Friday, June 30, 2006

All for Sony and Sony for All

Sony Pictures Television is planning to get its act together. Since Sony produces so many popular TV shows, their site should be a destination for TV viewers to view video, share thoughts and ideas, and maybe even interact with writers and stars.

Based on documents that Sony filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office on June 22 & 23, 2006, they plan on creating Our Network (or Our TV), allowing visitors to upload, post, blog, share and watch video online. Definitely a step in the right direction, but it's not available yet.

I'm guessing that Sony will keep these features as part of their main site — something like — rather than using a separate site. The domain,, is already taken, but is still available if you want to do some domain prospecting.

I also reckon that you'll be able to download eps for a fee from this site. I think there's a reason why none of the Sony shows are currently available on iTunes.

Indecision Begins at Home

OK. You're on the marketing team at Scripps Networks. You have to create a new tagline for a website for crafts and hobbies, including sewing, quilting and furniture & antique collecting. What's your slogan?

Can't decide? That's OK. Apparently they couldn't either. Scripps Networks filed paperwork with the US Patent & Trademark Office to protect multiple taglines. All of these slogans have the form ''Make life ____. Start at home.'' How are they going to fill in the blank? Take you pick from the following:
  • beautiful
  • better
  • brighter
  • colorful
  • easier
  • exciting
  • fun
  • richer
  • surprising
Now that's covering your bases.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Big Babelfish in a Little Podcast

What if you could personalize your TV newscast every night?

If you don't like Paul Moyer and Colleen Williams together, just replace Paul with Sharon Tay. Don't worry. You won't have to listen to Sharon speak with Paul's voice — you can use her real voice. Want to make the newscast really interesting? Have Sharon speak Mandarin as a complete contrast to Colleen's English.

Not outrageous enough? What if you replace all of the talking heads with a kangaroo (sports), ostrich (weather), wombat (anchor) and koala (field reporter) and have each of them speak one of four different Aussie accents. Now that's a crazy personalized newscast.

If IBM has anything to say about it, you might just have this chance. Last week IBM filed a patent application (20060136226) for a "system and method for creating artificial TV news programs." Their abstract is nicely written; so I'll just include it here:
The present invention relates to interactive television, in particular to a method and system for creating artificial TV programs according to TV viewers' preferences and more particularly to a system and method for enabling a TV viewer to replace the newscaster of a TV news program by an artificial newscaster and to translate the newscaster's speech into the language of his choice. The present invention combines automatic speech recognition (Speech-To-Text processing), automatic machine translation, and audio-visual Text-To-Speech (TTS) synthesis techniques for automatically personalizing TV news programs.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Penny Wise and Sound Foolish

All week I've heard and read about ringtones that only the young can hear.

It's almost like teens discovered a new secret code to communicate with each other right in front of adults. I loathe the next developments. Imagine if teens expand this concept so devices can be controlled to vary amplitude/intensity and frequency.
  • multiple choice exams: I know this item isn't TV-related, but I'm concerned as an educator. Just imagine having some student in the back of the classroom type the number of the question on a cell phone keypad, followed by the '#' key. Then the student chooses the letter for the correct answer and hits the '#' key again. That student's phone 'announces' the correct answer so that only students can hear the announcement.
  • subaduliminal TV messages: Subliminal means below everybody's level of conscious awareness. Subaduliminal? That's just below the level of conscious awareness of adults. (That's the best word I can make up.) Imagine TV commercials that use these higher-pitched sounds to speak directly to your child without your knowledge or permission, even though you're sitting in the same room.
Possible? I don't know. I haven't looked for any scientific or medical literature to confirm or refute the hypothesis that speech can be synthesized so that young listeners can understand words while adult listeners cannot even hear the sounds.

Paranoid? You bet.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Where There's a Series Kill, There's Dismay

Lee Goldberg notes that Jason Gedrick and Eric Balfour are Show Killers.

Why are Show Killers given so many chances despite having resumes littered with discarded TV series? I think we just notice these Show Killers because their careers start with consecutive failures and because their setbacks are widely publicized in today's information age.

Did you know that Robert Urich killed nine short-lived series, including ''It Had to Be You'' and ''Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice''? I don't think anybody would call him a Show Killer since most of his disappointments occurred after some early success.

Past success obviously does not guarantee series longevity in the future. Why should past failure be used as a measure of future success in such a fickle business where a hit series requires a rare combination of suitable performers, story telling, network backing and an accepting audience?

Jason Gedrick and Paula Marshall are usually tapped as two of the leading Show Killers. Who are the others?

