NBC’s The Sing-Off Is Back!

NBC’s The Sing-Off Is Back!

The Sing-Off Season 4

You better acca-believe it. Season four of The Sing-Off premieres this Monday, December 9th at 8pm – just in time to fill the TV doldrums during the holiday season.

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Three Reasons I Still Enjoy CSI

CSI Las Vegas

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is in its 14th season, has aired over 300 episodes, and has even outlasted its two spin-off series. And while that is certainly an impressive feat for any TV show, there is always going to be a group of naysayers who proclaim that it’s gone downhill or that it should have called it quits when Grissom left.

And while I can’t argue that there weren’t some mediocre seasons or less than stellar episodes and even unfortunate cast departures, I still look forward to watching each and every new episode. And not even with a ‘I’m just watching this to see it through’ kind of attitude, I’m still genuinely engaged with the series and rooting for the night shift at the Las Vegas Crime Lab.

And here’s why:

1. The Characters

I’ve always been draw to TV shows with makeshift families at their core, one’s where character’s enjoy spending time with each other, so I appreciate that CSI has gone back to focusing on the friendly and lighthearted interpersonal relationships that made the first few seasons so much fun.Las Vegas CSI Team

The show lost this element sometime during Sara’s departure, Warrick’s murder, and Grissom’s goodbye. But then it only got more depressing during the Ray Langston years, especially with all of the Nate Haskell drama.

But with the arrival of Ted Danson’s character, D.B. Russell, the CSI team is like a family again. But it’s not just his presence that has led to this turnaround, the character of Morgan Brody brings out a less adversarial side in Conrad Ecklie, the team of lab techs have really enhanced the comedic side of the series, and Elisabeth Shue’s Julie Finlay fits in well with the team too.

2. Engaging Online Presence

In my last blog post I talked about how the CBS Sync addition to their video player was a pretty nifty ‘enhanced viewing’ feature, but that’s not all CSI has to offer in the way of the viewing experience.

CSI of course has a CBS-run Twitter account (@CSI_CBS), but the writers have one of their own, and so do a few of the cast members (@davidberman88, @ericszmanda, @ElisabethHarnoi, & @kingoftrace), many of which regularly live tweet during episodes.

The @CSIWritersRoom account is also pretty consistently awesome about interacting with followers, tweeting behind the scene photos, and even sharing small glimpses of the whiteboard in the writers room.

They even interact with other TV show writer room Twitter accounts, which typically results in some rather amusing exchanges:

3. CSI Is Like Comfort Food

Perhaps this is just evidence of my desensitization, but hear me out on this one. Compared to a lot of other current TV series, CSI is actually pretty tame despite the very subject matter of its stories. I mean which one would you rather watch right before bed – CSI or American Horror Story, Hannibal, The Following, Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU, or Game of Thrones?CSI Team Crime Scene

Plus, the whole long running procedural format really lends itself to any-hour-of-the-day viewing. It’s the kind of show that’s entertaining when you’re paying attention and even enjoyable when you’re not.

That, and after all of these years the formula is comfortingly predictable too. I mean we all know that the overly helpful witness really did it, that or the special guest star.

So if you’ve long given up on CSI, maybe now’s the time to give it a second chance. Try jumping back in at season 12 or you know watching new episodes on CBS, Wednesday nights at 10pm.

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Hulu Experiments With Enhanced Viewing

Hulu Experiments With Enhanced Viewing

If you’ve watched an episode of Modern Family, Saturday Night Live, or Scandal on Hulu recently you might have noticed some Pop Up Video-like tidbits appearing on the screen while the episode was playing.

Apparently Hulu is experimenting with a new feature they call ‘Enhanced Viewing’, which “…showcases quotes and memes that capture funny moments, pieces of trivia, and tweets from fans and actors alike that reflect the moment you just watched.” They can also be shared on Facebook, Twitter, or simply “Liked”.

