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April 20, 2014

Tv101

TV 101: Five Lies TV Tells Us

by Jay Black, posted May 12th 2010 3:02PM
I was going to use a picture of Bill Clinton here, but didn't want to get political. Would have been funny though, don't you think?This is how accustomed to being lied to the average TV watcher is: There's a genre called "reality" television that in no way reflects any kind of reality that any of us have ever lived. We're at the point where a network could air a solid half-hour of the color red and call it 'The Color Blue Show' and none of us would say a word.

I'm not mad that TV lies to us -- real life is ugly! I'm not sure I'm ready for a show that accurately reflects how often the average person picks his nose or looks at Japanese tentacle porn. TV's lies only become a problem when we try to measure our own lives against them.

So, let's outline some of the bigger lies TV tells in the hope that by doing so I can both make the average TV watcher feel better about themselves and also fulfill the requirements of my court-ordered community service ...

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TV 101: "Save Our Show" Stunts Are Dumb

by Jay Black, posted May 5th 2010 2:03PM
I would have used a picture of Glenn Beck here, but I thought that would upset some people.Recently, fans of NBC's 'Chuck' decided to stage flash mobs as a way to raise awareness about a show that seems to spend 99% of its time on the cusp of cancellation.

There are two things wrong with doing this. The first is that the solution to the ratings issues 'Chuck' has is obvious (and one that I've written to NBC about several times). California State Law prohibits me from outlining here exactly what my idea is, but just know that it involves Yvonne Strahovski, a string bikini, and several gallons of apple butter.

My second problem with the flash mobs is far more complex and nuanced, but if I had to sum it up into a sentence, it would be this: anyone who participates in a stunt to try to get a show to remain on the air is dumb.

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TV 101: The TV Watcher's Bill Of Rights

by Jay Black, posted Apr 28th 2010 2:21PM
Little known fact, the kid in this video wound up being the guy who robbed Kal Penn at gunpoint.Our congress has a cute way of handling problems. Instead of actually doing anything about them, what they do is pass a Something Something Bill of Rights.

For instance, when Spirit Airlines recently announced that they were going to charge for the use of overhead storage space on their airplanes (a prelude, of course, to their ultimate plan of stabbing each customer in the throat, then charging for tourniquets), Congress handled the problem by dredging up the old "Passenger's Bill of Rights" idea once again.

Now, some might criticize Congress by saying, "Passenger's Bill of Rights!? We don't even have the actual Bill of Rights on our side when we fly", but those people are missing the point: Bills of Rights only exist to take up space.

As it happens, taking up space is exactly what a columnist needs to do each week as well! So, today marks the beginning of a new series: the TV Watchers Bill of Rights!

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TV 101: The NFL Can Help the Internet Grow Up

by Jay Black, posted Apr 21st 2010 11:02AM
As American as Mom, Apple Pie, or convincing drunk girls at a Jets game to show you their boobs.Every culture has a coming-of-age ritual. The boys of the Amazon's Satere Mawe tribe aren't considered men until they've worn a glove filled with stinging ants. Among the American Nouveau-Riche tribe, you can't enter adulthood until a minor rap star comes to your sweet sixteen and performs for you in front of MTV cameras. Among my people, the Irish Americans, you can only achieve the full rights of adulthood after you've ruined a Thanksgiving dinner by getting drunk and fighting your father.

The internet is a teenager right now - you can tell because it's always angry and is totally obsessed with seeing Megan Fox naked. The internet needs to grow up with a coming-of-age ritual all its own. And, as much as I'd like to put a glove of stinging ants onto the hands of the people who call me a douche every week in the comments, there's only one real way for the internet to finally achieve adult status ...

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TV 101: My Strange Hate For The Word-Of-Mouthers

by Jay Black, posted Apr 14th 2010 11:02AM
That's what all married men look like. Get it, because he's blue? Shut up.'Treme' premiered this week, but I was traveling and couldn't watch it. My plan had been to use HBO Go, but apparently "high speed internet" in Nacogdoches, TX really is just a system of tubes in the ground. The only site I could reliably connect to was a wholesale belt-buckle emporium.

Not seeing the show isn't a worry; 2010 might not have flying cars, but damned if we don't have a plethora of options for watching a show we missed. I'll eventually find it online, on demand, or on one of the approximately 419 identical HBOs that all have different names for some reason.