First, I should define a Series Kill.
  • The series must air fewer than 30 new eps on US primetime network TV — the count does not include repeat showings. Busted and unsold pilots are excluded.
  • The performer must be a supporting or lead actor in the TV series — guest appearances and occassional recurring roles are excluded.
With these criteria I can easily query the trivialTV database to count Show Kills and then identify Show Killers.

Who really are the All-Time Show Killers? These performers started their careers with the most consecutive Series Kills:
  • 8 kills: Joe Morton
    • ''Grady '' (NBC, 1975; 9 eps aired)
    • ''Equal Justice'' (ABC, 1990; 26)
    • ''Tribeca'' (Fox, 1993; 7)
    • ''Under One Roof'' (CBS, 1995; 6)
    • ''New York News'' (CBS, 1995; 8)
    • ''Prince Street'' (NBC, 1997; 2)
    • ''Mercy Point'' (UPN, 1998; 7)
    • ''E-Ring'' (NBC, 2005; 14)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 8 kills: Todd Susman
    • ''The Bob Crane Show'' (NBC, 1975; 14 eps aired)
    • ''Spencer's Pilots'' (CBS, 1976; 7)
    • ''Number 96'' (NBC, 1980; 6)
    • ''Star of the Family'' (ABC, 1982; 13)
    • ''Goodnight, Beantown'' (CBS, 1983; 18)
    • ''Have Faith'' (ABC, 1989; 7)
    • ''The City'' (CBS, 1990; 13)
    • ''Scorch'' (CBS, 1992; 3)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit, although Susman had a recurring role on ''Newhart'' as Officer Shifflett (1984-1989).

  • 7 kills: Joanna Cassidy
    • ''Roller Girls'' (NBC, 1978; 3 eps aired)
    • ''240-Robert'' (ABC, 1979; 16)
    • ''The Family Tree'' (NBC, 1983; 6)
    • ''Buffalo Bill'' (NBC, 1983; 25)
    • ''Code Name: Foxfire'' (NBC, 1985; 8)
    • ''Dudley'' (CBS, 1993; 5)
    • ''Hotel Malibu'' (CBS, 1994; 6)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 7 kills: Paula Marshall
    • ''Wild Oats'' (Fox, 1994; 4 eps aired)
    • ''Chicago Sons'' (NBC, 1997; 10)
    • ''Cupid'' (ABC, 1998; 14)
    • ''Snoops'' (ABC, 1999; 10)
    • ''Cursed'' (NBC 2000; 15)
    • ''Hidden Hills'' (NBC, 2002; 13)
    • ''Out of Practice'' (CBS, 2005; 14)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 7 kills: Jon Tenney
    • ''The Dirty Dozen: The Series'' (Fox, 1988; 9 eps aired)
    • ''Equal Justice'' (ABC, 1990; 27)
    • ''Crime & Punishment'' (NBC, 1993; 6)
    • ''Good Company'' (CBS, 1996; 6)
    • ''Brooklyn South'' (CBS, 1997; 22)
    • ''Get Real'' (Fox, 1999; 20)
    • ''Kristin'' (NBC, 2001; 6)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 7 kills: Hector Elizondo
    • ''Popi'' (CBS, 1976; 10 eps aired)
    • ''Freebie and the Bean'' (CBS, 1980; 7)
    • ''Blaine'' (NBC, 1983; 5)
    • ''a.k.a. Pablo'' (ABC, 1984; 6)
    • ''Foley Square'' (CBS, 1986; 14)
    • ''Down and Out in Beverly Hills'' (Fox, 1987; 8)
    • ''Fish Police'' (CBS, 1992; 3)
    • ''Chicago Hope'' (CBS, 1994; 141): breakout hit
    • ''Kate Brasher'' (CBS, 2001; 6)
    • ''The Dating Experiment'' (ABC, 2003; 4)
    • ''Century City'' (CBS, 2004; 4)

Elizondo leads all performers with ten career Series Kills. Urich is a close second place with nine Kills.

And what about Jason Gedrick? You can read Alan Sepinwall's analysis of Gedrick's career. The sticking point is ''Murder One.'' Should we count all eps even though he left after one season? Should I increase the number of eps in the definition of a Series Kill?
  • Jason Gedrick
    • ''Class of '96'' (Fox, 1993; 17 eps aired)
    • ''Sweet Justice'' (NBC, 1994; 22)
    • ''Murder One'' (ABC, 1995; 36)
    • ''EZ Streets'' (CBS, 1996; 8)
    • ''The Beast'' (ABC, 2001; 5)
    • ''Falcone'' (CBS, 2000; 9)
    • ''Boomtown'' (NBC, 2002; 24)
    • ''Windfall'' is currently being shown on NBC.
I've chosen to remove him from the list of Show Killers based on the relative longevity of ''Murder One.'' You may disagree.

