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DirecTv adds Tivo-like Channel Toggle

September 15, 2009

Great news appeared on my DVR this morning — DirecTv has finally added the much coveted Tivo feature of Channel Toggle to the HR21-100.  This is a feature which has been on the Tivo for the long time and a lot of users who upgraded from the MPEG-2 Tivo HD receiver to the newer HR21 (MPEG-4) lost the feature in the “upgrade”.

Channel Toggle gives you the ability to switch between two channels and still have the ability to pause both.  Because most of the HD DVR units now have 2 tuners they allow you to watch one show while recording another.  In the case of the HR21, you could watch one show and then go back to the recording of the other to simulate the Tivo behavior.  With this new firmware upgrade, there is no need to be recording on either tuner to switch between the channels.  This makes channel surfing and switching much more dynamic.

Basically, it means you can easily watch two different programs and skip commercials.  For example, if this had been added as early as last night, I would have been able to watch Jay Leno’s first show, pause it before a commercial, switch to Monday Night Football and then back to resume Jay Leno’s show when the game went to commercial.  It’s a tremendously convenient feature to have and something that I’ve been missing ever since they took my Tivo away.

As with the Tivo, you can activate this feature simply by pressing the Down Arrow.  Similar to the “Prev” button, it will switch to the previous channel.  The difference is that when you now use the Down Arrow, you will keep your buffered recording on both channels (in other words, you can still rewind on both channels live).  So, if you have the HR21, just stop using the “Prev” button and start using the Down Arrow — convenience surely shall follow!

Meteor – Mini-series or Harbinger of Future NBC Ratings?

July 21, 2009

NBC recently aired a mini-series about a cataclysmic meteor collision entitled, well, Meteor.  A meteor is headed toward earth — this sounds like science meets explosions.  How could I not enjoy this?  On top of that, it stars Christopher Lloyd and Jason Alexander.  Great cast.  Cool-enough premise.  I sat back ready to be awed, amazed and entertained.  Unfortunately, Meteor doesn’t exactly shower down entertainment.

In holding with DVDCorral-style reviews, I will try to avoid any spoilers while giving you as much information about the movie as possible.

Oh, there was plenty of awe.  I sat back in awe of what a colossal disaster Meteor was.  Amazement?  You bet — I’m amazed that something with a good cast could be such a terrible flop.  Alright, enough blasting Meteor.  Let’s discuss how it missed the mark so badly.

First, there is a premise in Scifi that some aspects of it must be believable.  This is why shows like Star Trek were able to hold viewers for decades and why we can’t even remember the names of movies that don’t make us believe.  One of my favorite examples of this was Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars book series (soon to be a movie).  The initial premise was that a man shows up on Mars and is able to breathe there.  After that, no more faith – just science.  John Carter has super-Martian abilities since he grew up in Earth’s (greater) gravity.  He can run faster, jump higher, etc.  You’ll have to take a leap on the first step, but after that everything not only makes logical sense, but is also believable.

This is the first premise where this movie fails.  In this one 3-hour mini-series, “the unlikely” merely becomes “the predictable”.  Meteor is not a world of SciFi/Action, it is a world where nothing but Murphy’s Law reigns supreme.  Once you realize that, all of the surprise is gone.  Every moment of possible suspense in this mini-series is as predictable as the death of each spurious red-shirted character on Star Trek — each of them fades away as quickly as they surfaced.

Next, imagine you’re watching the movie Armageddon and the creep from I Know What You Did Last Summer shows up.  It doesn’t really fit the plot (ok, sorry, that was an understatement — apparently I’m running out of hyperbole here).  It’s just strange, a little annoying, and definitely distracting.  At least it would be distracting if there were more of a plot to begin with.  Oh, thankfully they removed the hook so you can keep trying to figure out what movie this character has been extracted from.

Finally, we bring in the absolute worst element of Star Wars.  Let me clarify.  In the first episode of Star Wars, A New Hope, the rebels blow up the Death Star.  The Empire then does something very creative — they build another death star.  Every time we fix a problem, the exact same problem resurfaces with a new disguise.  I lost count of how many aborted count-downs there were.  Each time they are ready to blow up the meteor they come up with a new reason to wait at the last second.  Yawn.

Believe it or not, there were some redeeming qualities in a movie this bad.  There were some good actors who did exactly what we expect out of them.  Jason Alexander does a great job as an Astro-physicist and I never once thought I was watching Seinfeld.  Several of the lesser known actors also did a great job, so overall I was impressed with the acting.  The effects were also pretty good for a mini-series, though some scenes were a little dark watching it on Hulu.com.  It is possible that was just related to video quality, however, and not necessarily to production.

There is a human element that is sometimes forgotten in SciFi/Action movies, but it wasn’t lost here.  For each major event the fallout can be seen among people and their reactions.  In a real disaster, this is the magnifying effect that is really seen in people.  Those who are truly good people and think on their feet quickly become heroes.  There are always a few people who try to take advantage of the situation and cause a nightmare for everyone else.  Some even begin to react emotionally only to settle into their true selves as the need arises.  Meteor did a great job of adding this human element to an otherwise pending disaster reaching terminal velocity.

