Friday, August 04, 2006

No, you make too much money!

And, so ends my summer vacation from blogging. At least that's what I'm calling it right now. Previously, it had simply been an extended break because I was too lazy to log in. Now, I'm going to call it a planned vacation.

Either way, this tidbit was too juicy to not start blogging again.

I recently upped the ante on my cable package. Signing up for a DVR and the expanded digital cable package with Time Warner Cable. I did so with one minor reservatoin, TWC advertisements are, perhaps, the worst on television, and since I subscribe to cable with them, I am constantly bombared by the irritating things every moment. (But, really, how could I pass up a DVR?)

Anyway, turns out TWC is in a billion-dollar-hissing match with the NFL, mainly the NFL Network arm of the most popular sports league in the country. If you understand how cable television works, then you'll get the problem. Basically, for every subscriber, a network can charge the cable provider X dollars to carry the network. For example, the uber-popular ESPN charges more than $2 per subscriber on a cable system, while other less-popular networks charge significantly less. Either way, depending on your cable provider, if you simply have the basic cable package, about half of your bill is earmarked straight to the networks carried on your system. The rest of course goes towards salaries, maintenance and other costs for the company.

Now, enter in the NFL Network to the cable picture not too long ago. For a cable system to carry the NFL Net, the network wants 90 cents per subscriber. Time Warner Cable doesn't think that's a fair asking price. And, they've gone public with the fight, launching NFLGetReal.com. This site clues readers in on the math behind the demands of the NFL Network and why TWC doesn't see it as a good investment at the moment. And, I'm inclined to agree.

Basically, the NFL Network will be carrying 8 prime-time games this season, that can be seen no where but the NFL Network. Unless you happen to live in the one of the cities of the teams that are playing. And, then one of your city's TV stations can, for a nominal fee, broadcast the game to its viewers. In the case of Kansas City, the local Fox affliate will carry the Chiefs' Thanksgiving evening matchup against Denver. And, the NBC affiliate will carry a late season match-up in Oakland.

So, really I would be paying for an addition 6 new games a year, that I probably wouldn't watch or even be able to watch in the first place. If you're a diehard NFL fan and have the jones for the NFL Season Ticket, well, you can only get that on DirecTV, so really, the NFL Network isn't providing a whole heck of a lot. Yes, you'll be able to watch repeats of the previous weekend's games all season, but really, when you know the outcome... who cares? In reality, the NFL Network is meant to attract those viewers who need to watch training camps or view ancient NFL Films presentations. Aside from the live games, the network is not going to be a consistent ratings earner, no matter what the NFL thinks.

Really, what makes me clap my hands gleefully, is the absurdity of these two billion dollar companies getting into a pissing match over a couple handfuls of pennies. NFLGetReal.com actually implores visitors to send an e-mail to the NFL Network, upbraiding the channel over its demands for money. So, it's the new grassroots effort... where billions of dollars are involved.

I like it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Oooh... shiny...

It's been while. My apologies. I've been moving... working... staying cool. That sort of stuff. But, something shook me out of my posting doldrums... the Kansas City Star finally unveiled its major re-design today, and I thought I would offer some opinions... not that the Star gives a rip about my feelings.

Bear in mind, if you were a regular subscriber to the Star or even just read the website, you knew the re-design was coming. It had even started with some of the Sunday sections, as the new printing presses came on-line at the new downtown facility. But, today was the first day of the whole new paper. In reality, the PDF file doesn't do the look justice. The printed paper is now smaller, about the size of the USA Today, and with as much color, if not more. The images are of a sharper quailty, as is the text, so it's almost like ready a magazine. In fact, the paper itself is of a slightly slicker quality, not quite as rough as regular newsprint.

Overall, its a colorful look to a medium that has long since been known for offering only small amounts of color, generally on front and back pages of each section. The Star now offers color on several interior pages, at least in this first run. That could easily change.

