Archive for the 'Television' Category

From the minds of Joss Whedon, Gene Roddenberry, and JJ Abrams come the sci-fi that brings the television to life.

Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind

08-Jun-12 7:46 AM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

Like many kids my age — heck, like many kids any age — I grew up in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Paired with Sesame Street, the two PBS shows were not just entertaining; they also laid a subtle foundation for literacy, curiosity, and creativity.

In the past few months, I've encountered, both in-person and online, assertions that Mr. Rogers' on-screen character was very different from his off-screen personality. This belief is in sharp contrast to any first-person reports I've heard from individuals who had the opportunity to encounter this preacher and teacher. Stories that, in a previous life, Fred Rogers was a military sniper, or that he wore cardigans to cover violent tattoos, struck me as disrespectful. Sure, society likes to see its celebrities fall — but Mr. Rogers' star should be above such sullying.

So when I saw floating around Facebook a Mr. Rogers music remix that debuted on YouTube just yesterday, I was hesitant. What was next — were they going to turn my childhood hero into a gangsta rapper?

See for yourself:

This remix is officially sponsored by PBS Digital Studios:

When we discovered video mash-up artist John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep, on YouTube, we immediately wanted to work together. Turns out that he is a huge Mister Rogers Neighborhood fan, and was thrilled at the chance to pay tribute to one of our heroes. Both PBS and the Fred Rogers Company hope you like John's celebration of Fred Rogers' message.

I think Mr. Rogers would be very pleased with the tasteful, respectful work this artist has produced, just as it made me happy and, at the same time, a bit sad. I can only hope our children have a Mr. Rogers of their own.

(Hat tips to Seth Weintraub and Brendon Chetwynd)

After These Messages: Chiptuning the Eighties

03-Dec-10 10:33 AM by
Filed under Potpourri, Television; Comments Off on After These Messages: Chiptuning the Eighties

I'm a fan of chiptune music — the use of retrocomputing hardware to synthesize original or remixed songs — and have written about its use within both video games and the Apple II community. It doesn't seem like a topic that would have a natural intersection with Showbits, though. But Doctor Octoroc has proven me wrong.

This musician and artist has previously created 8-bit versions of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Twilight, and Jersey Shore, rending these overwrought performances into interactive adventures modeled after role-playing games of yesteryear. But his latest reimagining is solely an aural experience. The music album After These Messages is a tour-de-force of nostalgia for any fan of the Eighties, as it features nearly three dozen melodies from the era's sitcoms, cartoons, game shows, and commercials.

After These Messages

Here's the full album listing:

  1. The A-Team
  2. Thundercats
  3. My Secret Identity
  4. Diff'rent Strokes
  5. Toys "R" Us
  6. M.A.S.K.
  7. Gummibears
  8. He-Man
  9. Heathcliff!
  10. Jeopardy
  11. Doublemint Gum
  1. The Fresh Prince
  2. Beverly Hills 90210
  3. Saved by the Bell
  4. Sledge Hammer
  5. Night Court
  6. Big Red Gum
  7. The Price is Right
  8. Transformers
  9. Law & Order
  10. Hawaii Five-O
  11. Magnum, P.I.
  1. Juicy Fruit Gum
  2. Alvin and the Chipmunks
  3. G.I. Joe
  4. ALF
  5. MacGyver
  6. Sprite
  7. Fraggle Rock
  8. Cheers
  9. Tales from the Crypt
  10. Airwolf
  11. After These Messages…

Although Doctor Octoroc's previous album, 8-Bit Jesus (a timely purchase for the holiday season), is available from iTunes, After These Messages is a direct purchase from the artist himself. The price? You name it! Just make a donation to his PayPal account, and all the above songs are yours.

Although the album is less than 36 minutes long, the number of tracks prompted me to consider it no less a full-fledged effort. I bought it for $10, as I would any iTunes album, and am digging these creative interpretations of some of my favorite shows. The only issue I have is that there's no dead air or fade-out at the end of each track. If you're playing the tracks sequentially, the playlist goes from one song to the next without break, making for one long song instead of 33 shorter ones.

Here's a sample, starting with The A-Team:

Share your thoughts on this album below! Or if Doc Ock missed your favorite show or decade, let me know where you think he should focus his attention next.

The Science of the Big Bang

15-Nov-10 12:20 PM by
Filed under Television; Comments Off on The Science of the Big Bang

Big Bang Theory a show about a bunch of geeks, is not shy in parading scientific celebrities before the camera. Steve Wozniak, Wil Wheaton, and Neil deGrasse Tyson have all appeared on the show, matching the stars' fictional genius with authentic brilliance.

