly recognizable to TV nerds like myself.
I can’t say I’m excited about it, and I don’t know if I’ll even watch, but The Killing is coming back for a third season. Yes, it was cancelled and yes they solved Rosie Larson’s case, but if watching somewhat incompetent cops drive around in the rain is your thing, then make sure to tune in on June 2nd at 8pm.
And unfortunately it’s still going to be a long wait for Breaking Bad and the return of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. The last few episodes finally return to AMC on Sunday August 4th at 9pm.
One of my favorite summer series, So You Think You Can Dance (Tuesdays on FOX) has already returned, but don’t worry you haven’t missed much – they are still in the audition phase.
In the realm of guilty pleasures – Wipeout is back. Catch it at 8pm on Thursdays on ABC. If your a fan of fake scripted series, the second season of TLC’s Breaking Amish airs Sundays at 10pm.
America’s Got Talent kicks off its competition on Tuesday June 4th 2013 on NBC at 9pm. And for anyone who prefers winter, well, Ice Road Truckers is all new Sunday June 9th at 10pm on the Discovery channel.
There are also a good number of culinary competition shows making their debut over the next few weeks, if that’s your sort of thing.
Click here for a complete list of 2013 Summer TV premier dates.
If your favorite summer series wasn’t mention, my apologies, there is seriously way more ‘new’ TV on during the summer than you might think. Networks are even burning off cancelled series like 666 Park Avenue and Zero Hour, so if you were a fan now’s the chance to set the DVR and see what never was. But seriously, check out this comprehensive list of premier dates for summer TV -happy viewing!
Hello fellow TV fans! It’s May, which means two things – Sweeps (finale time!) and Network Upfronts (the last of the renewal and cancellation announcements).
While some shows have come to an early end, May Sweeps is just getting start, which means there is plenty of drama, laughs, guest stars, plot twists, character deaths, weddings, and cliffhangers ahead. Here’s a handy calendar of TV finale dates for all of your favorite cable and broadcast shows concluding in the coming weeks.
*Click on the image to enlarge.
Big thanks to TVLine.com’s Matt Mitovich for making the above season finale calendar.
So your favorite shows are wrapping up for the current TV season, but will this year be its last? Most renewal and cancellation announcements have already been made, but if you’re like me and waiting to hear the final verdict on a few shows, here’s a couple of important dates to keep in mind.
According to TVByTheNumbers.com, here’s the schedule for the 2013 Broadcast Network Upfront Meetings:
|May 13, 2013||NBC||Morning|
|May 13, 2013||FOX||Afternoon|
|May 14, 2013||Univision||Morning|
|May 14, 2013||ABC||Afternoon|
|May 15, 2013||CBS||Afternoon|
|May 16, 2013||The CW||Morning|
Of course there are always some exceptions, or funky situations (given how late Hannibal premiered I don’t expect NBC to have a decision by May 13th), but for the most part you ought to the know the fate of your shows by these dates.
So happy viewing, and may the odds be ever in your favor. My fingers are crossed for Happy Endings, Parks and Recreation, Hannibal, and Nikita – what are you hoping will live to see another season?
How some people manage to watch an episode of something live and then not stayed tuned for the promo is beyond me. I need those few extra seconds of whatever I am watching and always make sure to set my DVR to run a minute or two late so I don’t miss anything, which includes the ‘next time on’ portion of my program. Even when I’ve watch TV online I’ll seek out the show’s promo immediately after.
But there is a real art to making TV promos and trailers. Of course a TV show’s genre is going to dictate the hook or the tease, but sometimes I really feel like less is more.
For episodic and procedural series, I get it, networks need to show something crazy in order to keep the casual viewer coming back for more, but for serialized series, I’m going to assume that viewers will be tuning in again and again no matter what airs after the credits. (Spoilers Below)
I’ve got a theory that most TV promos, and movie trailers for that matter, are going to make something look better than it really is. After all, 30-60 seconds is not enough time to really highlight flaws.
But with that being said, I do think it is possible for a promo to oversell how incredible the next episode will be. In fact, the more an episode becomes a ‘must see’ or ‘can’t miss’ I become weary of what I am about to see.
