Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dead on Arrival: Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars Season 4 Presentation:

Part 1

Part 2

via MerkieNL on YouTube.

It is my opinion that Rob Thomas fucked over every Veronica Mars fan with the abomination that was Season 3. Is that too harsh? Well, coming from a once rabid fan, I speak the truth sans hyperbole or any form of jest.

Season 1 of Veronica Mars was a sight to behold. All spunk, muted frames, and snarky voice overs, the series wasn't so much a mere TV show but a 22 hour sensory extravaganza. The direction was fantastic. The writing plastic-Tupperware-in-a-flood-leakproof tight. The characters were nuanced and alive with flaws, emotions and witticisms. Many media outlets heralded it as the best new show on TV. And that recognition was well deserved. Rob Thomas had created the best thing since sliced bread! Unfortunately very little people tuned in. Yet, it was given a second life in the form of a second season.

While Season 2 wasn't as pitch perfect as the first season was, the show still brought many surprises up its sleeve. There was less innovative colours and voice overs, but there was still plenty of heartbreak and loss. Veronica Mars graduated high school with a smirk and with very little fanfare, just as we knew she would. The audience didn't get any bigger, but their loyalty never waned. The economics of television however dictated that as good as a series was, it was nothing without a large audience. So, season 3 was brought onto the newly formed CW network and given a jumpstart.

"Let's make this easier for newcomers to watch! The loyal fans won't mind. They'll eat up anything we throw at them!"

That maxim seemed to be the mission statement for Season 3 of Veronica Mars. The series was stripped of it's usual season long arc. Instead it was pared down to 3 mini mysteries that would span 7 episodes each. Along the way, several characters were given total character assassinations and storyline continuity became a mere 'maybe' for the writers to address. Everything that I had come to love about Veronica Mars had been stripped and in its place aired a doppleganger that talked and acted like it but was not even close to the real thing. There was very little heart where there had once been plenty. Sarcasm became Veronica's main cachet of communication instead of her self-defence. "Obligatory psychotic jackass" Logan Echolls lost his spark and became Veronica's sometime left hand accessory. The delicious Veronica Mars voice overs had become but a distant memory, ditto the rich and vibrant colours.

Hence, I don't kid when I say Season 3 doesn't exist to me. It riles my blood thinking about how the mighty have fallen, being pandered away to the common denominator of television economics. So when talk of a season 4 set in the future floated around the Internet, to say I was 'not keen' would be a slight embellishment. Stop kicking the dead horse, and just put it out of it's misery already! Or so I thought.

Now, having seen the 20 minute feature presentation for a possible season 4, I'm more mad at Rob Thomas than I have ever been. You could put down season 3 to network meddling, but in my eyes, the blame lies with the creator. A TV network can only dictate so much change before the creator steps in and lay down the law. Rob Thomas got overly confident with VM, and because of that season 3 doesn't even qualify as chump change in the TV season of 2006.
Season 4, or at least what could have been, promised a lot of the spark and fire that season 2 had. In that 20 minutes, the wit was back and the excess baggage was gone. Everything that season 3 should have been was exhibited in that presentation. Thomas didn't lose his touch, he just merely hid it away and brought it out when desperate times called for it. So maybe it's a case of too little, too late, but VM Season 4?

Not worthy.

Nice try Rob Thomas, but your chance at redemption has long left the building.

Monday, October 22, 2007

TV talk: TV on the 'Net

TV-links is under arrest from the Internet police!

Read the whole story here: raided, Owner arrested.

As someone who used to frequent that site regularly, this is terrible, terrible news. They had the best and most updated links as well as the least eye-scarring layout to navigate. Sure, there may be other sites that catalogue links, but none do it as good as TV-Links did.

Old media is barely coping with the explosion of opportunities that new media has to offer. TV networks in the States have tried offering up a slice of the pie to users by putting up episodes on their site but the fact that their content is bounded by geography (only available to US) makes the offering rather ineffectual. Global digital copyrights management is sadly lacking and this case is a perfect example of the majority of problems:

1. TV-links did not host any of their material. They merely catalogued links that were hosted by Google, YouTube, and the like. If the authorities really wanted to attack the problem, why didn't they take down the hosts? Is it easier attacking the little people than the actual monoliths, like say, Google?