But there's just as much intelligence behind the camera, too. While Leonard and Sheldon debate over quantum physics and incomprehensible calculations, David Saltzberg is making sure the math checks out.

As detailed online at Scientific American, this UCLA physicist isn't writing BBT scripts but is double-checking the theories and equations discussed and displayed on the set. Since the show likely attracts a high caliber of viewer, it's sensible to ensure the crew doesn't get risk their credibility by getting caught passing off unbalanced equations. Even Star Trek, with a similarly brainy crowd, had its science and continuity checkers — though its futuristic setting allowed them to get away with more fantastic postulations. When asked how the Heisenberg compensators worked, Star Trek technical expert Michael Okuda famously replied, "It works very well, thank you,"

What I found most interesting in the SciAm piece was this passage:

There are parallels between Saltzberg's day job and his side job, he says, adding that "comedy is an experimental science." The show is taped in front of a live studio audience. If the audience doesn't respond to a laugh line, the writers immediately rework the script to make it work.

I knew the show to not use a laugh track, but I didn't realize that live shows could be so fluid in their scripts. To redo a line or scene while changing more than the delivery sounds more akin to improv, a talent very different from traditional acting.

But in the end, it's worth it — because is there any subject funnier than physics?

A Visit to Where Everybody Knows Your Name

29-Oct-10 3:10 PM by
Filed under Potpourri, Television; 3 comments.

The comedic television show Cheers left a legacy of not just 28 Emmy Awards but also of a place "where everybody knows your name": a simple bar in Boston, populated by a variety of memorable characters and their antics. When founding cast member Shelley Long first stepped foot on the show's set, she found herself transported to a bar she'd visited in Boston. Sure enough, the faux bar was modeled after an actual one: the Bull & Finch at 84 Beacon Street, on the north border of the Boston Common.

The pub rechristened itself Cheers in 2001, to capitalize on the success of the show. Its owner opened another location in nearby Faneuil Hall, built to closely resemble the television's set, as most Bostonians know by now that the original Bull & Finch has a dramatically different layout from its more popular fictional sibling. Fortunately, my guests for lunch were not like most Bostonians: with four Cheers fans from Melbourne, Australia, and my Missourian girlfriend who'd never seen the show, I figured the pub would be a good place for a quick bite to eat en route to the airport.

Cheers Boston

This sign, seen at the opening of every episode of Cheers, greets visitors to the former Bull & Finch.

We arrived around 12:30 PM on a beautiful Saturday in early October, expecting a long wait for a table at this busy tourist destination. Buzzer in hand, we milled about the top of the stairs that led to the rathskeller, taking turns posing in front of the exterior used in the show's opening shot. After only 15 minutes — half the time the maitre'd had estimated — we were directed to make our way to the rear of the restaurant to the "Back Room." My traveling companions had several unwieldy suitcases with them that made this navigation a chore, but though they surprised our server, she quickly collected herself and showed us to a staff room where the bags could be left while we ate.

Like the layout, the bar's atmosphere was also unique from that of the show. Our corner booth had intimate lighting, but the noisy atmosphere of other diners close enough to touch and several widescreen televisions sometimes made it difficult to be heard. The room was decorated with local mementos, referencing everything from pilgrims to Celtics but with few appearances by Sam Malone, Coach, or its other televised employees.

(more…)

Lost over Lost

22-Jun-10 1:02 PM by
Filed under Humor, Television; 3 comments.

Tomorrow makes a month since the series finale of Lost, and I still don't understand what the fervor was over. Having cancelled my television service a decade ago, I've relied on DVDs to keep me abreast of shows I'd otherwise miss, such as Heroes, Firefly, Big Bang Theory, and Enterprise. Given the financial and temporal commitments to these shows, Lost never made the cut, nor did it ever come recommended to me by anyone with tastes similar to mine. All I knew was that it was a show that demanded a viewer's utmost attention, sometimes even repeat viewings, lest a single but significant detail be overlooked. Lost didn't seem to attract fans so much as followers.

Fortunately, legions of YouTube artists have stepped forward to fill me in on what I've missed. First came a summary of the show, focusing on the finale, using Post-It notes:

Seriously? That's what the show was about? I thought it featured an evil corporation, secret laboratories, conspiracy theories, and sharks. It is in fact a fantasy/sci-fi show? That's… absurd.

So absurd, in fact, that it deserves to be retold with LOLcats:

If, after all this, I nonetheless became obsessed with the show and wanted a detailed chart of where everything on the island happened, my geographic wishes have been fulfilled.