From my experience, ER is the most notable repeat offender of setting unrealistic expectations, especially in its later seasons:
Maybe the oversell is unavoidable, I mean they are meant to create hype, but spoiling big plot points is not. In fact, it’s my biggest pet peeve with TV promos – Is it really necessary to give away a major twist or character death just to ensure viewers will return?
And I’m not talking about the ones that allude to an upcoming ominous event, I’m talking about ones that flat out say someone is going to die:
Much like ER, as House M.D. aged it began relying on more and more ridiculous plot twists and similarly crazy promos, but I do have to give them props for this more-subtle preview for “Simple Explanation” (5×20), the fifth season’s infamous Kutner episode.
I don’t want this blog entry to only be a rant about TV promos, so I figured I’d also share some of my favorites:
Fringe promos were, and are, some of the most creative previews I’ve ever seen. To check out more of the series’ standouts I recommend reading E! Online’s interview with Ari Margolis, the mastermind in FOX’s special ops department.
The following Smallville and House M.D. promos are also effective, but for me they are more memorable for their choices in music:
So what’s your TV promo pet peeve? Do you even watch promos? If so, are there any previews that standout to you, either for their excellence or absurdity? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below.
Pilot season rolls around every year, but for the first time TV fans can participate. Like Netflix, Amazon is getting in on the original programming game, so they’ve had 8 comedy pilots made and are now letting viewers weigh in on the options.
All eight episodes are available to stream for free on Amazon.com, so I spent the weekend watching each and every one of them. (Okay, it wasn’t that hard, most of the episodes are only about 20mins.) Here’s my take.
About: Follows four Republicans Senators who live together in one house.
Thoughts: Really impressive cast: Bill Murray, John Goodman, Mark Consuelos…and as a pilot it worked well to introduced the characters and set-up future plots.
Bottom Line: It’s not my cup of tea, I’m uneasy about political comedies. I feel like its probably a bit more honest about our government then I’d like it to be, but with that being said I still think it was one of the stronger comedies and could see why others would want to watch Alpha House.
About: Four friends living in Silicon Valley created an algorithm and the beginnings of a mobile app that they hope will make them a lot of money.
Thoughts: The cast may not be loaded with well named stars like Alpha House, but for a TV nerd like myself I did recognize several faces. I also really enjoyed the A-plot and was impressed that there was a bit of a twist in the B-storyline, which began as an overused and un-original geeky guy goes after girl storyline.
Bottom Line: This was my favorite pilot so obviously I’d watch it again. I’d like to see the characters develop, there was some interesting relationships/dynamics brewing in the Betas pilot.
About: Browsers follows four unpaid interns at a big-named gossip website. And oh yeah, its a musical.
Thoughts: Despite watching it in standard def, my audio seemed like it never quite synched up, which was particularly annoying during the musical numbers. I also felt like I might have enjoyed it more if I had an unpaid internship experience to draw from.
Bottom Line: In my opinion it would be better if it weren’t a musical. One of the songs was called “When I Tweet”, no thanks, not funny at all.
About: Two average guys work for an evil intergalactic corporation.
Thoughts: If it were made into a series, Dark Minions would be done in claymation, but only small portions of the pilot were actually animated, which made it hard to watch. Unmoving sketches don’t exactly hold the attention.
Bottom Line: Feels like its not fair to judge an incomplete work but seeing as I’m not really into animated series, I don’t think I would want to watch more. If you’re a fan of Adult Swim or Animation Domination then you might feel differently.
About: You know The Onion, which satirizes newspapers? Well the Onion News Network satirizes The Newsroom.
Thoughts: Like Betas, this show was chalked full of actors I’ve seen elsewhere on TV. I found the pilot to be amusing, but I like The Onion so it’s not too much of a stretch.
Bottom Line: I think this show might actually work better as a series of shorts rather than as a real series. I just wanted to see the fake news stories, I didn’t really care about the characters all that much, although a 20 min. time constraint will do that to you.
About: Two ‘divas’ defend the world against supernatural forces.
Thoughts: Between its description and being animated, this was the comedy I was least looking forward to watching. And although it was honest about it’s hater-humor, I’m not a fan of cruel comedy.
