Nickelodeon Introducing Customizable Programming

Either it’s just another way to play the censorship game…or it’s an awesome new paradigm:

by Chris Morran

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime owe a good deal of their success to parents of young children, who love that they can dial up one of their kids’ favorite shows or movies instantly and without commercials. The folks at Viacom and Verizon are hoping to replicate some of that experience with a new customizable cable TV channel aimed at youngsters.dora-the-explorer

Rather than putting viewers at the mercy of TV programmers or forcing parents to find desired content online or via on-demand TV, “My Nick Jr.” will take a different approach by giving viewers a selection of seven different themes — like “get creative,” “word play,” or “supersonic science” — that will then determine the initial programming. Viewers can then vote yay or nay (via smile and frown icons) for individual shows. This feedback will then help customize the experience further.

Think of it like Pandora for your TV, where the Nickelodeon back-end computers do their best to predict what shows you will want based on your expressed preferences.

The Wall St. Journal reports that there will (at least initially) be no ads on My Nick Jr., and parents will be able to set limits on how many hours of the channel their kids can watch at a time. Parents will also have access to reports on which shows their kids are watching.

Read it all

HOUSE OF CARDS Is a Losing Hand.

house-of-cards

HOUSE OF CARDS, is meant for the likes of me in one respect: I have recently streamed the entirety of shows like DOWNTON ABBEY, BREAKING BAD, SONS OF ANARCHY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, GAME OF THRONES and the old and the new versions of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS.

I enjoy watching serialized shows that leave me wanting more, but because I waited I don’t have to wait.

Tensions built up over previous hours are instantly gratified with another hour, and so on… until all the hours are over and there is a profound sense of satisfaction and loss that there is no more.

So I’m a big fan of Netflix and genuinely want this kind of 13 episode drop of HOUSE OF CARDS to be a success, so we’ll get more of it in the future.

The problem with HOUSE OF CARDS though, is that it there is nothing that I really needed to have gratified after the first few episodes. There were no interesting characters I cared about, there was no clever plot I needed resolved, and there were no satisfying insights of the time and place.

Just a bunch of unlikely stuff happening to a bunch of unlikely people who I didn’t give a shit about.

If you like acting and actors Kevin Spacey (Frank Underwood) and Robin Wright (Claire Underwood) are as good as anybody, but their characters are two-dimensional psycho power-crazed nut-jobs who stick together like a pair of serial killers, and manipulate anyone who gets in the way of their grand plan.

For Congressman Frank Underwood it’s revenge for being passed over for Secretary of State in a new president’s cabinet, and a reacceleration of his career trajectory to where he believe it belongs. For Claire it’s the advancement of the clean water non-profit organization she heads. The two are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. If they can help themselves by helping each other, great, if not, screw them too.

In one scene, Claire sadistically gives her former bodyguard, in hospice for cancer, a hand job under the sheets, after he professes his unrequited love for her. Asking, “Is this what you wanted?” While explaining why she chose her husband as her life partner over the likes of the man dying in the bed in front of her.

And she didn’t even finish him off!

Bitch.

There’s no tragedy in Claire or Frank just self-absorbed assholery; and therefore, nothing to root for. No humanity to redeem.

Not even among the plot devices secondary characters. Everyone around Frank and Claire just lets themselves be manipulated and abused and does nothing about it. They all just lie there and get wanked around.

And that’s it. The show might be good if others fought or manipulated back. If there was true political intrigue. If HOUSE OF CARDS took a cue from GAME OF THRONES and Frank and Claire’s opposition pawns were at least somewhat formidable. But they aren’t. For the most part, they just take it.

After the first few episodes I realized that HOC lacked tension. That I really didn’t care if I found out what happened next. That the only reason I was watching the next episode was not that I had to see what happened next and I was relieved that the next one was already there waiting to be seen.

I was watching it just because it was all there and I had to finish it, like a new version of World of Warcraft.

In my quest to become a level 13 lawful evil streamer, I actually lost respect for myself. I’ll watch anything. I have no standards. Maybe I should start drinking again….

Don’t end up like me (hic!). For a truly satisfying experience, I recommend the British version. In fact, you can watch the whole thing on Netflix.

No waiting.

–Dan D.

Sherlocked: The Game is ON

If you haven’t heard of the BBC’s Sherlock as of the date of this post, get off your couch where you’ve been watching Law and Order: SVU marathons for the last three months. There’s a new detective in town – and judging the walloping publicity campaign for the much-anticipated CBS show Elementary, he’s here to stay.

Sherlock, co-created by Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, follows the modern-day adventures of one Sherlock Holmes and his put-upon assistant, Dr. John Watson.

The show exists in a kind of sexy hyper-reality where the audience is privy to text messages, blog entries, and the thought processes of the characters through the layering of text and images over the screen images.   It’s a little bit like Google Glasses for television (remember Google Glasses?).

If you’re anything like me (and I always assume that you’re a least a little bit like me), you spend most of your day taking in at least two sources of visual information: you’re walking to the subway and you’re catching up on Deadline.com. You’re watching television and you’re catching up on Deadline.com.  You’re hanging out with friends and…well, you get the idea (don’t hate. I’m very informed).

Sherlock masterfully capitalizes on our multi-multi-multi-tasking brains and manages to essentially compress a great deal of information into a few seconds by making the delivery of that information exciting and making the audience feel, like Sherlock, hyper-smart.

This is intelligent television-making we should all pay attention to and here’s why.

This may be the trend to watch.  As viewer attention spans change and become less focused, there are two ways to start working more effectively: a) fit as much story as possible into a smaller amount of time, or b) create a world for the show where information is multilayered and rapid, never allowing your audience downtime to say, check their cellphones.

Sherlock, with episodes that are essentially mini-movies, has the luxury of length, but Moffatt and Gatiss, smart television folk that they are, have created a world where suspense and character are created on a number of levels simultaneously (there’s a great chase scene in the first episode, A Study in Pink, that really shows this off).

Watching an episode feels like being a in a high-speed amusement park ride, where we are occasionally intentionally stopped for a few moments before being taken around the next curve.  The iron-handed control of how the audience experiences each episode’s narrative is fascinating.

It will be interesting to see what direction Elementary goes in, whether CBS embraces this stylistic choice, and what audience response will be.  While I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes (the books), I doubt very much that Sherlock’s success is all due to the story of the detective – and has quite a bit to do with how this re-telling is packaged.