Another thing you notice as you scan through the pages, The Star seems to have forgotten that as a culture we tend to read left to right. The layout of the pages runs pretty much vertical. The columns look narrower to keep the same number on the page, so your eyes are moving a lot more to read, say, a single-column sport commentary piece. Jason Whitlock wrote a column extolling the virtues of the NBA over the NHL in the soon-to-be-completed Sprint Center and the column included a break-out box with information about rookie-NBA franchises. Small issue though, the break-out box came underneath the column, on the front page, after the jump information, so if you kept flipping to the continuation of the column, you didn't see the box.

All-in-all, the paper is undertaking a very ambitious re-design, one that may very well alienate many of its long-time (read: elderly) readers in hopes of building a new reader base (read: younger). And, in day where the USA Today is the only national paper actually growing in readership, the imitation makes sense.

Now, the paper just needs to build a better website.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Kansas... minutes away from the end of the world.

At least that's what the new fall television season will have you saying. And, I'm being totally cereal.

The networks are in the middle of a week's worth of presentations, parties and self-congratulating, also known as the "up-fronts". The time when the Big 4, and this year the CW, get together and announce the upcoming fall television schedule. Right now we know what the Original 3 have lined up, and some of it is expected, some of it is down-right perplexing.

ABC - Took a look at the most pilots of any of the networks, mainly because it has to build a fall Monday night lineup to re-place Monday Night Football. And, it has, but not from scratch. Three reality shows will hold down the first two hours with What About Brian taking over the lead-in spot for evening news.

The other big splash ABC made was moving Sunday night juggernaut Grey's Anatomy to Thursday, directly opposite television's number one drama CSI:. Dumb move. CSI: has one the highest loyalty ratings on television currently, people who watch are dedicated to the show, and despite Anatomy's popularity on Sunday, that will not fully translate to mid-week performance.

NBC - The fourth place network this year (how the mighty have fallen, eh?) is going full-bore with new shows and major move mid-season on Thursday nights to try and shake the cobwebs. A glance at the schedule tells me, more shaking will be required.

For one thing, it is apparently not enough that NBC have just Saturday Night Live on it's schedule. No, apparently it also needs two fictional shows based on SNL. First a drama by Aaron Sorkin Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which, despite a major headliner in Matthew Perry, has the dubious honor of going up against both CSI: and Grey's Anatomy on Thursdays. Second a sitcom, 30 Rock, which is created by SNL star Tina Fey and stars Alec Baldwin, who apparently blew all the cash from The Shadow. By the way, it'll be going up against Lost and Criminal Minds in the second half-hour at 8 pm on Wednesdays.

In all, the peacock is wheeling out 10 hours of new programming out of 15 hours of primetime programming during the week. The weekend nows belongs to Sunday Night Football and Saturday which is given over to Dateline and reruns. Now part of the equation are mid-season replacements which include another Andy Richter sitcom (joy) and a new hour-long drama, The Black Donnellys, which will give ER a "breather" at the mid-way point of the year.

CBS - The Eye looks to continue a very strong 2005-06 season with several new programs and a re-built Sunday night lineup to counter program football, and a cheerful tale of nuclear holocaust in the Heartland (more on that in a moment).

Sunday night will be a big change for the network as it moves the Emmy-winning Amazing Race after 60 Minutes and then rounds out the rest of the evening with Cold Case at a new time and Without a Trace moving from Thursday night as the evening news lead-in. With ABC breaking up its Sunday night line-up, the evening could be ripe for picking, especially if CBS attracts the female viewers who want nothing to do with football.

Wednesday night includes the premiere of Jericho, a cheery little show set in Kansas, where one day the residents notice several mushroom clouds on the horizion. I'll let the network explain.
JERICHO (Wednesday, 8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) is a drama about what happens when a
nuclear mushroom cloud suddenly appears on the horizon, plunging the residents
of a small, peaceful Kansas town into chaos, leaving them completely isolated
and wondering if they're the only Americans left alive. Fear of the unknown
propels Jericho into social, psychological and physical mayhem when all
communication and power is shut down. The town starts to come apart at the seams
as terror, anger and confusion bring out the very worst in some residents. But
in this time of crisis, as sensible people become paranoid, personal agendas
take over and well-kept secrets threaten to be revealed, some people will find
an inner strength they never knew they had and the most unlikely heroes will
emerge.

