Friday, December 30, 2005

To Boldly Go Where No Ad Has Gone Before

You may have noticed that G4 is quickly changing from a Video Gaming Channel into something like Spike TV. G4 has been showing ''The Man Show'' and it recently acquired the rights to ''Star Trek''. On January 8 you'll be able to watch ''Star Trek: TNG'' on G4, and the original ''Star Trek'' will appear on G4's schedule sometime later.

Of course G4 will launch a huge ad campaign for ''Star Trek.'' Did you wonder what that campaign might sound like? You'll read about potential slogans here before you'll read about them anywhere else! Based on my sources, here are four possibilities:
  • Get Your Trek On
  • The Spock Market
  • A Totally Different Enterprise
  • Trekstasy

Don't Put the Cartoon Before the Source

I searched my usual sources looking for shows that are being developed under the radar.

I came across five Cartoon Net series that don't appear anywhere on the searchable internet. Google, Yahoo!, MSN. None of them can find these series titles. During the next few months watch for press releases from Cartoon Network for some of the following:
  • Caveman Brothers of Nu!
  • Class of 3000
  • Jade Pouch
  • Locker 514
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Live and Learn (by Video)

I anxiously await the day each student has a laptop in the classroom.

According to a month-old report in the LA Times, some students in elementary and middle schools are required to take computers to class. The Fullerton School District is in the middle of a pilot program that affects about 15% of their students.

Nothing beats a lab experiment or live demonstration in the classroom. Sometimes they aren't practical and sometimes they're too expensive, which means you're best bet is a dynamic video. Just imagine what's possible if your teaching science and your students have the following shows just a few clicks away: ''Mr. Wizard's World,'' ''Newton's Apple,'' ''Beakman's World,'' ''Bill Nye the Science Guy,'' and ''Myth Busters.''

I do have huge concerns though. I'm not sure that teachers are truly prepared for this transition. And I know that companies that develop teaching materials are definitely not prepared.

We can't just keep teaching the same way we've always taught. We can't just tell students to simultaneously watch a video on their laptops if we would've shown the same video on a screen in the classroom. That's completely missing the point. Laptops provide a means for individual instruction. They shouldn't just be individual screens.

We need to continue teaching material to the entire class at the beginning of a module so that we provide all students with the same base. We must then learn how to teach individuals in the middle of a module to address their specific needs. Finally, we must learn how to test individuals at the end of the module so that we can better identify specific deficiencies and determine a plan of action.

Let's look at the middle of a module and see how TV shows might be important for individual instruction. Immediately after the all-student instruction, each student takes a quiz. If a student exhibits a deficiency in a particular area, the program automatically selects a video clip for the student from a list of segments that appeared on TV shows. All segments on this list discuss the same topic at varying levels of complexity.

After watching each video clip, the student is quizzed to determine whether or not she has mastered the material at the level presented in the video. If she understands the material, she progresses up the ladder watching additional videos to learn about complexities or subtleties of the topic. If he does not understand the material, he moves down the ladder until he finds a level he understands and then moves back up.

During this whole process, the teacher can monitor student progress to determine which students might require additional help. In addition, the teacher will use IM to communicate with students. Hopefully, IM will encourage more students to ask questions since their peers won't know they asked questions.

Now that's taking advantage of the educational benefits of laptops in the classroom, and I'm betting that TV production companies play a larger role in education.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Wonderful Life Is Like a Bowl of Cherries

This past weekend on Christmas Eve, NBC aired ''It's a Wonderful Life.'' Yet again. That's twice this year, and 21 times since 1994. Did you know that you could've watched the flick on NBC on Christmas Eve or Christmas Night every year since 1998?

Since the movie is so popular, I'd bet that it's often memorialized in ep titles. Let's check, shall we?
  • It's a Blunderfull Life (''Charles in Charge'')
  • It's a Bundyful Life (''Married…with Children,'' 12/17/1989)
  • It's a Generic Life (''Bobbys World,'' 10/11/1997)
  • It's a Good Life (''The Twilight Zone,'' 11/3/1961)
  • It's a Gorgeous Life (''Tattoed Teenage Alien Fighter from Beverly Hills,'' 7/3/1995)
  • It's a Helluva Life (''Brimstone,'' 2/5/1999)
  • It's a Magical Life (''Johnny Bravo,'' 7/23/2004)
  • It's a Marginal Life (''Blossom,'' 12/16/1991)
  • It's a Miserable Life (''The Golden Girls,'' 11/1/1986)
  • It's a Miserable Life (''Freddy's Nightmare: The Series,'' 10/16/1988)
  • It's a Miserable Life (''One on One,'' 12/16/2003)
  • It's a Smurfy Life (''Smurfs,'' 10/8/1988)
  • It's a Spootiful Life (''Angry Beavers,'' 9/23/2000)
  • It's a Totally Happening Life (''Beverly Hills, 90210,'' 12/16/1992)
  • It's a Totally Wonderful Life (''Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures,'' 7/12/1992)
  • It's a Wishful Life (''The Fairly OddParents,'' 5/10/2005)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

All Good Football Things Must Come To an End

Last night was the 555th — and final — Monday that ABC presented ''Monday Night Football.'' Truly the end of an era.