Hulu Enhanced Viewing Feature

Click To Enlarge

Given that I’m the kind of TV nerd who follows showrunners, writers, and actors on Twitter and also buys TV on DVD for the special features and the episode commentary, the Enhanced Viewing feature is the kind of thing I find intriguing. But right now I’m not so much a fan of its execution.

While it can be simply turned off, just click on the video setting gear icon to disable the feature, I find it annoying to have the actual information displayed on the same screen as the episode I am watching.

Have you experience the Enhanced Viewing feature yet? What do you think about it? Are any of the extra tidbits worth the interruption?

Yes To Bonus Features – No To Distracting Pop-Ups

Although CBS isn’t typically associated with having an Internet savvy audience, CBS’s viewers are the oldest among the broadcast networks with a median age of 58.2, they’ve already introduced a similar feature to their own online video player. (If you hadn’t already noticed, CBS’s current content is not available on Hulu.com, which is realistically the only reason I even noticed.)

CBS Sync Sidebar

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Dubbed ‘CBS Sync’, it works much the same way that Hulu’s Enhanced Viewing feature works – by displaying behind the scenes information, trivia, polls, exclusive photos, video and more, all timed exactly to what’s happening. However, the CBS Sync feature is relegated to an easy-to-hide sidebar that updates with new tidbits without ever interfering with the episode.

Plus, if you do choose to click on one of these bonus things, the episode will automatically pause as a pop-up window appears. And when you close the CBS Sync window, the video will likewise automatically resume for a seamless viewing experience. Pretty nifty.

Besides being far less annoying, I also find the bonus content to be more interesting on CBS.com. For example, while watching an episode of CSI, evidence stills are displayed if you’d like to take a closer look and callbacks to older episodes and crime scenes are explained.

CBS Sync Pop Up

Click To Enlarge

Now of course I am comparing a long running crime drama to an episode of Modern Family, which is a bit unfair, but it still begs the question as to where Hulu.com is getting the bonus material from.

How much buy-in do they have to have from the broadcast networks / production companies? I have to imagine that CBS has the advantage of having easier access to this kind of stuff.

Bottom line, I’m all for enhancing the online viewing experience but I think Hulu.com could learn something from CSB.com when it comes to this specific kind of feature. And that is something I never thought I’d say.

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Awesome Food For A Day Of Football Watching

Awesome Food For A Day Of Football Watching

Football Snack StadiumThe weather in New Jersey has finally turned unpleasant enough that I no longer feel guilty spending my weekends watching football on the couch. And just like a day spent marathoning TV, having the right provisions are a must.

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Why Do Broadcast TV Networks Still Rely On Sweeps Months?

Why Do Broadcast TV Networks Still Rely On Sweeps Months?

November sweeps have started! The unabashed TV fan in me is excited. It means that just about all of my broadcast shows will be on, without repeats, and that story lines will be at their most dramatic, or comedic as it may be (according to the promos anyway).

However, the TV nerd in me wonders how relevant sweeps really are in an age where time-shifting is increasingly becoming the norm, where the traditional TV calendar of September – May is less rigid, and where ‘broadcasting’ is slowly being replaced by ‘narrowcasting’.

What Sweeps Means To Nielsen TV Ratings

Throughout the year Nielsen collects ratings data for the top 56 markets through electronic metering, which includes set meters to keep track of channels and People Meters, which gather demographic information along with channels being watched.

For sweeps months (November, February, May, and July) though, Nielsen goes one step further and utilizes paper diaries, approximately 2 million of them. These diaries are sent out all across the county to the other TV markets not normally monitored electronically.

Seven-day diaries (or eight-day diaries in homes with DVRs) are mailed to homes to keep a tally of what is watched on each television set and by whom. Over the course of a sweeps period, diaries are mailed to a new panel of homes each week. At the end of the month, all of the viewing data from the individual weeks is aggregated. [Nielsen]

While I’ve never been a fan of the Nielsen ratings system, too many of my shows have been been axed due to low ratings, I can’t believe that they still use paper diaries to measure ratings. Like seriously, paper! There has got to be a better way to measure who’s watching what.