The only real worry I have is that if I wait too long to watch 'Treme', it'll be 'Friday Night Lights', 'The Wire' or 'Arrested Development' all over again. I'm scared that the word-of-mouthers will find out I'm not watching and they'll start annoying the living hell out of me.

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TV 101: Podcasts That Could Be TV Shows

by Jay Black, posted Apr 8th 2010 10:02AM
Aceman looking dapper. And by dapper I mean Do you know why stand-up comics have so many lame jokes about flying? It's because we spend so much (expletive deleted) time on (expletive deleted) planes. (My own lame joke about flying involves overweight people next to you: "So much of her was on me that we hit turbulence and I technically cheated on my wife.")

That much time in coach turns your brain into pudding - you need a crutch to get you through it. I've turned into a podcast junkie. At any given time of the day or night, I'm probably flying over you, listening to some guy in his basement rant about the whether the "Blackest Night" event is good or bad for the DC universe.

I'm like an awkward, misshapen George Clooney from 'Up in the Air.' Except instead of hot sex with Vera Farmiga, I'm snuggling with Leo Laporte.

After all this podcast listening (not to mention the success of the 'Ricky Gervais Show'), it occurred to me that a few of my favorites would make excellent TV shows.

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TV 101: Canaries In The Mineshaft (Pt. 1) - When Characters Become Caricatures

by Jay Black, posted Mar 26th 2010 11:21AM
Sometimes I feel like doing this to MY TV, but I'm married.One of my least favorite internet memes is the race among people who frequent TV blogs to be the first one to comment that a show has "jumped the shark." I'll take a busload of LOLCATS and Epic Beard Men if it means that I won't have to see "JTS!" four minutes into a show's pilot episode.

That said, the fact that JTS has been defanged by ubiquity doesn't take away from its ability to be a useful tool for analyzing pop-culture. Shows tend to weaken over time and the JTS moment is a fun way to decide where, exactly, the wheels came off.

In thinking about JTS, it occurred to me that there are a few warning signs that a show is about to jump. Today I'll be looking at the first in a series of canaries in the mineshaft: when characters become caricatures.

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TV 101: Goofus And Gallant, TV-Style

by Jay Black, posted Mar 17th 2010 2:03PM
Goofus and Gallant and ulcers and the dentistI was recently surprised to learn that not only is 'Highlights Magazine' still being published, it actually owns the domain name highlights.com (which you would think would have gone to something far more profitable than a magazine - a hair care products link farm, perhaps).

'Highlights' was one of the few pleasures of my childhood trips to the dentist's office, the others being the toy at the end of the visit and a dentist who had a very liberal nitrous policy. Every six months, I spent an hour split between enjoying the games and puzzles in 'Highlights' and burning a hole through my stomach-lining with dentist-inspired fear.

One feature of 'Highlights' that always stood out to me was "Goofus and Gallant": a teaching aid using two brothers, one of whom always did everything wrong - Goofus - and one who always did everything right - Gallant.

Since most TV executives are like children anyway, I figured the "Goofus and Gallant" model would be ideal to teach them a few things about how to improve their product.

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TV 101: How 'Lost' Is Like a Loveless Marriage

by Jay Black, posted Mar 10th 2010 11:02AM
Yeah, that's pretty much what being married feels like.For a lot of 'Lost' fans, the only numbers that really matter anymore are 5, 23, and 10 - May 23rd of this year, the Dharma Train finally pulls into the station and we'll find out once and for all whether the writers knew what they were doing.

It's almost a certainty that you're going to be disappointed. Had the show ended during its second or third season, I would have stocked up on flashlights, canned goods, and pornography to wait out the riots that surely would have followed some lame "not all questions are meant to be answered" kind of ending.

I'm not worried now because that kind of car-tipping passion just isn't there anymore. For most fans, this last season marked the moment when our relationship with 'Lost' stopped being a love affair and started being a loveless marriage.

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TV 101: How Keith Olbermann And Glenn Beck Eat Your Soul

by Jay Black, posted Mar 3rd 2010 2:02PM
Are these the two most evil people in America? Trick question: they aren't human!America, we need to talk.

There was a time when you were my favorite country in the world. Sure, you invented the Snuggie and insisted on airing multiple shows about making cakes for some reason, but you were always pretty stable. Well, that's changed and I think I know why.

You're addicted, America. You're addicted to something more insidious than nicotine or cocaine or Pokémon: you're addicted to Opinion Based News Shows.