Enjoy this MNF commemorative edition of trivialTV.

Technical note: I used stats only for games that were originally scheduled for Monday nights. I've excluded all games presented on the ''Thursday Night Edition of Monday Night Football.'' I've also excluded the secondary game for three Mondays (10/26/1987, 10/27/1997, 9/19/2005) on which two games were played.

1. Five teams with the most wins in MNF history.

2. Five teams with the most losses in MNF history.

3. Top five teams for total points scored in MNF history (all games).

4. Top five teams for margin of victory in a single MNF game.

5. Top five teams for average margin of victory in MNF history (all games).

6. Top five games for most combined points scored in a single MNF game.

7. Top five games for least combined points scored in a single MNF game.

8. Six teams have been shut out more than once in MNF history.

9. Three teams have scored more than 40 points four or more times in MNF history.

10. The same opponents finished with exactly the same score in different MNF games.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Virtue Is Its Own Award

I've added nearly 4100 records to the trivialTV Awards Database for today's update, including:
  • AOL TV Awards: 2005
  • Daytime Emmy Awards: 1974-2002
  • Diversity Awards: 2005
  • Entertainment Weekly’s Best/Worst List: 2005
  • Freddie Awards: 1999-2005
  • Golden Globe Awards: noms for 2006
  • Golden Satellite Awards: winners for 2005
  • Wizard Magazine's Top 100 Animated Shows: 2004
  • Writers Guild Awards: noms for 2006

(The years listed above refer to the year that awards are conferred.)

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Shrieking Deal Gets Greased

Did you know that success is valued at $164,346.92? At least that's the value that "Deal or No Deal" (DoND) places on success.

I've been told that "80% of success is showing up." If you're selected to play DoND and you show up, your expected profit is $131.477.54. The rest is simple math.

That's enough silliness; let's get down to business. I've been hearing two recurring complaints about the banker's offers on DoND, and I want to take this opportunity to address these complaints.

Before we begin, we're going to play a simple game. I'm going to give you a lump sum of cash. It's yours to keep. No strings attached. Then I'm going to give you the opportunity to gamble with that cash. You can keep your cash or you can gamble if you prefer. If you'd like to gamble, you can bet your lump sum on a coin flip. If the coin shows heads, you win $1 million. If it comes up tails, you win nothing. A 50/50 chance at $1 million and a 50/50 chance at zilch. This coin flip has an expected value of $500K. Expected value simply means that you'll win an average of $500K per coin flip if you choose to gamble many many many times.

If the lump sum is small, you're likely to gamble on the coin flip. If the lump sum is large, you'll likely keep the lump sum instead of gambling. Somewhere in the middle is a happy medium where you struggle to make a decision. This decision point is different for different people, and the lump sum associated with your decision point indicates your risk profile. Are you risk-averse, risk-neutral or risk-seeking?

If I gave you $250K, would you gamble or keep the cash? What about $300K? $400K? $450K? $500K? $550K? $600K?

What if I change the coin flip? Heads = $510K and Tails = $490K. The expected value hasn't changed — it's still $500K, but the variability of outcomes has been dramatically reduced. If I gave you $500K, would you gamble on the coin flip now? (Most of you probably chose $500K cash instead of the coin flip for the first game.)

That's the essence of DoND. The gameshow provides a stage and the means so that we can watch contestants struggle with this decision over large sums of cash. DoND provides a simple game that everybody can play since the game is purely a game of chance, which means that each viewer can imagine himself on stage as the contestant. Plus DoND provides immediate feedback so that we can watch the instant euphoria or despair that follows a contestant's decision to gamble.

Now that we've defined the entertainment objective of the game, we must also consider one more goal. The production company has a simple objective — generate profit. Since the production company plays for the long run, they can play the odds. The company knows up front that each contestant is likely to have an average payout of $131.477.54 over the long haul if every contestant selects their suitcase in lieu of any of the banker's offers. Each episode also has a fixed production cost. That means that the company must generate revenue through advertising, which simply means the show must attract viewers by presenting a viable dramatic situation. The company can also slightly reduce costs by using the banker effectively.

OK. It's finally time to address the complaints.

Complaint #1: The banker's offers are initially too small. True. The offers are small relative to the expected value in the first few rounds, as shown below in Figure 1, but these offers are small for a reason. The banker/producer wants to make sure that even the most risk-averse person plays at least a few rounds. Can you imagine a game show where the contestant picks a suitcase, the banker offers the contestant $100K for that suitcase, and the contestant accepts the offer before playing the first round? Not very dramatic, is it? If it's not dramatic, it doesn't meet the producer's objectives for suspense.

