Category Archives: dvr

Following Not So Much

I think this one is the last one. I might watch “The Following” a couple more times, but I doubt I’ll be writing about it. Even Fox has tired of hyping it as much as they had been. Ratings have slipped even though Fox insists they will catch up through other pathways like DVR and streaming to other devices.

There was a Marvel Comics event a few years back called “Secret Invasion.” The premise followed (pardon the pun) that shape-changing aliens had infiltrated the human race. These Skrull, as they were called, looked like us, they acted like us. Anyone could be a Skrull. No one could be trusted. After a while, it became cliche. Any bad plot element could be resolved by that person or persons being a Skrull. If you couldn’t trust anyone, you couldn’t care about anyone. Epic character writing fail.

That’s the problem here. Anyone could be a serial killer under Joe Carroll’s influence. The known serial killers are unlikable, and the known good guys, even Kevin Bacon, are unlikable or ineffective. Who to root for at this point? Only James Purefoy, as the main big bad, has any charisma, and we barely see him.

As I stated early in my reviews of this series, the story was better suited as a movie or mini-series with a clear ending. I suspect “The Following” will now have an ending similar to that of “Alcatraz” – eventual cancellation.

The Americans

FX has been hyping this new series for a while. Quite honestly I was getting tired of seeing ads for it during this past season of “Sons of Anarchy,” but I guess the saturation effect worked. I did DVR the pilot and I did watch it.

At first glance “The Americans” appears to be a Reagan era Cold War drama about Soviet sleeper agents, designed to cash in as some sort of hybrid of both “Mad Men” and “Homeland,” but it’s just a little bit more. As a survivor of the period, I can tell you the music is time correct, and I have to say the opening sequence using Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” is just short of amazing. Serious props to writer and creator Joe Weisberg and director Gavin O’Connor.

The problem is my interest plummeted after that opening sequence. The characters were not engaging, and neither was the acting. Maybe if they had stuck with the slick MTV vibe of the opening, or washed us more in the nostalgia of the 1980s, this could have been good…

Notably, it was nice to see Richard (John-Boy Walton) on TV again, but even his brief presence couldn’t save this. Of course there’s always the possibility that FX could retool or fix this, but it might be too little, too late.

Futureworld

Futureworld ~ I was just talking about Peter Fonda and this flick on this blog recently so when I saw Futureworld was on Encore Action, so I DVRed it. It’s been at least a serious three decades or so since I’ve last seen it. It’s nowhere near as good as I remembered it, and despite being a feature film, looks barely above television quality, bad for even a Samuel Z. Arkoff production. it does still have its merits though.

Futureworld is the 1976 sequel to the popular 1973 scifi thriller Westworld, and was followed a few years later by the very short-lived CBS TV series “Beyond Westworld,” which was even worse, as demonstrated by it only lasting five episodes.

In Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton, the Delos Corporation has created three ‘amusement parks’ – WestWorld, MedievalWorld, and RomanWorld – populated by lifelike androids where guests can indulge in any fantasy they can imagine in each park genre, including having sex with and/or killing the androids. A malfunction affecting all the robots makes them suddenly attack and kill all the guests, highlighted by the Gunslinger, as played by Yul Brynner, and terror ensues. So ends WestWorld.

In Futureworld, Delos seems to have recovered from this PR nightmare and gone back into business. Fonda and Blythe Danner are newspaper and television reporters invited to see what the new Delos is all about and make sure it’s safe. They elect to visit FutureWorld, one of the new parks that have been added. There is some great dialogue between the two regarding newspapers being dead, nice call from 1976.

Most frightening about the film is how much the parks resemble Disney in design and visuals, but I suppose that’s on purpose. On the down side the acting is abysmal and the sexism is humiliating. That the technicians must be gay or robots if they don’t succumb to Danner’s charms is one of the more pitiful bits. There’s also a painful conspiracy subplot about Delos replacing world leaders with robot doubles.

Yul Brynner as The Gunslinger does appear in footage from the first movie and in Danner’s bizarre dream sequence. Too bad he couldn’t be in more. As a true scifi movie villain, perhaps he could have dragged this flick up a few notches from its bad telemovie level.

The Nature of Spoilers

Since I’ve gotten my iPhone, with the miracles of streaming Netflix and HBO Go, I have been stripping entire TV series before I go to bed instead of reading myself to sleep. I have gotten to see some pretty cool programs, stuff like “Oz,” “Avatar the Last Airbender,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Big Love” and “Deadwood.” Great stuff, just amazing television. And also through apps like Miso and GetGlue, I’m able to let folks know what I’m watching.