2. TV-Links may have been a UK hosted web site but the actual servers were from the Netherlands. Taking into account the fact that there is no single international Internet copyright law, who do you fault here? The Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent site, have chronicled some of their legal issues here. According to them, they are protected by the laws of Netherlands which are pretty relaxed about the digital revolution. Which leads me to my next point.

3. Geographical lines prohibits/inhibits the Internet from doing specific things. The Chasers War on Everything is free for download on ABC but only in Australia. As is The Office on NBC America. And promotional material for cable networks like Showtime or HBO. As great as the idea was, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. It is much easier to download a show from any BitTorent site or watch it online because there is no geographical discrimination there.

4. The authorities will probably come up with some way to attack torrents in the near future, as they have Kazaa, Limewire and other downloading programs. With technology on the rise, there will always be some way to avert the Internet police. Uploading/sharing sites like Mega Upload that allows up to 500 MB of data to be shared will probably be the next frontier if torrents get taken down. What we need is a strict constitution that clearly states what is and isn't okay in terms of sharing information on the Internet. Next thing you know, some kid who posted a link on her blog about some music video from YouTube is going to get sued. Grrr-eat.

Anyone who has ever watched a clip of a show or program of YouTube should be concerned. Damn the man! Save the empire! Sign the
petition to free the owner of TV-Links!

Friday, October 19, 2007

TV talk: Top 100 Shows of the Fall '07 Season

Of which these are the shows I watch:

#14. Heroes
#24. Pushing Daisies
#30. Ugly Betty
#38. The Office
#51. How I Met Your Mother
#91. Supernatural
#93. Gossip Girl

And these are the shows I watched last season but neglected this season:

#21. Brothers and Sisters
#46. My Name is Earl
#82. America's Next Top Model

These were the other shows I wanted to watch and might get around to watching during the hiatus:

#49. Chuck
#50. Journeyman
#56. Moonlight
#90. Reaper
#96. Aliens in America

Finally, the shows I can't believe are still on and actually thriving:

#1. CSI
#9. CSI: Miami (for fuck's sake..)
#12. Survivor
#19. CSI: NY (Karen has a brain aneurysm and dies at this point)
#70. American Dad
#83. Smallville

The full list is available here with the actual statistics and numbers.

To number #4 (Desperate Housewives): Fuck you very much for casting the very watchable* Nathan Fillion in an unwatchable show. You almost got me there but sanity prevailed in the end.

*watchable, edible = what's the diff?

p/s: Is it still cool to use the phrase "What's the diff?"
pp/s: Was it ever cool??

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

TV talk: Want/Need/Have

In what will be the prelude to... I want to say a week, but really it's entirely dependent on how lazy I am, so I'm going to go with ... a whole bunch of (very belated) posts about the US Fall '07 TV season, I am going to get the proverbial ball rolling by distinguishing shows by the want/need/have factor.

These are the shows that keep me genuinely interested and are generally interesting. They don't have to be particularly high-brow or meaty, but there must be a sense of involvement wherein it warrants a timely download/weekly watching.
Past contenders: Carnivale, Heroes Season 1, The Office (US), Ugly Betty

We're talking deep-seated passion, to the point where much time is wasted obsessively scouring TV websites for recaps, reviews and trivia. It's both a pleasure and a curse to come across such a rare gem in the wasteland that is network TV. Fans of Need TV have been known to annoy people with their (often unwanted) opinions and tiresome fan-wanking.
Past contenders: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars (but not the atrocity that was Season 3), The Office (UK)

Have TV are the shows that you hang on to but don't know why. They're not particularly great or engaging. They might be amusing but not funny (My Name is Earl), they might have been great once but are slowly losing the plot (Scrubs) or people might just keep tuning in to find out what the hell is up with the damn polar bear (Lost). It's tuning in because you have nothing else to do and don't mind watching it while you wait for The Office (US) to come on. Or watching because you have invested too much time and energy to give up on it now. Basically, it's watching because you have to, not because you particularly want to.
Past contenders: as stated above.

One of the pitfalls of being a US TV addict stuck in the bottom hemisphere of Australia is the obvious transgression in viewing pleasure. What I lack in being inundated with ads, I make up for in download waiting time. Thanks to a dodgy connection, sometimes the waiting time can truely be unbearable. Thankfully, the networks in Australia have decided to fast-track several programs, Supernatural and Heroes, to name those I'm interested in. While it means being a week or three behind the US, it also allows my laptop to be switched off from time to time. After all, leaving your notebook on for two weeks without rest cannot be particularly good for the system.

And so we begin...