Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Without a doubt, the most popular television shows seem to use some very obvious plot and medium devices to encourage the viewers to continue watching. Shows like NBC's stellar hit Heroes and Fox's Prison Break use these in moderation, while ABC's breakout hit Lost (now approaching it's 4th season) makes heavy usage of various devices that have long since been abandoned after much usage in the golden tv era of the 1950s and subsequent 1960s.

You've definitely seen them, if not heard of them. But cliff-hangers are the bread and butter of television executives. They're what keep viewers tuning in each week, each month - heck each season, to a particular show. Cliff-hangers in short, are those little surprises that tv shows throw in so that you'll continue watching to find out. There's several variety of cliff-hangers, but the most obvious are what I not-so-cleverly refer to as the Major and Minor cliff-hangers.

Minor Cliff-Hangers
The minor cliff hangers are what get you initially interested in a show and help to further the plot along within the current episode. It's the dilemma that comes up after a few minutes, the small choice or problem that the characters have to deal with in that particular episode. Let's take Heroes for example.

In the Heroes episode Distractions, there are several minor cliff-hangers - the first of which comes when alter-ego Niki/Jessica (Ali Larter) manages to break free of her prison cell and escape. Almost immediately this takes us in to an ad-break. And therein lies the reason for this, to keep the viewers interest long enough that they will sit through the ads and continue watching, rather then flipping the channel to something entirely different. Heroes makes moderate usage of this, and it constantly throws in minor problems that will quickly be resolved after the ad breaks are done. Things such as how Hiro will get access to a room. After the ad-break it becomes clear that he will manipulate time to enter through, and so forth. Minor cliff-hangers are always solved shortly once the show comes from an ad-break - only to be replaced with a new minor cliff-hanger (in this episode, he get's kidnapped by some mysterious figure) --> Back from the ad-break, and it's revealed it was his father. They repeat this ad-nauseum, until.. the last 3-5 minutes of the show.

Major Cliff-Hangers
At about 3-5 minutes at the end of most shows, we end up with a plot roller-coaster with questions earlier asked answered. But near the end, a major problem needs to be realized. Something substantial. In Heroes, Lost and Prison Break you end up with an amazing discovery that is yet unrealized to the characters - but of course known to us as the 3rd party (as viewers we see the larger and bigger picture). In the particular Heroes episode, it was the fact that the cheerleader's (Hayden Panettiere) father was in actuality another major character.

The most interesting aspect of cliff-hangers is that the more readily a tv show uses them, the more successful they seem to be. Lost which is celebrated as one of the most successful TV shows ever to grace prime time television - is possibly the most heavy user of cliff hangers. The show uses somewhat major cliff-hangers to actively keep the audience glued, only to do this again and again at every ad break. It seems that this sort of bait-and-hook tactic would get old, but for some reason with Lost it doesn't seem so. But that may have a lot more to do with the fact that unlike Heroes and Prison Break, which have stuck to a more realistic schedules, Lost appears to be going on intentional hiatuses so as to pace the show and ensure that viewers don't get tired with the antics of Jack and the lostees.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

It appears that UK site TV-Links.co.uk (now defunct), has been shut down by anti-piracy groups in a raid on the owner's home - which was sieged by Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) for piracy of movies, and tv shows. The scary part is that this site was not hosting the actual content, but encouraging users to upload and share them on the site.

The biggest contributing factor to the raid, was that TV-Links was making money off of the pirated videos by posting banners along side the links to the videos (which were played within a modified TV-Links embedded player). The webmaster has been arrested, and it is yet unknown the fate of other such sites that operate in this field.

The TV-Links site (http://www.tv-links.co.uk) site is down, it has most likely entered the custody of F.A.C.T. and will probably in time either expire or be redirected to an anti-piracy site. If it does expire, that would mean a seemingly valuable domain is up for grabs - one with traffic, and pagerank that surely spammers would be remiss to grab as quickly as possible.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

It's fall, and with the leaves changing color and the offset of Winter on its way comes the new additions to the TV line-up. Unfortunately, there's nothing original or worth watching in this new season. Let's take a look at just some of the crap-o-rama that has been given the greenlight:

Abc's New lineup consists of some pretty wretched C-rate shows that would never make the cut if not for the station's need to ween away from the absence of reality shows.

  1. Samantha Who? "Christina Applegate returns to network television in a comedy that offers a do-over in life. What if you had the chance to start over, to do it all again? For Samantha Newly (Ms. Applegate), this fantasy becomes a reality after a hit and run accident leaves her in an eight day coma. When she awakens in the hospital, she is surrounded by family and friends. The only problem is that she has no idea who they are or who she is..."
    Hit or Miss: Hit - it's no surprise that ABC is running out of shows to bolster it's ratings during prime time, and die-hard ABC fans will surly watch this show and I predict about 2-3 seasons before it gets canned.
  2. Cavemen - "Meet three cavemen who have successfully made the move to San Diego and are just trying to fit in. On the premiere episode, "Her Embarrassed of Caveman," Joel attempts to hide the fact that he's dating a "sape" aka Homo sapien woman from Nick, Andy and friend Maurice, but also feels that she may be embarrassed to tell her friends that she's dating a caveman. Meanwhile Andy comes to town to get away from his girlfriend, who cheated on him."
    Hit or Miss: Miss - Despite the novelty of the show (it pains me to say this, since this show started off with boardroom chatter over "hey wouldn't it be great if this insurance ad was made in to tv show"), this show will not last an entire season. I figure that right now there is nothing on and so people will tune in to check out the show, but the novelty will run out soon after and people will grow tired of the antics of what would otherwise be a poor-man's entourage - only with Cavemen. The show may scrape by and make it to 1 and 1/2 seasons, but there most certainly will not be a 3rd season - even 1 is pushing it.
  3. Carpoolers - What do you get when take a a recently divorced "hotshot" dentist, a stable and "boring" counsellor, an unhappily married "black guy" and the "new guy" - besides some old cliches and the first part of a really dirty joke, you get the Carpoolers. A show about 4 guys who carpool to work (which happens to a plaza that houses various offices where each carpooler works). The show centers around the hilarity that occurs within their daily commute, but luckily also shows some of their personal and office lives. It's of course the expected comedy in the lineup, but the acting is sub-par and I can see the show not having enough material to keep the show fresh.
    Hit or Miss: Miss - Destined for failure since the show follows after Cavemen and most likely will not be able to hold an audience unless they move it up earlier. It has potential but it's not a very good show. I forsee it running for 2 seasons assuming it gets bumped to an earlier time slot.
  4. Pushing Daisies - "A love story about a pie-baking young man with the ability to return dead people briefly back to life with just a simple touch." Undoubtedly this is going to be ABC's new hit or replace the fanfare that was given to Desperate Housewives.
    Hit or Miss: Hit - I'm pretty sure this show will do well if targeted properly, but never underestimate ABC's ability to mess up the scheduling of shows.
There's more ABC shows in the Fall lineup, but they're not worthy of mention or just reek of a rehash of an earlier sitcom. You can of course watch ABC News, along with some of the shows here or ABC 7.

Of course past hits like Lost and Heroes will be returning - actually Heroes has already returned, while Lost is still on pre-emption until Feb. 2008.

The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Prison Break, Family Guy and American Dad, along with some new reality shows return on Fox. And since this is a IPTV or webtv blog, you can watch Fox here: Watch Fox 5 Live Watch Fox News
Watch Fox 8 and finally Fox 9.

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