(Click on the image to see a larger version.)
Figure 1. The effect of number of remaining cases on the banker's offer relative to the expected value. The ratio of the banker's offer and the expected value is plotted as a function of the number of cases remaining. The number of remaining cases includes the contestant's case. Data is missing for some contestants from the early rounds of Monday's and Tuesday's shows.

Complaint #2: The ratio of the banker's offer and the expected value vary significantly in the later rounds for different contestants. Also true. But the distribution of cash values in the suitcases also varies significantly in the later rounds for different contestants, and this variation affects both the expected value as well as the variability of outcomes. At this point in the game the banker/producer often has an opportunity to accomplish both of its objectives simultaneously. Think back to the simple game you played earlier. Didn't your answer change for the coin flip when the payouts changed? That simply means that your decision point often strongly depends on how different the outcomes really are. As variability increases, the cash value associated with your decision point decreases. If there is little variability in the outcomes, the banker/producer simply offers the expected value. If there is significant variability, the banker/producer can reduce its offer to save some cash and increase the drama since the lower offer is closer to the decision point. Your tolerance for risk also depends on the amount of cash. You're probably more willing to gamble $30 than $300,000 on a 50/50 chance of tripling your money and a 50/50 chance of losing your entire bet. In Figure 2, you can see how outcome variability and expected value affect the ratio of the banker's offer and expected value.

(Click on the image to see a larger version.)
Figure 2. The effect of expected value and outcome variability on the ratio of the banker's offer to the expected value when four cases remain. As you move up (higher expected value) and to the right (greater variability), this ratio decreases. The expected value is plotted against the standard deviation. To compare similar situations, data are used only when a contestant has four cases remaining, including his/her own case. The size of the symbol is proportional to the ratio of the banker's offer and the expected value. Larger symbols, such as those for Daryl and Karen, depict a ratio of unity. Tracy's symbol represents a ratio of 0.73. Venus is not included since she still has 15 cases left at the time I posted this entry.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

An mpeg Will Be Worth a Thousand Words

Have you used Windows Explorer to look at TV video files that you've downloaded from iTunes? Did you notice that these TV files have the same tags as your music files? Name, Artist, Album and Genre are used to represent Ep Title, TV Series, TV Series-Season # and "TV Shows," respectively. Fortunately, the Description tag is available for ep synopses.

I can't wait for the metadata fields to catch up with the times. At some point tags will be used to identify every person involved in the show, including all technical crew members. These tags will also include the show's transcript.

Why are these small technical advances important?
  • Distributed Information: Since data is distributed, sites like imdb and no longer have to hire area experts (or rely on a community) to update their databases. They only need a few people to maintain a database of shows with the appropriate URLs so that each show's metadata is dynamically updated from the video file. That's why I won't provide ep guides nor actor appearances on this site; instead, I've chosen to expend energy for design and index completeness.

  • Expert Gate Keepers: Since the production company oversees the development and manufacture of each video file, show experts are responsible for the accuracy and completeness of metadata. The production companies won't be 100% accurate, but they are likely to be more accurate than a community and work faster than an area expert.

  • Searchability: Since all file metadata will adhere to the same format, the average person will be able to search various fields using a very simple interface. You cannot perform any of these searches right now. Furthermore, Google's video search capability will be available for all video — not just the video in its archives.

I now better understand why Yahoo CEO Terry Semel took the stand that he did three months ago when he unveiled Yahoo's video strategy. I think he's mostly right. It is up to the production companies (and broadcast execs) to index their archives and make them available. But I think he might end up behind the curve if he waits for these same companies to add their indices to Yahoo's video search.

Why would AOL add their In2TV archives to Yahoo's indices when they're trying to drive traffic to their own portal? Why would MTV add their archives after they make a deal with MSN? (I'd bet that MSN would disallow such a move since they're also trying to drive traffic to their own portal.) In both cases, MSN and AOL can skew searches to demonstrate their competitors' deficiencies in this area and use the stats as a marketing tool.

That competition likely means only small production companies will add their archives to Yahoo's video search. But what if some independent site becomes a large portal for video from small production companies and that sites wants to become the portal for all TV? That competitive instinct comes out again, and it'll remove its indices from Yahoo (by changing URLs) after using Yahoo and other search engines to establish itself as the TV destination site.

In the end I think Yahoo will still have to maintain its own indices, either by using experts or relying on search tags, if Semel wants Yahoo to be the portal for all TV-related video.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Don't Cry Over Santa's Spilled Milk

Well, it is that time of year for the token holiday entry. So here goes. Did you ever wonder how TV scribes immortalized Kris Kringle in TV ep names?

You'll find clever names, like ''SantaClaustrophobia.'' Some are based on famous movie quotes: ''Play It Again, Santa.'' While still others are based on song titles: ''Santa's Got a Brand New Bag.''