I often wonder how NBC’s ratings could be so bad.  They have good shows like Chuck… which got pushed out a year and a half.  NBC is certainly the late night leader with Jay Leno on the Tonight Sh– I’m sorry, I forgot they fired Jay and replaced him with Conan.  Now this?  Maybe Meteor is just another example of NBC’s ability to crater in the face of certain success.

Will Chuck be renewed for Season 3?

June 2, 2009
Chuck back for Season 3

Chuck back for Season 3

<drum roll please> Yes!  As of May 22nd, NBC has renewed Chuck for a 3rd season.  Today really is the day for “sort of”.  It’s been renewed for 13 episodes starting after the 2010 olympics (probably making the start date March 1st).  It will still air in the normal Monday 9pm (8CST) time slot.  Apparently enough boxes of “Nerds” candy made their way into NBC studios.

NBC made it clear that the reason Chuck was renewed was the overwhelming response by the fans.  There are several popular users on Twitter that have been promoting “Save Chuck!” and a website or two as well.  There’s a podcast. There’s even a blog promoting donations to the American Heart Association in the name of Chuck Bartowski.  The fan response for this show was pretty impressive.

Subway has apparently taken notice of this fan-love and has decided to step up as an even more prominent sponsor for Season 3.  I recently read a blog that was complaining about a reference to “5 dollar footlong” in the middle of a Chuck episode.  Really?  That bothered you?  I’ve never been to a “Buy More” store, but I have been to Best Buy.  It wouldn’t bother me if they worked at a Best Buy.  Turns out, Subway felt the same way.  I’ll go ahead and propigate the rumor that Sara will be working at a Subway as her cover for season 3.

Typically when a show is renewed for 13 episodes the network will have the option of extending the show for another 9 episodes to complete the season.  Since Chuck will be starting in the spring, that probably won’t be happening.  Next year will be a short season for Chuck, but it’s an opportunity for the show to increase its ratings for a shot at a 4th season.

In the meanwhile, time to catch up and Watch  Chuck Season 1 and Watch Chuck Season 2.  They’re even available for instant download!

Conan O’Brien Tonight Show Review

Jay Leno is out.  Well, sort of.  Conan O’Brien is in.  Now come the questions.

Can Conan hold the late night crown?

Can Conan stay #1?

Can Conan hold the late night crown?  Will Conan be able to adjust his humor to fit the earlier time slot?  How funny can Conan be without Triumph the Insult Dog?  (You know you were asking that one.)  One show down, was it funny?

The show opens with the old NBC logo and the formerly ubiquitous “Brought to you in living color” slogan.  Conan has a new set, a new desk, and a new theme song.  The song is a nice update to Conan’s original Late Night theme.  The questions continue to roll in.

Will Conan continue the nipple-pulling, puppet-pantomime, spin-jump-point intro?  Mostly no.  It was definitely strange to watch Conan walk out without antics, jumping, swaggering, or adding bathroom-spackle to the hair.  The show in general can really be summed up by what happened next.  Conan turned the n-p,p-p,s-j-p (see above) into jump-point.  The show in general was definitely toned down from the previous Late Night drunk test humor into a Tonight Show version that contains less slapstick elements.

Conan really got his start in Hollywood as a writer for the Simpsons.  To be a successful writer on a show that has been that funny and well-known for so long has got to be a credit to his sense of humor.  It showed in his performance last night.  He altered his humor — not to make it less funny, but to make it more relevant to an earlier crowd.

The show was grandiose and it was funny.  If — for one minute — you’re led to believe that the first night had to be funny because NBC wouldn’t let it not be funny… well, just watch Jimmy Fallon’s first show on Late Night.  That was certainly not funny.  Not even a little bit.  The fact that Conan was able to come out big and have an entertaining and relevant first show is a good sign.

To watch, see Conan’s First Show on Hulu.com.

Has Chuck been Canceled?

April 22, 2009

Update: Chuck has been renewed for a 3rd season.

Is Chuck Cancelled

Has Chuck been Canceled?

Alright, so it’s moved to the point of addiction.  Admission is the first step right?  Admit one.

I watched the final episode today on hulu.com.  Between this episode and the previous (it was a two-parter), the writers really hit one out of the park.  Hopefully it won’t be a walk-off home run.

Chuck has always impressed me with their ability to combine super-sleuth with action-packed and still effectively mix it with ultra-nerd.  Josh Schwartz, the creator and executive producer of Chuck did a nice job of creating the show with such a mix of otherwise incompatible genres.  Unfortunately, he’s not even sure where Chuck sits right now.  When asked by the New York Times, “As of this moment, do you know where ‘Chuck’ stands?”, Josh responded “Sitting here today, I do not know. Which is a tricky place to be, emotionally. The last two episodes are certainly the best that we’ve done, and I feel like the whole season has been building. To feel this coalescing of the inter-Web forces, in support of the show, has been really remarkable.”

So, Chuck or no Chuck?  Looks like NBC has yet to make that decision.  In the meanwhile, it looks like I’ve got some time to get off of TV and back to movies.  Anyone seen any good movies lately?  I’ll be taking that ticket now.

Admit one.

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