I still have faint memories from around age six of the day we first got cable. Mostly because I refused to go outside, watching every game show I could that afternoon on USA network, to the point where I got my television privileges removed for a week.
For about thirty years, I’ve had fairly consistent access to cable TV, even though I tend to not binge watch much of anything, and the onslaught of technological advancements over the last decade (everything from iTunes selling TV shows to streaming solutions like Netflix) have made it easier and easier to just not utilize it.
Three months ago, triggered by the sweet combination of “needing to get rid of the phone line we never use” and “Comcast jerking us around about previous item”, we decided to cut the cable, and try and make due with just streaming solutions. Front and center in this plan was Playstation Vue, Sony’s internet television service. (We already had heavily used Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime accounts.)
Three months later, I have no regrets, and only minor quibbles.
The AV Club decided to use their Top Gear U.S. review to make a compelling argument as to why the UK version works, and why the US one is unlikely to reach the same level.
My favorite part, though, is this aside from Jeremy Clarkson:
>In a recent 60 Minutes segment, Clarkson confided that he and his mates just take it for granted that one of them will eventually be killed while filming something for the show, but they’ve talked about it and agreed not to make a big deal about it on the air.
I have become a huge fan of Pendelton Ward’s amazing animated series “Adventure Time”. Beautifully animated, slightly off-kilter, and always funny – a trifecta of television for me. 8PM Monday nights on Cartoon Network; also available on iTunes.
One of the side reasons I love Adventure Time: Fred Seibert has been uploading practically every scrap of production art from Adventure Time to his Flickr account. Character sheets, backgrounds, animatics, advertising materials, title cards, staff photos, props, even random bits of story notes. It’s tagged, organized, and available under a Creative Commons license.
You should really plow through everything there – it’s fascinating to see this much material available as a show is being created. Here’s some of my favorites:
The truth is, I don’t actually watch a lot of TV. I can’t remember a time that I did, at least not after college started. The list of shows that pull my full attention can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.
Paul Cornell, who was responsible for the fantastic “Human Nature” / “Family Of Blood” episodes of Doctor Who, has penned a lovely little Who-related short story for the Holidays, titled “The Last Doctor”:
The old man stood on the hill and looked up at the night sky. He’d been right to climb up here, despite how it had hurt his knees and back.
There were no stars.
There were no clouds. He knew where stars should remain. He knew by his learning and in his bones. Those stars were gone. They had been the last.
He’d known this was likely. But he was still frightened.
Reading it reminded me of the lovely treasure trove of historical Doctor Who documents the BBC released late last year, including this section from the 1963 background notes:
>A frail old man lost in space and time. They give him this name because they don’t know who he is. He seems not to remember where he has come from; he is suspicious and capable of sudden malignance; he seems to have some undefined enemy; he is searching for something as well as fleeing from something. He has a “machine” which enables them to travel together through time, through space, and through matter.
Earlier Monday, NBC Entertainment cochief Ben Silverman told E! News anchor Ryan Seacrest that the network was “obviously trying to find a solution to satisfy fans of these great movies and all the incredible stars who have worked so hard all year and got this incredible opportunity.
Sadly, it feels like the nerdiest, ugliest, meanest kids in the high school are trying to cancel the prom. But NBC wants to try to keep that prom alive.“
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so stupid said about an awards show. Keep raising that bar, NBC!
I hold three museum memberships within the city; the one I hold most dearly is my membership to the Paley Center for Media, formerly the Museum of Television and Radio. They just announced their fall schedule, and the events are worth looking at.
(Ticket prices are listed with member prices first, and non-member prices second. Ticket on-sale dates differ depending on a few factors, so check the website if you’re interested.)
