My TV-Related New Year’s Resolutions

My TV-Related New Year’s Resolutions

TV programing is pretty year round these days, so for the most part, the start of the new year isn’t any more special than say September or June. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t jump on the new year’s resolution bandwagon and relate it to TV.

So here’s my couch potato plans for 2014:

1. Marathon Battlestar Galactica

There are several concluded series on my perpetually growing ‘Must Watch List’, but this one is currently available in its entirety on Comcast OnDemand, so now seems like a good time to give it a try. Plus football season is winding down and with only four seasons I think I can squeeze it into my schedule during the long and boring winter months.

2. Watch More Imported TV

I enjoyed the BBC’s dark crime series Luther and I really love Canada’s sci-fi series Orphan Black, so I’d like to explore some more foreign TV shows… maybe Top of the Lake since it’s available on Netflix. Home-grown entertainment saturates the United States so it would be nice to try something from somewhere else every now and then, even if its just from our neighbors to the north.


3. Enjoy The More Obscure Winter Olympic Events

The 2014 Winter Olympics kick off on February 6th and while media coverage will no doubt focus on sports like ice skating and snowboarding, I’d also like to watch the events that don’t typically enjoy TV time like women’s ice hockey, curling, and bobsled. Some of the new events like luge team relay and women’s ski jump will no doubt be events that I also seek out.


4. Watch Amazon Originals

While it’s unrealistic to assume that entities like Hulu or Amazon will have the same success as Netflix when it comes to original programming, it’s also a bit unfair to simply write everyone else off. I enjoyed some of Amazon’s original comedy pilots so I might as well follow up on a few of them. Betas was ordered to series and the first three episodes are available for free. The others are accessible through Amazon Prime, which is where a free trial comes in handy.


5. Be More Selective

I watch a lot of TV, and not all of its even that good. In the last year or so I’ve been trying to be pickier about what I watch and for how long. I used to be a bitter-ender but that isn’t always a good trait (see: Charmed and Smallville), so while I’m not resolving to watch less TV, I am resolving to choose quality and entertainment value over quantity.

So what’s your TV-related new year’s resolutions? Any shows you look forward to or plan to watch in 2014?

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Card Games, Board Games, & Drinking Games From TV

Card Games, Board Games, & Drinking Games From TV

true american new girl

Whether you’re celebrating the Holidays, stuck indoors due to the unpleasant wintery weather, or are just looking for a new activity for you and your friends, here’s a couple of games to play, all of which were invented by some of your favorite TV shows.

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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

Click To Enlarge

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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