What song title do holiday-themes shows most frequently reference? I'll give you a hint. The song was #1 on the Billboard Hit charts exactly 53 years ago today. In honor of this very trivial fact, here are ep titles that pay homage to this yuletide carol:
  • I Saw Daddy Hitting Santa Claus (''Grounded for Life,'' 12/19/2001)
  • I Saw Gina Kissing Santa Claus (''Martin,'' 12/17/1992)
  • I Saw Mommy Kicking Santa Clause (''Dave's World,'' 12/13/1993)
  • I Saw Stroker Killing Santa Claus (''Stroker & Hoop'')
  • I Saw Tia Kissing Santa Claus (''All of Us,'' 12/16/2003)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Here Today, Still Here Tomorrow

''Deal or No Deal'' preemed last night on NBC.

Whenever I see a game show, I always think about Betty White. Why? Not only was she The Queen of Television, but she truly was the queen of game shows.

Ms. White appeared on approximately 1000 game show eps as a contestant or panelist. That's right. About one thousand episodes as a player.

What's most remarkable about her accomplishment? The sheer number of different game shows on which she appeared. Most celebs focused on one series with a few other guest appearances, but Ms. White was quite versatile. She appeared at least once as a player or panelist on the following game shows:
(+/-)Betty White Game Show Appearances

Even thought that list is pretty impressive, it's not today's trivia question.

Only four celebs appeared as a contestant or panelist in more game show eps than Betty White. Can you name them?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Take the d/bitter with the Sweet

No new features today — just a significant update of a few existing features.

I've added six more weeks to the trivialTV airings database, which means the historical listings and the Total Tube Time rankings are more current.


Friday, December 16, 2005

All Things Come to Those Who Can't Wait

How will alternative methods of video delivery, such as iTunes and VOD, change how people watch continuing TV series?

Right now a number of people refuse to watch commercial TV. Instead, they wait until the DVD is released and watch the entire season. Why?
  • Low-Risk Time Investment: Viewers don't want to invest time in a show, such as ''Reunion,'' that might not be allowed to tell its story. If a series ends unexpectedly, you feel like you wasted your time. By waiting for DVD, the viewer knows exactly what to expect.
  • Compressed Story Time: Viewers don't have to wait a week, or longer, for the next new ep to continue the journey. I know many ''Lost'' fans who watched Season One on DVD just before the new season, and they are not happy about the current long spell of repeats.
  • No Commercials: 'Nuff said.
Plus they get the same benefits as people who record the show — schedule flexibility. Networks no longer dictate your schedule. You control your own time.

What are the downsides?
  • Active Spoiler Avoidance: For some shows the viewer must actively avoid major plot spoilers between the end of the season and the DVD release. That's pretty difficult for some of the watercooler-worthy shows.
  • Watercooler Talk Surrender: Even if you can avoid spoilers, you still can't converse with co-workers about the show over lunch.
If these these last two points are important to you, then iTunes and VOD might be the best solution. I imagine that a series with a continuing story will be broken into three main parts during the season. Each part is shown without repeats so that intermediate climaxes, cliffhangers and finalities occur at the end of the Fall, Winter and Spring Nielsen sweeps periods. Repeats are shown between these three blocks.

Let's assume a season consists of 24 eps evenly split into three 8-ep arcs. You can watch the first seven eps on VOD (if you want to rent) or iTunes (if you want to own) right before the 8th ep. Then you can watch this last ep with everyone else. Sure you have commercials, but that may be a small price to pay once so that you feel watercooler-worthy and so you don't have to avoid spoilers. You do have quick resolution for that part of the story, but you will have to wait a while for longer story arcs. Just think of these longer story arcs as multiple seasons, and you'll have no problem convincing yourself that this is how you'll be watching TV in the future.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Toys Will Be Toys

My nephew always has a really long list of toys that he "must have for Christmas." When I asked him to look through a catalog and circle five toys that he most wanted, he "only" circled 43 items. He wanted them all equally, and they each had a tie-in with some cartoon.

The only real connection between the toy and the cartoon is the brand. I'm still surprised that toys and cartoons aren't more interactive.

This snippet first appeared on December 6, 1987, as written by Bob Niedt in the ''Syracuse Herald American.''
The line of Mattel toys spills off of the ''Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future'' syndicated television program, which can be seen on Central New York cable systems 10 a.m. Sundays via New York City's WPIX-TV.

But future soldiers, young or old, don't need the television show, bad as it is, to interface with the tube. A videocassette player will do just fine, thank you, since ''Captain Power'' programs are available for around $10 a hit.

But the hidden lessons of friendship and whatnot laced into the programs to make them a little more meaningful fall flat if one isn't armed. For that you need any or all of the Mattel accessories, including the Powerjet XT-7, the Phantom Striker, or the Interlocker, all in the $25-$40 range.

What makes these gadgets unique is that the bearer can shoot at the bad-guy robots on television — who shoot back.