My most recent project has been “Six Feet Under,” and a friend of mine saw I was watching it and offered his opinion that the first season was great (of which I’m only almost done), the second was only okay and that the third and fourth seasons jumped the shark. Now I know that “Six Feet Under” is more than a handful of years old, but it got me thinking about spoilers, and when is it safe to talk about something after it happens without spoiling it?

I would think that news and sports would have the absolute shortest shelf life. News travels at the speed of light nowadays with Twitter. Sports would be only as long as you can keep a secret I suppose. I have a friend, seriously not into sports, who used to make it a game to see how long he could go without knowing who was playing in the Super Bowl each year. He used to do quite well, but this was back in the days before the Super Bowl was about more than football. Now it’s more about middle-aged women exposing themselves or which ancient rocker was going to break a hip in stage this year.

In my tiny world of comic books, where the new titles come out on Wednesdays and most folks don’t buy them until Friday, mid-weekend seems to be safe harbor to talk without spoilers. For TV, even in the age of DVRs and OnDemand, it seems a good idea to avoid the water cooler and not speak until at least the next episode airs.

Movies are a little different and I think fall into my “Six Feet Under” problem. Everyone knows Rosebud is a sled, but how many folks know the calls are coming from inside the house, Deckard might be a replicant, and that Bruce Willis is really dead – or do they?

Should it just come down to a matter of courtesy? If you know someone hasn’t seen something, just be cool and don’t spoil it, or should there be a statute of limitations on entertainment? What are the rules for spoilers?

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At War with Comcast

Dear Comcast, recently you introduced your new Interactive Program Guide for cable television service in our area. Now if it were merely a matter of me not liking the aesthetics of it, or the readability, I can understand that I’m just be picky. Change happens, sometimes not for the better. And just for the record, the aesthetics and the readability suck, in my far less than humble opinion.

Functionality may be where the problem(s) lie. But let’s talk positive first. The Program Guide can now DVR programs more than a week into the future. Closed captioning is now available on our HD television and it was not before. These are both good things, and I thank you and praise you.

As I implied earlier, the Guide is extremely difficult to navigate, and the website and instructional videos are really not much help if I’m being honest. The sleep timer is gone, so no more watching TV ’til I fall asleep. And it takes four steps to DVR something now where it used to take two. After a few days, by hit and miss, I got the gist of how things worked. But things began to go downhill, and out of my control, very quickly.

The DVR began to only record just a few minutes of a program the first night the Guide was installed. The first attack took out three programs recorded in one hour – one one hour show and two half-hour shows back to back at the same time. It did it to those same shows the next week. In the week between various programs suffered the same fate.

And then there were the other ‘fun’ things that occurred since the Program Guide was installed. On Demand has been intermittently working. Occasionally some channels would say that we’re not authorized to watch them. For instance, we would get the same message for The Cooking Channel, Cartoon Network and G4 that we get for a pay channel like Cinemax that we do not subscribe to.

I did not sit and take this by the way. I am a complete evil bastard when it comes to talking with customer service. However, since The Bride used to work for Comcast, I tried my damnedest to be polite and calm, just in case I was speaking to someone we/she knew or used to work with. Just for the record, since June 7th, I have logged fourteen total calls to Comcast for various problems.

Sunday night, the shit hit the fan, as they say. The season finales of “Game of Thrones” and “The Killing” did not record at all. There were other programs that didn’t record or only recorded a few minutes of that night, but those two hurt me. When I tried to calm down, and watch them OnDemand, my blood pressure shot into the sky. OnDemand wasn’t working either.

I was on the phone to Comcast immediately. I had had enough of this crap. Through gritted teeth I carefully explained the problems to the customer service representative, and a technician visit was planned for the next day. This was last Tuesday. Long story short, Comcast sent a guy who looked like a Russian mobster from “The Sopranos,” with a very thick (almost to the point of hysteria) accent to match, to my house to change out the cable boxes. I was told, and after he said it several times I understood, that the problem was fixed.

That night, and the next three nights, the problem reoccurred. I called the cable company again, all calm out of the question. I was no longer polite, I was no longer understanding – I was what is probably gently referred to as ‘the irate customer.’ Yet another customer service representative talked to me slowly and softly, as if I was on the ledge of a tall building and threatening to jump. I was told that I wouldn’t being paying for the service calls, I would receive a discount on the DVR bill and that a technician would be at my home on Monday.

After a weekend of the intermittently functional DVR giving us incomplete recordings if at all, the technician arrived Monday. He asked a lot of questions, fiddled with some wires and then went outside to call his supervisor. You want to know what the bottom line was? “It’s a software problem, and they are working out the bugs. Yeah, it sucks, but there it is.”

The technician left. Unharmed. And about a dozen more blood vessels in my forehead popped. The problem continues. And I’m looking into TIVO.

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