And Eric Balfour? That dog must still hunt. He only has five Series Kills to start his young career.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Awards d/b Update

Hard to believe it's been eight weeks since I last updated the trivialTV Awards database. Today I added 405 records to the largest TV awards database on the web.

In this update I've added records for:
  • ALMA Award: 2006 winners
  • Banff Rockie Award: 1983 winners
  • BMI TV Music Award: 2006 winners
  • Cable Positive’s POP Award: 2006 noms & winners
  • Carl Sagan Award: 2006 winner
  • Daytime Emmy Awards: 2006 winners
  • Edgar Allen Poe Award: 2006 winner
  • Golden Tater Award: 2006 noms
  • Home Entertainment Award: 2006 noms
  • Humanitas Prize: 2006 finalists
  • Media Access Award: 2005 winners
  • NAACP Image Award: 1987 winners, 1989 & 1992 noms
  • NAMIC Vision Award: 2006 winners
  • Nebula Award: 2006 winner
  • PASS Award: 2006 winners
  • PRISM Award: 2006 winners
  • Rave Award: 2006 winner
  • Saturn Award: 2006 winners
  • Silver Gavel Award: 2006 winners
  • Spacey Award: 2006 winners
  • Television Critics Association Award: 2006 noms
  • Western Heritage Award: 2006 winner
  • Ursa Major Award: 2006 noms & winner

Friday, June 09, 2006

The CMT Can Make the Most Noise

According to docs filed last week with the USPTO, Country Music Television (CMT) fans can look forward to three new features:
  • B-Sides
  • Custom Built
  • Live & Loaded

One Pillow Does Not a Summer Make

Stacey Case is my hero.

Why? He's serious about the Pillow Fight League. Just last week he filed docs with the USPTO to protect the phrase for the TV series, internet series and videostreaming. Those were obvious, but Stacey's a visionary. He already has plans for clothing, action figures and, of course, pillow covers.

Seems like the perfect show for Spike TV at some point. Good luck Casey!

Don't Look a Divorce in the Mouth

I really hope this gameshow makes it to the air someday. If for no other reason, I love that the title uses two special characters.

The name of the series? "D!vorce War$"

Doesn't sound like it, but Galaxy Ventures specifically protected the phrase as a title for gameshow.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Pause That Broke the Camel's Back

You know the pause. You switch from one channel to another and your telly screen is completely black, except for the electronic program guide (EPG) info along the bottom of the screen. Sometimes it's a short pause; other times it seems like forever. Either way, you're sick of seeing that black screen. When you change the channel, you want to see the new content immediately.

So that's the problem. How can we solve it? Let's take a look at a few different ways.
    1. Stream three signals simultaneously: The set-top box (STB) actively acquires the signals for the channel you're watching, the channel you would watch if you press the 'channel +' button and the channel you would watch if you press the 'channel -' button. If you navigate the channels only using the 'channel +/-' button, you'll always see a picture. If you change channels any other way, you'll still see a black screen.

    2. Stream more than three signals simultaneously: The STB actively acquires more than three signals. Of course, the STB acquires the signal for the channel you're watching, but the STB also acquires signals for the channels you're most likely to view next. The STB analyzes your historical viewing habits and records video for all channels you're likely to watch. That can be a lot of video, and the STB may only record a fraction of a channel's signal based on the likelihood that you'll change the telly to that channel next. If you do something the STB doesn't expect, such as switching direclty to MSNBC when you hear breaking news about the al Zarqawi killing, then you'll still see a black screen.

    3. Insert content during channel switches: It's likely that the STB won't have the capacity to record all channels simultaneously; so it's very likely you'll still see black screens during some channel switches. Still can't stand these peaceful interludes of blackness? Then maybe you'll enjoy the product described in US Patent App 20060123443, Inserting local signals during channel changes. The patent suggests that ads and games can be stored locally, and subscribers can watch/play during slightly longer breaks. I think that this last feature would also be convenient for real-time shows that run late or long.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand to Watch These Shows

What were TV's guiltiest pleasures last season?

Not just guilty, but really shameful. So reprehensible that we were embarrassed to watch these series if friends and family were in the same house!