Infrared light beams from the weapon can cause orange-and-red explosions on the screen if the enemy aircraft, for example, are ''hit.'' But at the same time, the television screen is firing back. Light signals picked up by the hand-held devices may result in a ''hit'' from an enemy weapon, causing the Captain Power doll to eject from the cockpit mounted on the gadget.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If the Swimsuit Fits, Wear It

Since I found today's list of ep titles a bit disappointing, I thought I'd give you a bonus entry.

This time of year you see ads for Victoria's Secret everywhere. These ads made me wonder how TV writers view women. Here's a list of women's measurements, as idealized in ep titles:
  • Her Number Is 36-22-35 ("The Smothers Brothers Show," 3/11/1966)
  • 38-23-36 ("It Takes a Thief," 4/8/1969)
  • Vanessa 38-24-36 ("Quark," 4/7/1978)
  • 36-24-36 (''Sydney,'' 6/4/1990)
  • 36! 24! 36! Dick! (''3rd Rock from the Sun," 1/25/1998)
Even the Femmes have a song called 36-24-36, but how realistic are these measurements?

Well, first of all, they're better than the measurements quoted for the 36-24-73 ep of ''McHale's Navy'' on 2/22/1966.

What about women on TV today? You can do a quick google search ( measurements), and you'll find that Celebrity Sleuth Magazine reports:
  • Famke Janssen: 36-24-36
  • Mariska Hargitay: 36-24-36
  • Heidi Klum: 35-24-35
  • Jennifer Aniston: 34-23-35.5
  • Tyra Banks: 34-28-40 (as revealed on her talk show)
  • Paris Hilton: 34-25-35
  • Teri Hatcher: 34-23-34

Ad Money Drives Out Good (Content)

Product placement is everywhere on TV. Blame TiVo. Blame BitTorrent. Blame iPods. Blame the increased competition for eyeballs. Blame greed. Blame anything or anybody you want. It doesn't really matter. Product placement is on the rise and it's blatant.

But product-based shows actually go way back. Geez, the nets dedicated one- and two-hour shows to single companies in the '50s! CBS aired ''The Ford 50th Anniversary Show'' on 6/15/1953 and ''The General Foods 25th Anniversary Show'' on 3/28/1954. NBC showed ''The General Motors 50th Anniversary Show'' on 11/17/1957.

Reality shows, like ''The Apprentice,'' revitalized product placement when they demonstrated that a show's premise could revolve around a consumer product without hurting the show's ability to entertain and attract an audience.

Now think back to last Tuesday's ep of ''The Office.'' Quite the coincidence that the show featured a Video iPod on the same day NBC announced that you could download eps of 11 of their series, including ''The Office,'' from iTunes.

Today? Fox's ''Stacked'' has an ep simply titled ''iPod.'' I can't even guess what the show might be about.

Now the big question. Which scripted series have ep titles that name a specific consumer product that also plays an important role in the show's premise? I've only found two:
  • iPod (''Stacked,'' 12/14/2005)
  • The Pez Dispenser (''Seinfeld,'' 1/15/1992)
Kind of a disappointing list. (If you know of others, please add them in the comments section.)
Update (14 Dec 2005; Noon EST): A loyal reader e-mailed me with some obvious product allusions that I missed, including:
  • The Junior Mint (''Seinfeld,'' 3/18/1993)
  • The Cadillac (''Seinfeld,'' 2/8/1996)
  • The One with Joey's Porsche (''Friends,'' 10/21/1999)
  • The Rose Cadillac (''Tequila & Bonetti,'' 1/31/1992)
There are plenty of ep titles that reference consumer products, but either don't say the product name in the show or use the reference for some other product. For example:
  • Bla-Z-Boy (''Frasier'')
  • Humm Vac (''Everybody Loves Raymond'')

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Money is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Ocean

Starting next Monday (Dec 19) you'll be able to watch a new game show on NBC, ''Deal Or No Deal.'' NBC plans a five-night run for the Aussie-born series.

That's right. We no longer just steal ideas from the Brits. We steal from Oz too.

But that's not really news. NBC presented ''Number 96'' in 1980. Fox? ''Beyond Tomorrow'' in 1988. The Frog? ''Popstars'' in 2001. All three series were based on Aussie shows.

We really do prefer Brits though.

In the '60s the Brits first invaded American TV. Shows like "The Avengers," "The Baron" and "The Saint" were produced in England and shown in both the UK and the USA. But in the 1970s, British TV imports lost their accent. Rather than showing the original series, US networks put American faces and voices on British concepts. Unfortunately, Britcoms like "Coupling" lost their sense of humour in translation.

US networks aired more than 50 skeins based on British series. Nearly half of these series have the same name on both sides of the Atlantic. Just look at this year's crop of same-name series:
  • ''Supernanny'' (ABC)
  • ''The Office'' (NBC)
  • ''Hell's Kitchen'' (Fox)
  • ''Hit Me Baby One More Time'' (NBC)
That means more than half of the premises have different titles on opposite sides of the pond. Match the US series title (left column) with the original British series title (right colum) on which the US show was based.

