OK, instead of Phillies vs Yankees World Series, it’s Giants vs Rangers. As disappointing as that is, at least I am not missing anything I care about due to the Cablevision/FOX dispute. I suspect World Series ratings will take a big hit in markets other than Northern Cal and Dallas-Ft Worth area. Which may temper FOX’s demands a bit. Or not.
For the third time in about a year, Cablevision is in a dispute with a content provider that prevents us from watching channels that we like. First, it was HGTV and The Food Channel (no big problem for me, much bigger problem for Natasha) – “blackout” lasted for about a month and was eventually lifted. Then, ABC (I rarely watch it, but Becky happens to like Wheel of Fortune) – the channel was off for only a couple of days, and came back on just as the first Oscar was awarded.
Now, it’s FOX. I can probably survive without NFL broadcasts (after all, NY Jets are mostly on CBS, and the games are spread across several channels), but the World Series, starting in a week, are exclusively on FOX. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I expect the dispute to be resolved just in time for the first pitch, but if the Yankees make it and the blackout is still on, I need to get me an air antenna.
More annoyingly, most of our current TV show favorites – House, Bones, Lie to Me, etc, – are FOX 5 shows. Our current schedule does not allow us watch them when they are first broadcast. We record them to DVR and watch them when time permits. I no longer own a VCR to record TV from an antenna.
In fact, all of the FOX shows are available online for free a week after they first air. So, in truth, we can figure out a way to stay current on our favorite series. (Whether we will without the aid of the DVR “recorded list” is another question.)
And this is what bugs me. At the heart of the dispute, apparently, are News Corp’s demands for increase in fees Cablevision would pay for the privilege of carrying the channel. Why are there fees to start with? The content is freely available over air and then online. Why are cable companies – and their customers, who obviously are being passed the cost onto, – required to pay separate fees for the content of a broadcast company?
Kinda makes me appreciate the TV license concept. Main broadcast channels cannot be off air…
I finished Kimmy’s birthday movie with over a week to spare. Go me! It turned out pretty good, if I say so myself, but I’ll be sure to post here the raving reviews I’m certain to receive after its premiere this coming weekend.
Of course, I spent so much time focusing on that one project over the last three months, that a ton of other projects piled up behind it.
And as if I needed any more things to distract me, something really important and non-negotiable in nature sneaked up on me – The World Cup.
I recognize that most of my readers have little care for The Beautiful Game – feel free to skip the rest of this entry. I’ve been so neglectful a blogger recently that I deserve to be ignored when I finally find something I deem worth spending time on writing up.
Actually, it is a bit too early for any strong impressions of this Cup – 12 of the 32 teams are yet to take field for their opening games. I have to say that I am slightly disappointed by the quality of football that I’ve seen so far, but no major surprised have occurred, a few title favorites that have already played confirmed their claims, a few weaker teams were exposed as prime candidates for group stage elimination.
What I am mostly incredulous about is the quality of commentary and analysis on ESPN/ABC. I suppose I should not be complaining overall, with every single game available on prime channels live in magnificent HD. Furthermore, with British Sky network apparently not getting any broadcast rights for the Cup, ESPN/ABC hired several Sky commentators and talking heads to spice up the proceedings. I happened to like a number of those guys while I was a Sky subscriber.
Here in the States, they show immediate signs of degradation. Led by ESPN anchors who are all in love with the sound of their voice and can never condone asking a question that does not have several sub-questions and not take three time as long to ask as to answer, all of these commentators slide into meaningless platitudes, cliches and occasional sweeping over-dramatizations. They spend more time reminding the viewer of the upcoming coverage (ending each such reminder with the inane tagline: “Remember, one game changes everything!” – WTF?) than actually commentating. They try to sensationalize things as much as they can at the expense of the game analysis.
And what about those slo-mo close-ups of footballers’ grimacing faces every couple of minutes? Must be the next bright idea someone had about making football more appealing to an average American viewer: Inject emotions into the broadcast! Hey, this is not golf. You want to fill the pause in proceedings, show me a replay of the last key moment in the game, rather than what the broadcast director feels is the example of the players “feeling it”.
And the information graphics that comes up on the screen a la baseball stats is sometimes simply laughable. Every other fact is bound to be incorrect, from Holland listed as getting 4th place as their best result to-date (in fact, it was a runner-up not once but twice) to the names of clubs to which players belong misspelled or probably invented (how one misspells “Alaniya” to get “Kublan” for one Nigerian midfielder who plies his trade in Russia is beyond me).
It all looks so amateurish it is not even funny.
Reminds me of the Soviet TV coverage of the 1990 World Cup. Then, as one star player from each country would give a short immediate postgame interview, somebody in the TV hierarchy decided that it would be a grand idea to include those interviews in the broadcasts. The interviews were conducted in each player’s native language. For whatever reason, nobody cared to actually hire proper interpreters. Instead, the live sound stream would be sufficiently diminished to make the actual words coming out in Spanish, Italian, German, French, Portuguese, etc, practically indecipherable, overlaid with a bright young voice sounding as if it was translating.