Media as News & Views
Includes three seminars: Beyond the Anchor Desk: The Rise of Citizen Journalism , Extraordinary Work: A Conversation with the IWMF Courage in Journalism Honorees, and Truth and the Iraq War: Frank Rich Converses with Television Journalists. Notable panelists and guests include Andrea Mitchell and Dan Rather. Series is $35/60, individual events are $15/25. [link]
Media as Entertainment 1
Includes four seminars: An Evening with Mary Tyler Moore, An Evening with Glenn Close, An Evening with Angela Lansbury, and An Evening with Kyra Sedgwick and The Closer. I don’t think I need to tell you who the guests are. Series is $85/100, individual tickets are $25/35. [link]
Media as Entertainment 2
Includes three seminars: Upright Citizens Brigade, Fun Facts, Top Tens, and Stupid Humans: The Writers of Late Show with David Letterman, and Scrubs: The Farewell Tour. Guests include all four members of the UCB and seemingly all major cast members of Scrubs. Tickets are a steal: $35/60 for series, $15/25 individual. [link]
This year’s docfest includes some notables: To Die In Jerusalem, Larry Flynt: The Right to be Left Alone (Larry Flynt appearing for Q&A), and Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, where Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are scheduled to attend the event. Many ticket configurations are available, so check the site. [link]
(Yeah, I don’t live in LA, but I always get jealous at their festival schedule.)
Two events: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna & Pablo Cruz on Cinema, Politics, and Mexico’s New World View, and Raising Cane: Behind the Scenes. Prices are $25/43 for the series, or $15/25 individually. [link]
Media as Entertainment 1
The most mainstream of the four Entertainment schedules: Two and a Half Men: 100th Episode Celebration , American Masters Premiere: Carol Burnett, Inside the Creative Process: Tom Selleck on Jesse Stone, and ER Celebrates the Big 300!. Series is $50/85, individual tickets are $15/25. [link]
Media as Entertainment 2
Here comes my jealousy: Inside Robot Chicken (Seth and Matt and others to appear), Lovin’ Las Vegas, A Night in Hell’s Kitchen (Gordon Ramsay appearing), and the duality of Scrubs: The Farewell Tour. Series for $50/85, individuals for $15/25. [link]
The Subject Is Media
Just two, and not what I had anticipated: Smoke and Sympathy: A Toast to Mad Men, and Back in Circulation: A Lou Grant Reunion. Can’t go wrong with Ed Asner. $25/43 for both, or $15/25 individually. [link]
It’s been a long time since I’ve been interested in something MTV is doing, but here we are.
Aziz [let the world know](http://azizisbored.com/2007_05_01_azizisbored_archive.html#3307280048934096074) a few days ago:
> Last week, MTV told us we could get 24 hours on MTV and MTV2 to do whatever we want. So this Friday at noon – we’ll take over both channels for a full day and will host live from MTV’s Times Square studio. They’re literally letting us do whatever we want – we can program whatever shows we want, have guests, bands, music videos, anything! We just have to stay up for 24 hours and get a million hits on our website.
It is, perhaps, the smartest movie MTV has made in ages. Someone deserves a raise for taking the chance on programming rather than airing another day of *My Super Sweet 16* meta-shows.
For whatever it’s worth, I am scheduled to be in the audience from 5AM Saturday morning through the end of the ordeal. That’s right, I am getting up at 3 AM so I can go sit in the MTV studio for seven hours.
If you’re up tomorrow morning, tune into MTV. Watch me squirm uncomfortably live on cable!
Otherwise, there are clips up on the [MTV Human Giant site](http://humangiant.mtv.com/).
I have found a new television show to love. And like many television shows I love, it is nearly impossible to watch in the US.
The show in question is **QI**, or *Quite Interesting*. And the structure for it is indeed quite interesting – to quote the official site:
> Quite Interesting – or ‘QI’ to its friends – could loosely be described as a comedy panel quiz. However, none of the stellar line-up of comedians is expected to be able to answer any questions, and if anyone ends up with a positive score, they can be very happy with their performance. Points are awarded for being interesting or funny (and, very occasionally, right) but points are deducted for answers which merely repeat common misconceptions and urban myth. It’s okay to be wrong, but don’t be obviously, boringly wrong. In this way, QI tries to rid the world of the flotsam of nonsense and old wives’ tales that can build up in your mind. QI not only makes us look more closely at things, it encourages us to question all the received wisdom we have carried with us since childhood. Think of the program as a humorous cranial de-scaler.
