Retired from All Guides

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 If anyone is interested in editing them, they are listed in my profile. I only had enough time to enter data once on this site. Each new CBS upgrade demands re-doing tons of data. And I never QUITE got over CBS deleting "MovieTome" without any warning, flushing over 400 old movie reviews I wrote down the drain (after a year, I've only managed to re-write about 250 of them). So long all.

Saying Goodbye to Blogs and Social Stuff

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 I've lately had problems with my home internet that are just not getting solved and, frankly, I just have much more important issues to attend to. Sorry, I just use TV.com to talk about TV, movies, and entertainment, I don't use it to talk about my life. I enjoy the web, and like hearing about other's lives, but it's not my bag. I've always had mixed feelings about blogs, to me, too many use them as statements of individuality like they are a center of internet attention, and I've often thought they take away from a site focus on well-written and interesting information on television history. I've also been frustrated that people will talk about anything unrelated to TV on blogs but I haven't run across one good discussion of TV episodes on the forums - ever. I actually came here to talk about television. I haven't retired from any editorships. One thing is true, being a good editor at TV.com means really monitoring this site (as well as the rest of the internet, newspapers, TV listings, and books on television over 50 years), and I've done a lot of that leg work already. In the past, I've always continued to dig through archives to add small things to older programs and I'll do less of that. Possessing editorships and levels means nothing to me whatsoever. I just like detailed and well-written sources of information, the trapppings of any website be hanged. The reason I wouldn't retire from guides that are as finished as I can get them is the acquisitive nature of TV.com means someone else (level hounds and guide collectors) may want some goofy "standing" here and wreck what it took me a long time to do (most of the guides I edit I built from nothing). Sadly, TV.com seems to care less about the written word, a real shame for those programs that will never exist on DVD and will gradually fade from the public's mind over the years. TV.com has now turned into a site I don't want to read anymore, and while I realize only a small portion of internet visitors want to read information on TV long-gone, there is no reason for me to be socially active on a site that promotes videos and inane forum conversation. I would say that I won't return to the site in the manner that I was using it, mostly I want to get my guides in the best shape possible. If I see people more rarely (I'll still post in forums), a fond goodbye to all you who have made it fun for me over time. I appreciated it. :)

TV That's Good for You

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 Even in the poor economy, PBS is still making (or broadcasting) some good programs, a lot of "American Masters" and "American Experience" programs are coming up, "NOVA" is still good, and "Great Performances" seems to be offering a wider variety of topics the last few years. "Nature" has become more relevent and more genres are included in what used to be called "Masterpiece Theater". Just this month, I've watched some good shows; "Make 'Em Laugh" - a program on the growth of comedy in the US in the last century; and "The Story of India" - a really competent overview of the entire history of a very complicated region with parallels to what is happening in India today. Another two hour special, "Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood" is an informative documentary of the flight of some of the 1920s and 30s best movie-makers from Germany. So far, none are added to TV.com...I wish some staff would make the rounds and punch 'em in (apparently CBS has signed some agreements for internet re-broadcast with PBS). As it is now, it can be tedious to submit them and wait. But then again, lots of good PBS series have never been added here ("Liberty! The Story of the American Revolution", "Vietnam: A Television History", "Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery", etc. etc.). On the other hand, we do have the internet broadcasts of "Novel Adventures". ;)

The Viewers Have Spoken

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 I rarely look at the TV.com "top" lists, but recently I ran across the TV.com Highest Ranked (All Genres) List HERE (link). Aside from my usual complaints that this site skews really young with a powerful bias to recent shows and cartoons/animes, some other things strike me as weird. Of all the TGIF programs, "Boy Meets World" places 17 overall but no other 90s TGIF programs make the list. Was it that much better? "Married With Children" ranks high, but I'll leave that alone. :) I'm also surprised that "The Real McCoys" makes the list at 73, I enjoyed it but on a list that leaves out a lot of comedies from the 50s-70s, I wonder why. Other oddities include "The Lucy Show" - pleasant enough but mostly a vehicle for guest stars for much of its run (especially after Lucy and Mooney moved to California). There is no zany "Beverly Hillbillies", weird "Munsters", satirical "Get Smart" - but "Mr. Ed" comes in at 51. Good grief. ;) Maybe strangest of all on a list that leaves out "Star Trek", "The Fugitive", and "Mission: Impossible" is the Nielsen-bombing and slow-moving Earl Hamner/Lorimar "Apple's Way" at 89. Who remembers this series as top-rated TV?