US Series NameBritish Series Name
1."American Idol"a."Mind Your Language"
2."Three's Company"b."Till Death Do Us Part"
3."What a Country"c."Steptoe and Son"
4."Two of Us"d."Fawlty Towers"
5."All in the Family"e."Man about the House"
6."Cosby"f."One Foot in the Grave"
7."Amanda's"g."Keep It in the Family"
8."Ropers"h."Two's Company"
9."Sanford and Son"i."Pop Idol"
10."Too Close for Comfort"j."George & Mildred"


Monday, December 12, 2005

He Who Plays the Hyper Calls the iTunes

If you search the TV listings, you'll see in the lower left corner of the box for some shows. This logo simply denotes that that particular ep is available on iTunes.

Over the weekend I input the iTunes IDs for all TV series eps currently available for download. I'll update the trivialTV database with new iTunes offerings every weekend. Sometime in the future, when I become more computer savvy, I'll link the logo directly to the appropriate page in the iTunes library. I failed miserably this weekend — so far I could only figure out how to launch iTunes software and bring up the main front page.

Just FYI: I'm not affiliated with Apple nor iTunes. I do not get paid for diverting traffic to their site.

I hope you find this feature useful. Right now, it's not a big deal, but I'd rather start earlier than later.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Extreme Ultimate All-Star Celebrity Entry

ABC finally announced the participants for ''Dancing with the Stars.'' I have a hard time grasping that Tia, Tatum and Jerry didn't have better options to stay in the limelight. And how did Drew Lachey rate? I know he's Nick's bro, but he's really out of his league in this group.

I reckon networks will pick up pilots for many copycat shows this season if DwtS can duplicate any of its summer success and if Fox's ''Skating with Celebrities'' attracts even a modest audience. We're on the downside of the reality curve, where regular people appear on network TV and make fools of themselves. Cable channels, such as VH1, have been producing shows where celebrities appear on TV and make fools of themselves. Similar celeb-based shows are bound to migrate to network TV to fill the void, just as ''The Real World'' started the network reality craze.

This shift makes me feel like we'll revisit the '70s and mark the end of the ultimate extreme era.

Since 1995 ultimate or extreme appeared in nearly 40 different series titles. The trend started slowly, peaked in 2000-2002, and is fading. Here are some of the early entries in the extreme race to make shows sound like they're the ultimate:
  • ''Extreme Machines'' (Discovery, 1996)
  • ''Extreme Ghostbusters'' (Synd, 1997)
  • ''Extreme Dinosaurs'' (Synd, 1997)
  • ''Extreme Homes'' (HGTV, 1997)
  • ''Extreme Gong'' (GSN, 1998)

While the extreme/ultimate trend fades away, the celebrity/all-star trend is picking up. Only a few shows, like BET's ''Campus All-Star Challenge,'' had the words celebrity or all-star in their titles from 1987-1997. The celebrity trend really started to pick up steam in 2003, allowing you to watch the following Celebrity skeins since then: ''Poker'' (Bravo), ''Blackjack'' (GSN), ''Pool'' (Bravo), ''Fit Club'' (VH1), ''Hobbies'' (DIY) and ''Charades'' (AMC) on cable.

What happened the first time we went through the celebrity title phase? You could've watched these shows in the '70s:
  • ''Celebrity Bowling'' (Synd, 1971)
  • ''Celebrity Tennis'' (Synd, 1973)
  • ''Celebrity Sweepstakes'' (NBC, 1974)
  • ''Celebrity Sweepstakes'' (Synd, 1974)
  • ''Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes'' (CBS, 1978)
  • ''All Star Secrets'' (NBC, 1979)
  • ''Celebrity Charades'' (Synd, 1979)

I guess we can blame ''Celebrity Charades'' for everything.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Fool And His Money Are Soon a la Carted

Since Congress is huddling to solve every other problem, including the 'deeply flawed' BCS, it's tackling the cable industry. The Senate was investigating indecency, when FCC Chairman Kevin Martin opened the door for a la carte cable.

Whoa, nelly! The FCC and Congress actually think it's a revolutionary concept to allow cable subscribers select their content on a channel-by-channel basis.

Let's think about this.

iTunes already allows subscribers to download a single episode from a limited number of shows. You can't get any more a la carte than that. Not only do you get to select program-by-program (instead of channel-by-channel), but you can choose episode-by-episode (or even segment-by-segment if you like Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog). And when Apple releases its iPodHomeVideo, you'll be able to navigate iTunes using a menu on your TV and download episodes directly to your Apple DVR. Since you download them, you own them and you can watch them whenever you want.

Oh, so you want to watch an ep but not own it? Your local cable company already presents VOD for some series. For a smaller fee you can watch streaming video instead of owning the mp3. Once again, you can select episode-by-episode.