QI features a panel of four comedians, the likes of which have included Hugh Laurie, Jimmy Carr, Clive Anderson, and Peter Serafinowicz among others. The show is hosted by the sublime Stephen Fry, and permanently installed guest Alan Davies plays the “intellectual counterpoint”, as it were.
In many ways, the show resembles long-form improv comedy. The panel starts with a question relevant to the season they’re in (more on this later), and the show drifts gently in whichever direction the conversation flows. Occasionally Mr. Fry must bring the show back into focus with another themed question, but it seems that by the end of the show, things have a habit of wrapping back into themselves. Which is undoubtedly the whole point of the show: to tease out the connections between things, to find the unintended comedy in what we’ve been indoctrinated over the years.
Regarding the seasons: rather than numbering the seasons of QI, they are lettered, and the major questions in each episode all deal with subjects that start with that letter. QI is the intellectual equivalent of Sufjan Steven’s [Fifty States Project](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufjan_Stevens#The_Fifty_States_Project). Of course, with Sufjan only two albums in, and QI starting to tape the E season, Mr. Stevens will have some catching up to do.
I suppose it’s not just the show that’s drawing me in, either. No, QI is a large intellectual enterprise – what with [the show](http://qi.com/tv/), [the book](http://qi.com/book/), [the DVD](http://qi.com/tv/dvd/), [the club in Oxford](http://qi.com/building/), [the vodka bar](http://qi.com/building/vodka-bar.php), [the forums](http://qi.com/talk/), and the very pleasant [syndicated feed](http://www.qi.com/feeds/nug_quote.php) with a daily fact and quote. Endless avenues of fulfillment await.
Some in the audience may be rolling their eyes, thinking “there goes Dan with another show no one watches again”. It’s worth noting that the best selling book on Amazon UK in the last quarter of 2006 was the QI book, and that the show outperforms the typical BBC average ratings by over 600%. It is, seemingly, wildly popular.
Ratings and global media empires aside, the one thing that sold me on QI more than anything else was [their philosophy](http://www.qi.com/about/philosophy.php), which I’d like to quote a few portions of before linking to a video:
> …The world brims and bulges with interesting information, but these days it rarely reaches us. A preference for the quick fix on the part of both consumer and corporation offers increasingly materialist, visceral satisfaction. We want it easy and cheap and we want it now. Fashion, celebrity, pornography, lottery. The culture is withered and lame, flashy and shallow. They’re just not interesting…
> …Whatever is interesting we are interested in. Whatever is not interesting, we are even more interested in. Everything is interesting if looked at in the right way. At one extreme, QI is serious, intensely scientific, deeply mystical; at the other it is hilarious, silly and frothy enough to please the most indolent couch-potato…
> …And this is the point of QI: it is worthwhile. It is ‘autotelic’ – worth doing for its own sake. And it echoes the venerable mission statement of Lord Reith’s BBC: to educate, inform and entertain…
Below is a clip of one of the episodes from YouTube; it begins with a discussion of Barbara Streisand’s moustache, and proceeds as one would expect.
QI has enough appeal that it spurred my first and only order from Amazon UK over this past weekend. I hope that you, too, will find it quite interesting.
* [BBC’s QI Homepage](http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/qi/)
* [The Official QI Homepage](http://www.qi.com/)
* [QI Transcripts](http://www.qitranscripts.com/)
* [YouTube videos matching ‘qi’](http://youtube.com/results?search_query=qi)
* [Wikipedia article on the show](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QI)
Struggling with the dark and responding to the light.