The Year at TV.com (2008)

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 I thought I'd do a second annual TV.com "year in review" - lots of stuff has happened on the site since the odometer rolled over from 2007 - and...well...I did one last year. :) 1. The Ban Hammer Following lots of trouble with spam blogs and threads in anime forums veering into thousands of posts of nonsense and subsequent bannings of users, danmod himself started a thread in the "Avatar: The Last Airbender" Forum inviting anyone who had a problem to speak up. Thousands of posts later, the furor died down and the problem seems to have lessened. Ironically, the "instant message" feature of the new TV.com hompage seems to invite just as much spam with thoughtful postings like "yes", "sucks", or "the new TV.com blows". ;) 2. 2008's Level Snafu Earlier in the year, developers added a half-baked new calculation formula that caused lower level users to leap multiple levels in one day simply by making a few forum posts. Higher level users got much smaller "automatic increases" and a great cry was heard across the land. It was fixed within a week but the odd numbers couldn't be removed. Strangely, despite the September "redesign" - the level system was fairly stable in 2008, only going south again this last week and a half of the old year. 3. The New Look aka "We Asked For It" Obviously, this was the biggie and one that bothered me less than most of the vocal users. I never thought CBS would pay millions and millions for CNET just to keep everything the same but other people disagree. Objections fall into about four camps - those that think old bugs should have been fixed first (unrealistic to my mind, CBS wants to see something faster than that - and they paid the money), those that have trouble reading the site (I guess I can agree there, while it's OK to my almost 48 year old bifocaled eyes, others seem much more bothered), the changes to blog structure (less blogs visible, fewer "creative" options in blogs, etc.), and those that hate change or large corporations in general. Whatever I think about any of the changes, I really am disappointed in those who are calling the community managers names for not responding to every feedback post personally or just go off on "staff" in general. These folk are not high on the CNET foodchain and presumably chose to keep their jobs and make the best of introducing the changes. Sure - dan, Jaxie, and nilla could take on top management at CBS/CNET - but it would only end up in them being canned. They don't even supervise the website developers, much less CNET department directors and CBS Vice Presidents.. What did bother me about the whole affair was that new database bugs were introduced, I find that technically pretty inexcusable as re-skinning a site or adding new media fields shouldn't have any impact on already existing functions. I never could understand why beta testing isn't done on TV.com, but this was true before September. If I have a criticism of community staff - it's with the language they use to first announce changes, i.e the "we listened and responded" lines that are pretty ludicrous. 4. The Ghost Town It's easy to see the falling numbers of site visitors to TV.com by looking at data from Alexa.com. These numbers are interesting but the nose dive had begun before the redesign. The numbers for imdb and TV viewing stats in general have suffered identical decreases. Frankly, the Presidential election in the US and the nosediving economy are probably big factors. Even 1,000 long-time users leaving in one week and never coming back wouldn't explain the decline in site visitors that has been happening since March 2008. Probably all these things are in play, and there is no doubt that the site is really dead these last few months. I wonder if Mad_Buck will ever return to deride watchers of "Buffy" and "Charmed" or those who name actors in "Lost" as "all-time greats"? ;) 5. New Horizons Despite all the negative reactions to TV.com lately, it is kind of interesting to see the site venture into new and uncharted waters. It might not work, but it sort of fits the theme of the new year. Have a good one, all. :)

Nine Hours of Silent Movies

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 Since I love movies and I love history, I thought I would revisit three silent screen blockbusters from the 1910s, watching them back-to-back to get a sense of comparison. While people dismiss silent movies, they are such a different genre that they deserve to be seen as representing something unique. The list of "big spectacles" included the obvious - Pastrone's 1914 Italian classic "Cabiria" and D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" and "Intolerance". It took a long weekend to do it, these movies are all three hours in length. [size=11]"Cabiria" (1914) A fascinating movie, supposedly the first great blockbuster and an influence on Griffith's work. Grand sets and lots of extras are certainly apparent, some of the sets are highly stylized. The special effects miniatures of the volcano Etna are quite good. What is not quite there in this movie is the storytelling technique itself. The Roman patrician and his muscular slave perform rescues and dering-do much in the style of Victorian theater - hugely melodramatic tales of tragedy averted and often stacked one on top of the other like a serial. Pastrone also reveals WAY too much in his title cards, the audience often waits to see if the scene is going to be as exciting as what is written. The actors don't make characters here, the tale of Rome and Carthage gets no personalization. Still, a grand and important film in the evolution of narrative movies. "Birth of a Nation" (1915) It's really hard to separate the message from the film here, the racist images ARE all over the second half of this movie, the idea of believing the idea of the Ku Klux Klan as white knights of justice riding to the rescue was pretty hard for even many 1915 audiences to accept. But as a movie it works where few had before and many haven't since. Griffith expertly uses narrative device, supplying great Civil War battlefield scenes and little clues to upcoming conflict (I really like the little interlude where a cat is dropped on a puppy early in the film). Contrasting with earlier movies, the characters have real meaning, more complicated motivations, and integrate into the story. The storyline would work on many levels if not for the unfortunate use of races of people to represent good and evil. And that's a big deal. Still, I find it one of the best films made in the silent era and would recommend watching it just to see the cinematography and technique. "Intolerance" (1916) The film features all of D.W. Griffith's pioneering trademarks, moving cameras, big sets, intercutting, surprising little vignettes (again, some with animals), and in many ways, Griffith has better mastered how long an audience is willing to stay with a scene in a silent context - not overstaying his welcome so much as in "Birth of a Nation". Even in cases where the director clobbers the viewer over the head with his message of human vanity and hypocrisy - though not always "intolerance". The actors' excellent use of eye expressions neatly tie together the "sameness" of human actions throughout history, as does the lonely rocking of the child to represent the passing of generations. In many ways, Griffith's increased facility is thrown away as the story here is too big for the format. As questionable as "Birth of a Nation" is, it is more coherent and doesn't veer out of focus. EVERYONE here is a paradigm, a symbol - there is much less to grab onto in the sense of characterization. It lends an ethereal academic sense to it all that is not as tightly integrated as it needs to be. Though the modern story of social reform was first planned and shot to be it's own film, the story of Babylon is the most amazing, both in the stupendous sets and the refreshingly feminist actions of the "mountain girl". Fans of exciting intercuts and fast-paced chase scenes should not miss the conclusion here, but while innovative, it remains unclear why the modern story is the only one of ultimate justice, leaving the viewer wondering how coherent the director's definition of intolerance really is.[/size]