Why is it that people seem to think the end of the world will somehow spare Kansas? Why can't we go along, too? The synopsis reads like a mix between Lost and The Day After. Going up against two reality shows won't hurt Jericho's case, but I'd be surprised if it lasts much beyond mid-season.

Fox and the CW both present Thursday. To see a complete run down of the network schedules click here and enjoy the last few days of May programming. Remember, you can make it through the summer re-runs and realities.

Maybe.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Forget about Pirates of the Caribbean, too!

I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I thought it was a fast-paced, edgy novel that allowed me to while away a boring weekend (seriously, I picked it up on a Friday night and finished Sunday afternoon). I'm also looking forward to seeing the big-screen adaptation, though I'm sure it will be disappointing compared to the book.

And, with the arrival of the big screen version, let's just say I'm pleased to not be a teenager who happens to live in Singapore. Why? Well, Singapore takes a rather dim view of both The Da Vinci Code and residents 16 years old or younger. The government has decided to
ban those who fall under the age restriction from viewing the movie while it is theaters.

Singapore believes children do not have the mental fortitude or capacity to distinguish the reality of Christianity versus the version that will be on display in the film. Thailand is trying to do one better than Singapore, as some protestors have called for a full-on blockade of the movie even playing in the country.

That's taking censorship a bit too far. You may not like the message Dan Brown's book, now movie, puts forth. But that is not a reasonable excuse for banning the movie from playing. Now, let's say Tom Hanks wound up stranded with the Mona Lisa on an island and wound up having full-length conversations with "her". Then, you have a compelling case. However, dislike is no reason for banishment.

On that note...

Call me pleased to see the end of the both The West Wing and Commander-in-Chief. Two series that went on way too long. I mentioned the reality of Christianity versus Dan Brown's reality earlier, and I think it fair to say the reality both of those shows propagated was so far from the norm, that each could find a new home on the Sci-Fi Channel in a couple of months.

West Wing built the "ideal" President. Charming, intelligent, the ability to speak off-the-cuff for hours on end, and, most importantly, was not named Bush. Newsflash: Such a politician will never exist. At least, not one that can ascend the ladder to Presidential candidate, let alone the Oval Office. Too much emphasis is made on not rocking the boat. On playing the middle. On being vanilla as possible. Martin Sheen's "President Bartlet" could never get away with many of the things he said publicly over the course of the series, but such is the world created by pen. Flaws are only as noticeable as the writer wishes them to be.

Both Wing and CiC created ideal Republicans as well. Or, rather an ideal Republican and ideal independent. Alan Alda took on the role of liberal-conservative candidate for West Wing who narrowly missed winning the election thanks to a nuclear accident in Nevada. Alda's Vinick was as Jimmy Smit's Matt Santos put:
"Vinick's appeal is that he's a different kind of Republican, moderate, reasonable, pro-choice." Because it's never about the Democrat being moderate, reasonable or pro-life.

And CiC's President was not a far-fetched prospect because she was female. She was a far-fetched prospect because, supposedly, she was an independent politician, drafted by a conservative Republican candidate to "balance" his ticket in hopes of winning. This isn't the Civil War. One of the last things a candidate would care about is a balanced ticket. Suffice to say, the idea that the party powers would allow such a move is ludicrous on its best day. Further, the show made some pretty stupid plot decisions to boost ratings during its last gasps, including a wholely unlikely scenario where the President sends in US Marshalls to quell crime, shoving aside local police forces. Add to that the undeniable fact that CiC was not treading in unknown territory. It was basically West Wing in pumps.