I mean between cable boxes, DVRs, and OnDemand services I’m sure that our cable providers know a lot more about our current viewing habits than they are letting on. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for ‘Big Brother’ or Skynet or anything of the sorts but it’s 2013 and I still can’t get past the fact that the television industry doesn’t have a more sophisticated measuring system.

To me, it seems that for four months out of the year Nielson dives a bit deeper into metrics and expands its sample size, and as a result the broadcast networks pull out all of the stops to try to attract as many viewers as possible, or at least the ones within the 18-49 demo.

But does this even work anymore? Stunt-casting and ‘must-see’ episodes just seem so gimmicky. If you’re a fan then you’re going to watch an episode regardless. Casual viewers could be persuaded to tune in I guess, but I have no idea what its like to be a casual viewer of anything.

Realistically and most logically though most TV networks don’t really care about fans, they care about viewers, more specifically ones that watch TV live. For instance, I enjoy Elementary but if I’ve got 3 episodes stocked up on my DVR, I’m not doing CBS any favors.

And I suppose that’s what I have to wrap my head around, the semantic difference between being a fan and being a ‘live’ viewer and what that means to broadcast networks and Nielsen ratings. As long as the current advertising system is in place, sweeps months will continue to exist and broadcast networks will continue to up the dramatic ante or the comedic hijinks to make their programs the viewing priority for fans. Or at least during the months of February, May, July, and November that is.

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Carved Pumpkins Perfect For TV Fans

Carved Pumpkins Perfect For TV Fans
Battlestar Galactica Cylon Pumpkin

Battlestar Galactica Cylon Jack-O-Lantern [Source]

As you gear up for Halloween this year, here’s some TV-themed pumpkin carvings to help you get into the holiday spirit… or to help you tap into your craftier self:

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Saturday’s Adventures at NYCC 2013

Saturday’s Adventures at NYCC 2013

Luck seemed to be on my side on Saturday as the weather cleared up and I managed to see and do everything I wanted to at New York Comic Con. Going in with realistic expectations and a pre-determined schedule helped, but I think part of a successful Comic Con experience is luck – and timing.

Me & Zachary Levi The Nerd Machine

Me & Zachary Levi

First on tap was The Nerd Machine booth, which I swore wasn’t over by The Block, but lo and behold, it was. Normally that wouldn’t have mattered but TNM was holding “Smiles for Smiles” photo ops with various celebrities to raise money for Operation Smile and Zachary Levi (Chuck) was there, like at that moment.

Despite some slightly panicked wandering of the showroom floor, my friend and I made it in time to have a super quick meet-and-greet and photo with Zachary Levi. We also each walked away with a free “Viva La Nerdolution” poster and some other swag from the merchandise table. First win of the day!

Where's Waldo?

Where’s Waldo?

Since it was still kind of early (re: not yet at max capacity) and we were already on the showroom floor we decided to just continue shuffling through the crowds, up and down each aisle taking in as much as we could – from the artwork to the cosplayers to all the other geek-themed stuff. Finn from Adventure Time seemed to be the most common character we spotted, although there were also several Waldo sightings and we even found Carmen Sandiego.

Besides The Nerd Machine, the 20th Anniversary Power Rangers booth was my favorite find. Not only were there action figures on display from each of the seasons but there was a couple of video monitors set up playing various episodes from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. There was also a decent size replica of the original Megazord.

Panels Are Fun Too – Plus There Are Chairs

After about two hours on the showroom floor we hit our sensory overload limit and headed downstairs to the no-cell phone service zone to enjoy some panels. Seriously the Javits Center and T-Mobile don’t mix well, which makes the NYCC app pretty unhelpful at times. Thankfully it didn’t matter as we never needed to devise a ‘Plan B’.

For us, the first panel of the day was “The Mary Sue Presents: Representation in Geek Media”, which we narrowly made it into. Like the line was cut-off right after us, standing room only kind of narrow. I still consider that win number two of the day.