From September 19, 2005 through May 24, 2006, 14 series on US primetime network TV averaged less than 1.30 viewers per household:
  • 1.20 viewers per watching household: ''The Bedford Diaries''
  • 1.22: ''Sex, Love & Secrets''
  • 1.23: ''Get This Party Started''
  • 1.24: ''South Beach''
  • 1.26: ''Inconceivable''
  • 1.27: ''Related'' & ''Jake in Progress''
  • 1.28: ''Pepper Dennis'' & ''Living with Fran'' & ''The Apprentice: Martha Stewart'' & ''Survival of the Richest''
  • 1.29: ''What I Like About You'' & ''The Bachelor: Paris'' & ''PrimeTime Live''
If you look at last year's list, you'll see "The Bachelor," Primetime" and "Jake in Progress" all had repeat performances.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I received a request. A real live query. (Thanks, Toby!)
It's probably too late for you to do the proper research, but considering the date for tomorrow, has the phrase "Number Of The Beast" ever been adapted for episode titles?
It's not Wednesday — the usual day for ep titles — but I aim to please!

First, you may recall my previous post about ep titles with the number 666.

Now, let's get to the question at hand.

I didn't find a single US show that used this phrase for any ep titles. A British show, Wcyliffe, aired an ep called "Number of the Beast" on June 16, 1996. And that's it.

Then I thought you might settle for some variants of "Number of the Beast." Phrases like "---- of the Beast" and "Number of the -----." I found a number of shows with:
  • "Nature of the Beast"
  • "Belly of the Beast"
  • the "Man Beast" and the "Night Beast"
  • "Afternoon" or "Night of the Beast"
That's not quite what you're looking for. Here's what's left:
  • The Brand of the Beast (''Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,'' 12/18/1966)
  • Mark of the Beast (''The Lost World,'' 4/21/2001)
Kind of a disappointing list. I had such high hopes, too!

What 'bout "The Omen"? No luck. Beelzebub? Nope. The Four Horsemen? The Apocalypse?
  • The Three Horsemen of Mandragora (''Shazzan!'')
  • The Poor Sportsmen of the Apocalypse (''The Jeff Foxworthy Show,'' 10/7/1996)
  • Johnny Apocalypse (''Invisible Man,'' 6/15/2001)
Once I eliminate variants of the film "Apocalypse Now," there isn't much left.

Seems like TV writers try to avoid the Beast like the devil.

Monday, June 05, 2006

There's Nothing New Under the Nielsen

As promised, I've added four more weeks to the trivialTV database. You can now search more than 121,000 records by choosing any date from 1/1/1983 through 5/21/2006.

Don't think you're getting your money's worth? Maybe this new feature will help. You'll now find Nielsen household ratings for nearly 98% of these records.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Loose Clips Sync Zip

Just when you think Paxson is kaput, there's some odd sign of life. Last week Paxson Productions, Inc. filed docs with the USPTO to protect the phrase, Clip-Sync.

What is it? According to the filing, "Clip-Sync" might be a gameshow. Or maybe just a segment on another gameshow. Or maybe just an online resource for game information. Or maybe an online game.

Maybe the website,, will tell me more. Oh, wait. Nobody's registered that domain name yet. (Domain prospectors: here's an opportunity if you think Paxson will pony up some dough.)

Now you see why Paxson is losing money. The company pays lawyers to legally protect a name it doesn't know what to do with and then fails to pay nine dollars to protect the domain name for the next year while it figures it out.


Live There and Let Live There

RIVR Media is developing a new show, "I Want to Live There." Based on its USPTO filing last week, the TV series will feature "luxury accomodations, residences and travel destinations."

I expect great things.

Why? RIVR Media just flies under the radar while producing great content for TLC ("Trading Spaces"), ESPN ("Knight School"), Food Network ("Date Plate"), DIY ("Classic Car Restoration"), Animal Planet ("Backyard Habitat"), Fine Living ("Catalog This") and Travel Channel ("Exploring America").

Not a bad list for a company I never heard of.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It'll All Come Out in the Cache

Imagine this. You're using your computer to watch TV shows. While you flip through different channels and view clips, your TV history is being stored locally in your cache.

Why is your viewing history important? In general, you are what you watch. If you list your top ten fave TV shows, an algorithm can tell me all about your buying habits. Your TV list usually leads to greater consumer insight than your age, gender, race and income.

Now what? If you're Microsoft, you use this info to make money. You can strategically overlay ads (e.g., watermark), place ads in the black letterbox area, use interstitial commercials as you change channels. The options are really endless, and we'll be bombarded with more ads than ever before.

But Microsoft is more creative than that.

What's the first thing you see on your computer when you come back from lunch? That's right. You see the same thing everybody in your office saw for the last 30 minutes of your lunch. Your screen saver. What a wonderful place for targeted advertising.

Microsoft thought so too. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) published Microsoft's patent application (20060117366), "Television tuning device screen saver advertising."

'nuff said.