Bottom Line: It was better then I thought it would be, but not good enough for me to care about watching anymore. Although Supanatural does get bonus points for making references to Stargates and Hellmouths.
About: Three high school teachers who never really grew up.
Thoughts: Like Supanatural, Those Who Can’t was more cruel then funny. I thought I’d like it because I tend to watch a lot of high school based TV shows and movies but I wasn’t enamored.
Bottom Line: Not interested, despite the fact that its told from the teachers’ perspectives, the pilot didn’t feel any more original then any other high-school based series.
About: A sequel to the 2009 movie of the same name.
Thoughts: Out of all 8 comedy pilots this one seems like it would be the most expensive to make, although I don’t know what kind of budget Amazon is working with so that might not matter.
Bottom Line: Despite having to reconcile the recasting, the enjoyable essence and humor from the movie are still there. Although I did feel like the character of Tallahassee was a bit off. Overall, I did enjoy the Zombieland pilot, and would gladly watch more.
Amazon also had six kid’s pilots created, they’re also free to watch right now. Out of all 14 pilots, at least two will get the greenlight. So go check them out and take the survey when you’re done.
If you’ve already watched a few, or all of them, which comedy would you like see as a series?
Did you know that people write books about TV? Crazy right? Well I’m enough of a TV nerd to have actually read a few.
Here’s one of my favorites, you know for when your TV shows go on hiatus or the power goes out or something.
Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics, and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel For Kids – Edited by Heather Hendershot
I don’t know about you but I grew up on Nickelodeon. Disney was alright, I mean I remember how excited I would be when we got to watch the free preview of the Toon Disney channel, but for me Nickelodeon was where it was at for cartoons, live action TV, and everything in between. (Seriously, how do you categorize Wild & Crazy Kids, KaBlam!, or Weinerville?)
Given how much I loved the network’s many shows and resident Popsicle stick – Stick Stickly, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this book. Broken up into four sections – ‘Economics & Marketing’, ‘The Production Process’, ‘Programs and Politics’, and ‘Viewers’ – there’s a little something for everyone.
Interested in marketing or the television industry in general? Several of the early chapters provide insight into Nickelodeon’s carefully crafted orange logo, programming decisions, and general show development.
Growing up it always seemed that Nickelodeon was made just for me, but of course that perception was the result of many, very deliberate, decisions regarding the branding message of the network. Contributing authors helpfully provide the context needed to understand how Nickelodeon’s core principles differed from other children’s television shows and programming blocks of the time.
In the ‘Production Process’ section, I especially enjoyed “Diversifying Representation in Children’s TV: Nickelodeon Model” by Ellen Seiter and Vicki Mayer. Portrayals of gender and ethnicity are the main focus in this chapter, but for me the main takeaway was that Nickelodeon figured out pretty early on that girls and boys alike were willing to watch TV shows with girls in lead roles. Which is what led to Clarissa Explains It All, The Secret World of Alex Mack and later more ‘dramatic’ shows like The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo and Caitlin’s Way.
Strong female characters are probably one of the few unifying themes found throughout the many TV shows I watch, and Clarissa Darling and Alex Mack are partially to blame for that. Both characters were so cool yet completely relatable, that is if you exclude the little GC-161 accident.
If you’re thinking that’s really nice and all, but I only care about the shows, then hold your horses. The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, Spongebob SquarePants, and Blues Clues all get their own chapters too. As does Nick News, but let’s be real, did any kid really watch Linda Ellerbee on their own volition?
In a particularly engaging chapter, Linda Simensky, Nickelodeon’s former Director of the Animation department recounts the early days of Nicktoons, which includes Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy.
In addition, Nick At Nite and TV Land have their own chapter, because kids can’t have all the fun and there’s also an in-depth and insightful interview with Geraldine Laybourne, Nickelodeon’s Network President from 1989 to 1996.
As with any anthology book, some sections will be more captivating than others, but overall Nickelodeon Nation offers an interesting glimpse into the origins of a network that so many kids grew up on.
If you like reading and love Nickelodeon, then here’s a few other books that might be of interest:
Kids Rule!: Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship by Sarah Banet-Weiser
Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons! by Jerry Beck
Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein (Available on 9/24/2013)