November 10, 2008

I have high hopes for Joss Whedon‘s new series.

Despite being on Fox, the network that hunted down and destroyed Firefly (for which I’ll not easily forgive them), Joss has gone back to them with his new show – I like to think of it as Joe 90 meets Alias.

Eliza Dushku, Faith in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, gets to play a secret agent type whose mind is wiped after each mission. I always did say debriefings go so much better when you’re the sole survivor and frankly if you can remove even your own jaded history it’s that much smoother again.

But then came the news that Fox had decided it didn’t really like the pilot episode (oh-oh) and that a new one would be needed (deja vu all over again).

Finally we get to see a trailer:

and in true Fox tradition, they immediately announce the show will air not on the Monday night slot it originally promised (where people would actually see it) but on the Friday night Death to the Show we Don’t Understand slot.

The full list of DTTSWDU precedents is found here:

The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (1993)
MANTIS (1994)
Strange Luck (1995)
VR.5 (1995)
Sliders (1996)
Millennium (1996)
The Visitor (1997)
Harsh Realm (1999)
Freakylinks (2000)
Dark Angel (2000)
The Lone Gunmen (2001)
John Doe (2003)
Firefly (2003) (hattip: Ain’t It Cool).

In fact, the only show to do well in that slot was the X-Files and that was a hundred years ago.

So, good luck to you Joss. I’ll watch the show. I might even love the show. But I won’t expect to see a second series and I imagine I’ll be watching most of it on DVD.

Television does the internet

November 18, 2007

I’ve long been an advocate for distributing TV over the internet. There are those that say there’s already a perfectly good medium for TV, it’s called “television”, and there’s no need to bother with this pesky new medium.

They’re morons and we should not bother ourselves with them any longer.

OK, that’s a bit harsh. What they’re talking about (as far as I can tell) is that watching TV on a computer is not a good experience and I’ll agree to that. They also seem to be people who, for the most part, don’t actually watch TV so they don’t see the point to downloading TV shows online.

That’s cool – it would be boring if we were all the same. But I do like TV. I spend a lot of time with my TV and I don’t like watching TV on my computer (small screen, annoying chair) either. So I don’t. I burn it to disk/download it to a thumbdrive/ wireless connect it to the back of my big screen plasma TV (well, I would if I had one).

The point about TV on the internet is not that I can watch it on a poky screen, it’s that I can watch any episode of any given TV show whenever I fell like it, rather than waiting for a TV network I can pick up to air it. With ads. And with edits. When it suits them. Y’know, later.

Case in point, TVNZ‘s decision to break The Sopranos with four episodes of the penultimate series left to screen. Why? Who cares. I don’t, and I wasn’t alone in being outraged by this. So I voted with my mouse and watched them online.

A word about watching TV online – it used to be tricky with all those P2P file sharing apps to download and torrents to seed and so on. Not any more. First, who can be bothered and second, the ISPs are all busy blocking/shaping/throttling the ports that P2P run on.

Joox, on the other hand, does not use different software. It’s a highly illegal website that simply points visitors to illegally downloaded TV and movies. This is bad.

It’s also good, because it means I can simply stream the show I want, save it as a DIVX file and watch it with any free DIVX player I like. Because it’s just a website, it transmits data back and forth over the usual ports so suspicious ISPs can’t do much about it.

I have downloaded and watched the latest series of Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica, and will no doubt get the new Bionic Woman (just for old time’s sake), Life on Mars series two (why wait) as well as The Professionals and The Sweeney (I was too young to watch it first time round). I’d do the same with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series if I could find it and, here’s the catch, I’d pay for it as well because frankly I think all these shows are worth watching and keeping and I can’t be arsed waiting for TVNZ or Prime or TV3 to get its act together, realise the AC Neilsen set-top box system of ratings for viewership numbers is fatally flawed and start branching out beyond games shows/cooking shows/reality shows/”blockbuster movies” we all saw years ago and the news.

Today I see this story in the New York Times and thought, “Almost, but no. Still getting it wrong.”

I don’t want to watch a show in eight minute segments on my PC via MySpace. I want to watch a full-length episode delivered to me by whatever means I want and watched from my over-stuffed recliner in the lounge.

Instead, I think the internet approach will work well for two extremes – shows like Top Gear which have a worldwide following and shows like Firefly which didn’t gel with the network.

Top Gear has around half a billion viewers worldwide. If everyone one paid a dollar an episode … well, let’s just say Clarkson could buy the Isle of Man and possible the Isle of Dogs as well and turn them both into his own personal race tracks.

Top Gear is an established brand that would not only survive but, I think, flourish in an online-only world.

The other end of the spectrum is Firefly, the show that Fox (bastards) cancelled after half a series because they didn’t get it. Joss Whedon went on to make a movie instead of season two but frankly I’d rather he’d gone online and made the shows to air via the ether. I’d have paid, and so would enough people (I believe) to have made it worthwhile. I’d even have bought the DVDs as well, because there’s something visceral about holding an entire series in your hands.

So, early days yet, but one thing’s for sure: the network’s hold over the viewer has gone the way of the dinosaur (much like the video shop). However, just like the dinosaur (and the video shop) network TV stumbles on, convinced it’s still alive and vital and completely oblivious to the fact that its head has been cut off.

Joss Whedon

November 1, 2007

For those that don’t know, Joss Whedon (not Joe Sweden but that’s also a cool name) is the writer/producer/thinker upper behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and my all-time favourite show-that-should-have-been Firefly.

Firefly is a hard one to explain to folk who’ve never seen it. To really appreciate the full pathos of the decision to cancel Firefly after only one season you have to really be a Buffy fan. Buffy fans know that the first season of Buffy was OK. The second season was better by far and that used up all the available storylines associated with the original pitch and the writers had to say “OK, what happens next” and that’s when the magic really started. Because they can write, and they care and they can make you laugh and make you really get angry with them and shake the TV set like a dog.


So anyone who knew that, and knew that season three of Buffy ROCKED and that season four was well cool and season five owned the world and that six and seven were fabulous and that the last episode was exactly right, knew that once the initial storyline of Firefly (psycho girl in box wakes up, kicks people a lot, re-writes history) was all done, we’d get on to the really cool stuff. The stuff they didn’t think too much about in the early episodes. Where does Book come from? What is that thing that looks like a suicide kit but isn’t that Inara takes out at one point. Will Wash ever knock up Zoe and how will she cope with that.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Sorry… slipped into an alternate universe there for a moment (or is it… Firefly is the spiritual successor to Blade Runner: discuss).

Instead we got ripped off. Totally. Damn you Fox, if you’re not already doomed.

There is good news though – Whedon has signed on to write/direct/produce/think up stuff for a new TV show: Dollhouse. Here’s a link to the interview. Fox, don’t fuck this one up, OK? Or we’ll come round and whup you upside the head with a cluestick.