Technically, we're quickly heading toward a world where we create our own individual and personalized channels by selecting programs and episodes from multiple content providers. Yet politically, Congress wants to give us the ability to create our own cable company by selecting only the channels that we want. Why will Congress spend all this money investigating a solution that will be outdated even before it begins its investigation?

Nipsey Russell definitely scored big with this quote:
The opposite of pro is con;
That fact is clearly seen;
If progress means move forward,
Then what does Congress mean?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A New Groom Keeps Clean

Yesterday I got an invitation to a June wedding in Hawaii, and I'm already excited about the Maui weekend. I only dread hearing all the Just Mauied jokes. And, yes, there is a website for people who want to get Mauied,

After I opened the mail, I flipped through the channels and stopped on MTV's ''Next'' because the women were getting dolled up in wedding dresses. I thought it was kind of an odd stunt, but it kind of worked. I watched for about five minutes, until the babes on the bus tried finding something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. I kept waiting to hear "something stolen," but one of the wanna-be-brides knew the old saying stone cold.

Ever wonder how TV ep titles use this phrase? Here's a short list:
  • Something Battered, Something Blue (''That's Life,'' 10/5/2001)
  • Something Borrowed, Someone Blue (''Murder, She Wrote,'' 1/8/1989)
  • Something Borrowed, Someone Blue (''Frasier,'' 5/18/2000)
  • Something Borrowed, Someone's Due (''Will & Grace,'' 3/7/2002)
  • Something Borrowed, Something Bruised (''The District,'' 5/1/2004)
  • Something Old, Something Nude (''L.A. Law,'' 10/10/1991)
  • Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blew (''Arnie'')
  • Something Stolen, Something Blue (''Matinee Theatre,'' 1/16/1958)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Common Threads #1

What do these series have in common?
  • ''Boy Meets World''
  • ''Bringing Up Jack''
  • ''Brotherly Love''
  • ''Family Album''
  • ''Minor Adjustments''
  • ''Tall Hopes''
  • ''Teech''


Monday, December 05, 2005

You Have To Take the Good With the Ad

Don't worry. The front page won't have ads. You'll actually have to look hard to find them.

I've added Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) to the trivialTV database for many series and some movies. (And I'll continue to add more.) Whenever you use one of the search features, such as historical TV listings, you may see a small Amazon ad/link for a show. If you click on the link, you'll be taken to Amazon's web page for the DVD that contains that particular show. These links represent my only source of revenue from the site.

That's it. That's all the advertising you'll see.

But it's actually the beginning of a good thing. In the near future, I'll be adding links to and for each airing. And when AOL (and others) release online video, you'll also find links for videos too. These links will become even easier to use when I release the feature that lets you find series episode lists.

Why go down this route? My goal is to make trivialTV an unaffiliated portal for finding info and video for TV series. I foresee few such viable options in the future as companies reach agreements:
  • AOL will be the portal for Warner Bros. series.
  • iTunes/Apple will likely be the outlet for Disney/ABC series, given their recent relationship for ''Desperate Housewives'' and ''Lost.''
  • Viacom has tagged Google as its probable portal for online delivery. CBS is in discussions with Google; plus, Google already was the provider for the UPN series ''Everybody Hates Chris.''
  • Relationships are usually hard to break, and NBC-Universal already has past ties to Microsoft through MSNBC. 6 Dec 2005 Update: Obviously I miscalculated how much the MS-NBC relationship soured. NBC-Uni will use iTunes as its outlet, according to this note at B&C.
  • Fox will continue to do its own thing and will likely introduce its own portal, given some recent acquisitions.

That list covers the Big Five TV companies and four of the existing Big Five online portals. What else might happen?
  • Many series are not controlled by the Big Five networks. Those series controlled by large production houses will be easily accessible because a large production company has enough cash to bring them online. (And enough motivation since they're trying to drive DVD sales.) Small production houses will have to band together or negotiate agreements with the online portals.
  • Yahoo's CEO has already announced that he expects the production companies to maintain their own content, and Yahoo's initial strategy for linking to these multiple locations is not clear. They may use a hierarchical search/link structure, zap2it TV listings to provide a searchable database, or a user tagging method.
  • is controlled by Amazon and they will continue to focus on DVD sales (or Amazon online video sales in the future). Only one problem. If it's not on Amazon, may not link to it.
  • Since CNET purchased, they've turned into Now it's the same info as before but is much slower because of ads, increased steps to find info, more extraneous stuff, and the community-based rating system. On the surface they appear to be very slow to implement new features.
  • It does not appear that wants to venture outside of its news niche.
  • TV Guide is really trying to find it's way in the new media world, and they should be trying to become the place to go online for TV info & video. But they've embraced their web presence reluctantly.