One small problem. Football players have a habit of exchanging jerseys after completion of important matches. Hygienic considerations notwithstanding, a fair number of players would put the opponent’s jersey on when exiting the pitch – I suppose they want to keep their hands free for whatever reasons. So, an Uruguayan player puts on a jersey he obtained from his Italian opponent before coming on for his interview. Italy won 2-0. The behind-the-screen “interpreter” works off the sight of an Italian jersey and proceeds to talk about “elation”, “hard-won battles”, “scoring when we needed to”, “giving credit to the tough Uruguayan team”, etc… But anyone who’s just seen the game knows that the player in front of the camera is actually Uruguayan, and he is probably talking about “disappointment”, “missed chances”, “mistakes in defense”, “bad refereeing decisions”, “giving credit to the deserving Italians”… It was such a blatant attempt to deceive the viewers, exposed in such a simple but spectacular fashion. Every time I see an attempt at broadcast sophistication where incompetence is brightly shining through, I think back to that.
Just as with the Olympics, I have little choice in the matter. I want to watch – I’ll have to do my best to tolerate.
NBC pissed me off with their atrocious Olympics coverage. ABC then decided to get on my bad side by making me miss Oscars.
I was almost expecting the looping “important message from Cablevision” that blamed all ills on ABC throughout the day on Sunday to be replaced by live Oscar feed just in time for the ceremony. That the feed was restored about an hour into the broadcast partially mitigated my displeasure with both ABC and Cablevision (which, I’ve no doubt, was shared by the 3 million Cablevision subscribers residing in WABC-7 broadcast area), but it still does not excuse either company. The Dolan family, cheapskates extraodinaire, seem to have positioned me and other subscribers as potential hostages in any dispute with content providers (which, judging by the fact that this is the second time this year that a popular channel was taken off the air, may become a regular happenstance). In this particular case, the little I understand about TV content economics does suggest that ABC is more at fault; I can’t imagine why a local affiliate in one specific region of the country, who produces very little of original content beyond local news broadcasts, would be suddenly worth 20% more than before, especially since it is, in effect, a free channel. (And I do know several friends who bought themselves digital antennas to ensure that they could watch Oscars even if the dispute was not resolved in time.)
The outcome will undoubtedly be higher rates for my cable subscription. The Dolans will quote-unquote apologize and blame it on the greedy networks, but that hardly makes me any happier.
As it were, we missed only the opening part of the ceremony, which might have been one of its more entertaining parts. We seemingly did not miss any of the actual awards, joining in when the Best Supporting Actor – which, I believe, is traditionally one of the very first categories to be awarded – was up.
There were surprisingly few entertaining bits in the rest of the broadcast. Only one production number, with brilliant street dancing to the nominated Best Original Scores. No live performances of the nominated Best Songs, which must be the newest trend. Several presenter routines were clever (Ben Stiller, or Diaz and Carell), while quite a few people looked uncomfortable and camera-shy. I liked the recently adopted practice of giving each of the Best Actor/Actress nominees a personal panegyric by a co-star; some of those salutations were quite charming. The Martin/Baldwin duo, conversely, was not at all funny and looked out of place – I can barely recall a joke of theirs that I laughed at (ok, the Paranormal Activity spoof wasn’t half bad); overall, IMHO, they were a huge downgrade from Hugh Jackman’s performance last year.
A number of acceptance speeches for “lesser” awards was quite rudely cut off, which may have helped to move things forward (nonetheless, the broadcast lasted a bit over 4 hours), but also probably contributed to there being very few good ones – I think Sandra Bullock’s was the only one that managed to be both funny and heart-felt without sounding arrogant or patronizing; I can only recall a couple of others (the French guy who won the Best Animated Short, the winner for the Best Score) who stayed away from the tired formula of “I couldn’t imagine this X years ago – Look at me now! – Thank you the managers and the agents and the members of the crew [and James Cameron the Visionary]“.
The Hurt Locker looks like a great movie that I definitely want to see, but its haul of Oscars and especially its Best Picture award look to me a bit of a stretch. Ever since Shakespeare in Love won over Saving Private Ryan in ’98, the Academy has been trying to over-compensate in favor of the socially- or politically-profound movies, and this must have been the case of the voters being biased towards a current-events, touches-the-nerve story over a fantastic allegory. Still, I felt that a ground-breaking movie a decade in the making, and one that so effortlessly became the most widely seen movie in the entire history, was slam-dunk deserving of the Best Picture Oscar. Makes it even more of an anomaly that The Return of the King cleaned up in ’03.
Also, the Best Picture award provided a single exception that I noticed this year to the trend of the same people winning all awards during the season. Jeff Bridges won a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and an Oscar for his role. Sandra Bullock did likewise. So did Christoph Waltz. So did Mo’Nique. I can’t imagine that their performances are such stand-outs compared to those of their fellow nominees that different voting bodies would each agree. Only when it came to the best movie, did the Academy of Motion Pictures vote differently from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Weird.
In any case, Oscars always rekindle my interest in watching movies. That, and the sight of gorgeous women in beautiful gowns – hey, I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit that I enjoy that sight tremendously! – makes the Oscar night one of the most important TV nights in my viewing calendar. Good thing ABC and Cablevision came to their senses before it was too late.
A few weeks ago Natasha scored free tickets to participate in a taping of a UK food channel show “Market Kitchen”. She invited a couple of girlfriends and spent half a day in a studio listening to chef’s presentations and tasting their creations. She says it was a lot of fun.
Her TV appearance consisted of one two-second-long close-up plus dozens of fleeting moments where she could be prominently seen in the background. I finally got around to making a short clip of that.
I currently do not possess recording equipment to transfer a Sky+ program into portable digital format. Instead, I resorted to the incredibly inventive trick of positioning a camcorder in front of the TV. That – and my lack of willpower to go to extra lengths – accounts for the far from ideal sound.