The academic nerd in me was pretty psyched for this panel, not only because it was something unique to the con experience, but also because it was a chance to contemplate and examine the larger picture of the “geek” media I consume.

The panel consisted of a couple of people from The Mary Sue website and a couple of others who are creative types within the mainstream comic book industry. Although the obvious result of the discussion was ‘yes it would be nice if media represented a greater variety of people’ I still found the panel to be quite entertaining, and funny. I think the most interesting topic brought up during the roundtable discussion was the dilemma, or lose-lose scenario, of introducing a new character into an existing universe and the equally daunting task of re-imagining an existing character to better represent our current times and diverse cultures.

Bad Robot

It’s J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot!

Given the close call with The Mary Sue panel I wasn’t willing to take any chances on the next panel I had my eyes on, “Showrunners”, which meant some quality time camping out in the queue line. However, the good thing about line-waiting at Comic Con is that you’re surrounded by people who are deeply interested in the same thing you are.

Besides the good conversations, our get-in-line-early strategy paid off as we were able to get pretty decent seats. “Showrunners” was part exclusive clips from the upcoming documentary of the same name, and part Q&A session with the the documentary’s director and producer along with some of the featured showrunners including Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), Greg Plageman (Person of Interest) and Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica).

Obviously Showrunners looked really interesting and I cannot wait for its release in 2014, but getting to learn a bit more about the inner workings of a TV show from some pretty high profile people in attendance was an added bonus. Out of the entire panel and screening, the following quote is what really stuck with me, “You work just as hard on the things that fail as you do on the things that succeed.”

The Zombie Office

The Zombie Office

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no one sets out to make bad TV, so I think that sentiment only further highlights the difficulty of creating and running a successful series, let alone one that is heralded as groundbreaking or game-changing.

By the time the “Showrunners” panel let out, the general crowd had thinned out considerably so we took a quick detour to Artist Alley before making one final trip to the showroom floor.

Last year I never made it over to Artist Alley so that turned out to be an enjoyable stroll despite my complete lack of knowledge for almost all things comic book in nature. One webcomic caught my eye though – The Zombie Office. Check it out, it’s pretty damn entertaining if you’ve got a desk job.

So good times were had by all, and the NYCC fun even spilled over into Penn Station. Two Stormtroopers were standing at the bottom of the escalator giving high fives to all of us boarding the train back to New Jersey. I can’t think of a better way to end the day.

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Super Fun Night Should Focus on the Night

Super Fun Night Should Focus on the Night

I really want to like ABC’s new comedy Super Fun Night, not only because I enjoy hangout comedies (I miss you Happy Endings) and loved Pitch Perfect, but also because I find the show’s premise and Rebel Wilson’s character to be relatable.Super Fun Night

But I’ve got to admit that I was totally underwhelmed by the ‘first’ episode. And I use quotes because ABC swapped out the pilot episode for another episode, one I assumed better represented what the show was about.

And although I’m generally against judging a show based on one-22min outing, I really think Super Fun Night would benefit from just focusing on the night portion of the premise.

The workplace scenes felt like they belonged in another show and I was disappointed that more time wasn’t spent getting to know Kimmie’s friends. And this is where the pilot episode switcheroo may have negatively impacted my first impression. I understand that the show is essentially a Rebel Wilson vehicle, but the series is going to need to establish all of its main players if it wants to succeed. Plus, isn’t it supposed to be about a group of friends?

I personally think Super Fun Night would benefit from a more Party Down approach. Flesh out the characters and then drop them into different situations each week. The show could really have a good time playing with these introverted self-proclaimed nerdy characters. Especially when you think about all of the crazy people they could meet while out in New York City at night.

Right now Super Fun Night is trying to do too much, but that’s not really a unique problem for new a TV show. I imagine the comedy is still trying to feel out what works best, while also trying to figure out what it wants to be.

Selfishly I guess I just hope that it’s what I want it to be, which is a series about a couple of friends who remain true to their nerdy selves while also recording a few social victories on occasion.

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