Thankfully, the only Oval Office we'll see in prime time, at least for a while, is whenever the real President decides to make a public address.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Wait! Timeout!

Perhaps the most infurirating thing about college basketball may be on its way out the door. Yes, the age-old rule allowing players to call timeout while in mid-air or falling out-of-bounds, is on the chopping block as the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee meets during the off-season.

There's really no way to put into words the feeling of watching a player for the the ball as it bounces out of bounds, grab it in mid-air and then be awarded possession simply be calling time-out. You should have to have at least one foot on the floor inbounds, if not both, to show control.

The committee says it hopes to avoid injuires that could come from someone being more concerned about holding onto the ball, rather than bracing their fall, but I've never seen anyone injured like that. This comes down to fairness. Possession should be determined between the lines, not in the second row of the cheerleaders.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

This is your pilot speaking...

Or, rather, these are the networks speaking to their pilots. Deadline Hollywood Daily posted a rundown of known network pilots that are being viewed and evaluated by network execs for possible pick-up in the fall.

They use typical Hollywood vernacular to categorize the shows, where being "hot" is good, but "cold"... not so good. The most suprising thing to me, after looking through the list: ABC execs look like they wanted to blow up the whole line-up with the list of pilots execs are taking a look at. Nearly a dozen possible shows are on ABC's radar, the most of any network, including the CW... which is a brand-new network!

Now, I realize ABC has to build a complete fall Monday-night-line-up, but honestly, given the number of show under consideration, it seems like only ABC's Sunday night shows, and Lost are untouchable.

CBS has a number of shows it is looking at as well, including two new legal dramas (who da thunk it, right?). Shark features an LA lawyer who becomes a prosecutor... should be riveting. And, Shadow of Law which is written by Carol Mendelsohn. Who's that? Oh nobody. And, by nobody I mean a writer for the past several years on CSI:, CSI: Miami, and CSI:NY. That's why pick-up is guaranteed.

One other show of note, Friday Night Lights which NBC appears to like. Now, this show is about high school football, and given its name, NBC would seem likely to put it on Friday nights. Here's my thought, fictious high school football on Friday night, is not going to compete with real high school football on Friday night.

Just a thought for NBC to keep in mind.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I feel a draft.

Heck of a day if you spent it camped out on a couch watching the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, live from Radio City Music Hall. As I was saying earlier, there's something addicting about trying to second-guess general managers and coaches as they make picks that will decide their future with a team.

In case you were wondering... Houston Texans GM Charley Casserly will face an exasperated and angry fan base when the 2006 season gets underway. Casserly fell victim to "over-thinking" his number one draft pick and wound up choosing North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams instead of USC running back Reggie Bush.

As ESPN.com said... he did WHAT!?!

Of course, Casserly was cheered in New Orleans and among Saints' front office personel who then grabbed the player most consider to be the one can't-miss-prospect: Bush.

But, enough about Draft controversy on a league-wide level. As a Kansas City Chiefs fan, I'm pleased with the Chiefs' draft.

The pick of Tamba Hali, defensive end, in the first round was not a reach. A lot of draftniks were initally picking Hali to fall in the middle of the first round. However, some pointed to a poor combine performance that would push him into the second round. However, SI's Dr. Z picked Hali as the Chiefs' 20th selection in this week's Draft Preview issue. So, I don't see the pick as too much of a reach at 20. Besides, the last time Kansas City took a Penn State grad in the first round... things worked out.

The Chiefs grabbed safety Bernard Pollard, safety from Purdue, in the second round. Another interesting choice, but new head coach Hermann Edwards is known for starting rookies at the safety position. And, in the third round, the Chiefs went with, depending on who you ask, possibly the fourth best quarterback in the draft, Bama's Brodie Croyle. A project to be sure, but the Chiefs will soon need a new quarterback to replace Trent Green, and Croyle will not be expected to start tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to the final rounds today, especially to see with KU players, Charles Gordon, Charlton Keith and Nick Reid wind up.

Excuse me while I take root in my couch.

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