If you're trying to find info about a particular show or buy a DVD or view a video, I hope to make this site frill-free and easy-to-use so that you can satiate your desire very quickly. It won't be clear to the casual internet users that they'll have to go to AOL to watch ''Welcome Back Kotter.'' And it seems obvious that all users should be able to go to single site to find a link to this (and any other) video.

Friday, December 02, 2005

If You Don't Bake Mistakes, You Don't Bake Anything

Have you noticed the increasing number of shows that mash conventional genres? That seems especially true for animation.

''Space Ghost: Coast to Coast'' was the first animated talk show back in April 1994. More recently, Comedy Central preemed ''Drawn Together,'' the first animated reality series, in November 2004. And then there's the Max Headroom-esque ''Newsbot 13.'' The Newsbot is an online animated news reader from Des Moines, Iowa that uses a real reporter's voice.

What's next?

How 'bout an animated cooking show. It's not a new idea. You may know about Tako, the Octopus and his cooking antics. Tako launched in September 2000, but the idea would be novel for a network. I think ''Emeril'' and ''Kitchen Confidential'' didn't capture a very large audience because sitcom material is really quite limited in the kitchen. The live-action menu is quite limited, but imagine what happens when you relax the laws of physics and forget about some ethics — cartoon characters can do things that real characters definitely cannot.

The world is wide open for an animated kitchen comedy.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Road To Hell's Kitchen Is Paved with Food Intentions

While waiting in line to buy T-day groceries, Ralph's was kind enough to entertain me with cooking show clips. Little LCD screens near the register present video shorts for news, weather, sports and recipes.

About those recipes. Isn't it a little late by then? I'm already standing in line. Am I really going to return to the produce department to pick up some fresh cilantro and veggies? And what's the likelihood that I have a pen to jot down the recipe? There's virtually no chance I'll remember the list of ingredients.

How 'bout if someone installs a recipe kiosk in grocery stores that's a win-win-win-win-win situation. That's a lot of wins.

Walk over to the kiosk and scan a few key ingredients. You might scan boneless chicken breasts and some mushrooms. The kiosk scans its database for recipes with these two ingredients and presents a list, grouped by type of cuisine. Do you feel like Mexican, Italian or maybe even Polish food tonight? Touch the screen to make your selection. You're now presented with a list of recipes that you can view on the screen. Once you find a dish that you like, press print.

Now the fun starts.

Of course, the kiosk prints a recipe for you, meaning you don't need pen and paper. You no longer have to wait 'til you get home and search for a recipe online only to discover you don't have all the ingredients. Plus you have the recipe while you're still shopping — not at the register. Not only do you have a shopping list, but the kiosk prints the aisle number and location where you can find the items in that store. That quick trip to the store on the way home won't nearly take so long since you're not aimlessly zigzagging the aisles looking for a specific item. (You can even imagine that some stores will have the items waiting for you at the register and the recipe lists a register number instead of aisle numbers.) Oh yeah. It's free for you. Sure sounds like you win.

What about the grocery store? It's quite likely that you'll buy most of the items on the list of ingredients because you want to make sure that you have them. That means some people will buy perishable products in duplicate. Plus the store found a way to have you spend more time walking the aisles, even if it's directed walking. The more items you see, chances are you'll buy more things. Sounds like the grocery store wins.

Then who pays the bills? Some small local company installs and operates the kiosks. The grocery store spends nothing to install nor operate the kiosk and only provides a small area of floor space rent-free. Ralph's already has scanners on the floor; so this concept isn't much of a leap.

No, really. Who pays the bills? The Food Network and food manufacturers.

When the kiosk searches for recipes, what cookbooks will it use? Of course, the kiosk only knows about Food Net shows. You can think about the kiosk as a Food Net Center. The Center will always show video clips from current TV shows. Think about the kiosk as a way to attract or retain viewers. What better way to advertise a new series? Oh, and about that printout? It also has an access key (number) so that when you go home you can download the video clip for the recipe you chose from the Food Net site directly to your video iPod. Put your iPod above the counter and hit play. Now you can cook as you watch. But there's more. That printout also has a coupon for the Food Net online cookbook from which your recipe came. Sounds like it's a winning marketing campaign to increase online activity for the Food Net.

But that's not all. What about the food manufacturers? How do they fit in? They pay for understated product placement. When the kiosk prints the list of ingredients, it always has the option to suggest a generic ingredient: 1 cup sour cream. But the kiosk also has the option to print: 1 cup Breakstone's Sour Cream. Or if Kraft is trying to push a particular variety, the kiosk can print: 1 cup Breakstone's Fat Free Sour Cream. Companies pay only for the number of times the item is printed and will bid for key ingredients — pie crusts, pie filling, spices, flavorings — during peak times, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. The kiosk is essentially another marketing tool, instead of coupons, to drive consumer behavior and increase market share. And if that company really wants to control shoppers, the kiosk can print a coupon too. That's a strong one-two punch to introduce a new product to the marketplace.

When can I scan my chicken and mushrooms?