Commercial Arts

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 Although there have always been funny TV commercials, the United States has often lagged behind other countries in really pulling out all the stops. In the 60s and 70s, advertisers were deliberately taught not to use humor because it was thought that TV watchers remembered the funny parts and forgot the name of the products. "Rosie" could hawk paper towels and "Madge" could talk about dishwashing detergent, but only if they repeated the same catch-phrase over and over. Alka Seltzer and Tidy Bowl, etc. bucked the trends but thanks to the Super Bowl and more refined focus groups - the US has had some marginally more interesting commercials in the last 20 years. One internet phenomenon appears to be "Flo", the dark-haired and perky woman who sells insurance for Progressive.com and is wearing a pound of cherry red lipstick. Actress/comedienne Stephanie Courtney appears to really work perfectly and is accomplished enough to pull off a unique personality type. It seems like the public is split - really loving or really hating her - but it's kind of amusing to see the number of guys on YouTube who are physically attracted to the quirky character. ;) AN EXAMPLE OF "FLO" More effort seems to go into scripting a persona for her than was put into "Mrs. Oleson", "Mr. Whipple", or "Mrs. Butterworth", though I still wouldn't look for these commercials to win any international awards.

The Ghosts of Hollywood

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 For some reason, I've finally entered over 100 reviews at Movietome - I sometimes don't know why other than I like reviewing and find hunting around reviews on TV.com and Movietome as informative as looking at guides. Oddly, the site is so dead that forum posts at Movietome average one or two every two weeks, but someone at CBS/CNET still updates the site with new movies and clips on a fairly regular basis. Since I like old movies, most of my reviews attract no attention, I also seem to be one of the few that writes a few paragraphs rather than, "this movie rules (sucks)". I am somehow a little happy that my scathing review of "The Dark Knight", while actually consisting of sentences and paragraphs, has gotten lots of "thumbs down." ;)

Video Killed the Radio Star

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 More and more videos are invading TV.com - in this case an odd mix of Hulu clips and episodes and the new HD videos (that are coincidentally all CBS programs). Unfortunately, at least for now, the program guides took a hit as it's now impossible to navigate to seasons using List View and unallocated "other" episodes are floating in the data netherworld. The site is so empty of regular users that only a few posts make mention of it right now. On a slightly hopeful note, I think the season navigation will be restored, though who knows when. I have a theory that TV.com will gradually morph into an internet video site with user comments becoming the major visitor input in the coming years - de-emphasizing the written word and the database. I don't think it will happen overnight, but that's the trend I see. As a fan of old TV that will never be released again and TV that is just not that popular with 20 year olds, I'm not really wild about it. But that seems to be where the money is. There is no doubt that TV.com has lost a lot of regular users, but I think the new strategy is to go in an entirely new direction and reach entirely different people.

Is Ken Burns Losing His Touch?

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 This weekend, I watched Ken Burns' "The War" for the second time. I liked his idea of using people who served to tell many of the stories (and most of these people are well into their 80s) but for a topic as deep as World War II, I found it a little empty. BTW, speaking of empty, the TV.com guide for "The War" is sadly missing any crew credits, notes, trivia etc. ;) I sometimes feel that by abandoning historians and authors, Burns loses a lot of the power of historical conjecture and analysis necessary for his topics. I liked "Jazz", thought "Baseball" was OK - but "The Civil War" remains his most powerful mix of fact, opinion, and personal story for me. I wonder if he is helped by topics that are illustrated soley on writings and still pictures. His next project is 2009's "National Parks: America's Best Idea". Lately, I enjoy the work of Ken's brother Ric Burns more.