Fortunately, none of this has changed my lack of desire to get Lost. Now, what else in TV land am I missing?

(Hat tip to ROFLrazzi)

Summer Shorts: My Deaf Family

04-Jun-10 11:00 AM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

Confession: I follow Sesame Street on Twitter. That may not seem an appropriate pastime for a thirtysomething, but it's hard to resist such clever witticisms as espoused by Cookie Monster: "Me tried fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free cookie today. Or, as me like to call it: crime against humanity." Big Bird: "There are lots of birds that can’t fly: turkeys, ostriches, penguins, Larry…" and Grover: "It is Frank Oz's birthday. I do not know who he is, but I will try to find out. Wait, what do you mean, there is no 'try'?"

It was in these wanderings that I came across a video of Billy Joel singing to Oscar the Grouch. His song was signed by a woman who looked familiar. Some brief research revealed her to be Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress who has been performing on stage, film, and television since her Hollywood debut in 1986. She was even the star (though a passive one) of a film in my own DVD library, What the Bleep Do We Know?.

After appearing on shows from West Wing to Desperate Housewives to Dancing with the Stars, Ms. Matlin recently struck out on her own by hosting and financing a reality series called My Deaf Family. The only deaf person in her family, Ms. Matlin wanted to bring attention to the lives and obstacles of members of the deaf community and their loved ones. When no network picked up the series, she uploaded the pilot to YouTube:

Although I don't know if this pilot could be extended into a full series, the questions and dilemmas raised by this short segment are substantial. All parents wants what's best for their children, but it's not always clear what that is. For two deaf parents to raise a hearing child can be exceptionally difficult. As Jared indicates in the above video, there are some things Jared can't talk to his parents about, and he had trouble learning how to pronounce words without his parents to teach him. Children in his scenario often have a lisp or other speech impediment, at least until they are mainstreamed into a school where they have teachers and peers. Whatever issues Jared has faced, few of them are likely to arise with his siblings who share their parents' abilities.

That raises a significant question: is deafness a disability, or an identity? Are there moral ramifications to two deaf parents wanting a child who is deaf? We want our children to be strong — but should we want them to have to be strong? The 2005 holiday film The Family Stone has a horrendously awkward scene in which someone asks the mother of a gay man, "You didn't actually hope for a gay son, did you? I mean, life is hard enough when you're normal…" Although this quotation has good intentions, the implication is that there is some physical and emotional "status quo" to which we should be born, and anyone who doesn't fit this archetype is somehow impaired. That's complete hogwash, of course; otherwise we'd see nothing distasteful in the genetically sequenced dystopia that is Gattaca, in which Stephen Hawking would never have existed — or, if he had but with no motivation to develop his mind over his body, might have pursued a fabulous career in the NBA. If deafness and other conditions are limits, they are limits that can be overcome.

Having written this post, I realize that I do want to see more in Ms. Matlin's series, though perhaps with a broader scope. I don't want a Chicken Soup for the Soul television series, but a closer look at the lives and hurdles of people with various mental and physical challenges could prove not only inspiring, but also enlightening. Consider it an adult vehicle for the love and acceptance we were taught to practice as children by Sesame Street.

Is there a network brave enough to pick it up?

(Hat tip to AOL)

Happy St. Muppet's Day

17-Mar-10 9:00 AM by
Filed under Humor, Television; 1 comment.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! To commemorate this important holiday, I give you three of Ireland's most cherished performers, united in song to give you that most moving of melodies:

Dancing Among the Stars

02-Mar-10 5:03 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; Comments Off on Dancing Among the Stars

ABC's Dancing with the Stars continues to redefine the definition of "celebrity", finding its contestants beyond the stage, screen, and sports field and choosing famous figures of significant historical value. This practice continues in the show's tenth season later in March when it introduces the first celebrity to have literally danced among the stars.

Buzz Aldrin, who earlier this year turned eighty, will be the show's next contestant, as he confirmed via Twitter: "Yes, it's true — I'm going to be on Dancing w/the Stars. Make sure to tune in to ABC for the premiere on Mon, Mar 22." His dance partner will be Ashly DelGrosso-Costa, who appeared on the show's first three seasons.

It's exciting to see pop culture acknowledge the value of science and technology. When Steve Wozniak broke the geek mold to defy all expectations on Dancing with the Stars, I was right there with him. And when the show took a Star Wars turn, I cheered for the spaceport tango. Though the dancing skills of an eighty-year-old retired astronaut remain untested, for being so brave and stalwart a hero, Buzz Aldrin has already earned my vote.

As others have said: that's one small two-step for mankind!