Don't deny it! I've seen the signs! What started as an innocent attempt to have more talking points at parties has begun to rage out of control. Sometimes it seems you can't even make a move without a little taste of Keith or Glenn just to get you "right".

Well, I'm not going to watch my friend go down without a fight. This is your wake-up call America. This is your intervention.

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TV 101: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 'Jersey Shore'

by Jay Black, posted Feb 10th 2010 3:02PM
This is how the world ends, This is how the world ends, This is how the world endsI have a lot of irrational fears: nuclear war, CHUDS, whatever the dark magic is that keeps Jeremy Piven's hairline in place ... the list is long and varied.

Ever since I saw the movie 'Contact', I've been afraid that the TV we pump into space is being watched by aliens far more advanced than we are. Imagine all that garbage floating up into the ether, being judged not by bloggers armed with keyboards and snarky bon mots, but by ETs armed with Gunstars and Death Blossoms.

Who knows what aliens might make of our current TV landscape? What if an alien culture used sophomoric double entendres to make declarations of war? In that scenario, it would take just a single episode of 'Two and a Half Men' to end the human race.

Even if the aliens understood what we were saying, most of what passes for entertainment doesn't make us look good - we've become a world obsessed with karaoke and sex rehab, mostly. In fact, there's only one show on TV today that I'd actually WANT aliens to see ...

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TV 101: Do we have more TV channels than we do TV talent?

by Jay Black, posted Jul 15th 2009 2:05PM
Geico CavemenIn the 90s, one of the most popular (and annoying) memes that circulated through the geekier magazines was that we were only a few years away from having "500 channels" on our cable systems. Unlike most tech predictions, this one actually came true. Sure, it took 1200% longer than they thought it would, but that's still pretty good considering most of the stuff Wired talked about in the 90s was made up by the editorial staff after downing a couple of those schizophrenia-inducing Transformers 2 pot brownies.

Having recently installed Verizon Fios, I've spent the last few months ignoring my wife and young son so I could explore what the 500 channel landscape looks like. Like Charlton Heston in the Forbidden Zone, I was shirtless, on horseback, and ready to uncover some sad truths about the world.

Here's the question I've come back with: what if there isn't enough talent for humanity to adequately fill 500 channels?

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TV 101: How ESPN controls the world and what the other networks can learn from it

by Jay Black, posted Jul 3rd 2009 11:04AM
ESPN is like the borg, only with more bald people.You're about to become a soccer fan.

I know you don't believe me. Hell, I'm not sure I believe me. After all, America has resisted soccer for going on 150 years. Crapping on soccer ranks right up there with eating horrible chain-restaurant food and producing slobs-versus-snobs camp movies as a quality that define us as Americans.

Further, you've heard this claim before: the "Grab your shin guards, soccer is about to be a hit in the US of A!" column has been written approximately 2.8 million times since the early '70s. Every time a new soccer league starts in this country, everyone rushes to be the first to write that America is about to become Uruguay North.

And yet, those leagues invariably crash and burn, WNBA-style. So what makes this time any different? Why will we finally care about something that we've gone out of our way to not care about for so long? What force is powerful enough to make that happen?

The most powerful force in the universe: ESPN.

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TV 101: Three reasons why I loved Artie Lange's complete dismantling of Joe Buck

by Jay Black, posted Jun 17th 2009 7:03PM
Artie LangeMonday night, Artie Lange went on Joe Buck's awful new show Joe Buck Live and did to him what Keyser Soze did to the Hungarian gang in The Usual Suspects.

If you didn't see it, let me tell you this much: Artie didn't kill the show; it was already dead when he got there. What he did was the equivalent of finding a dead squirrel (with awful, frat-boy hair), filling it full of firecrackers, then cackling gleefully as the guts rained down onto Jason Sudeikis and Paul Rudd.

Artie Lange's appearance on Joe Buck Live was boorish, crude, mean-spiritied, and blatantly homophobic. It was the kind of thing that'll probably end the career of the poor person who booked him on the show.

It's also something that we need a hell of a lot more of...

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TV 101: Could a woman get as fat as Jason Segel and eight other intriguing questions

by Jay Black, posted May 27th 2009 3:02PM
Coud this picture be any more perfect for this TV 101? I didn't think so.One of the joys of being a blogger is all the comments we receive. Once you weed out the personal threats, the discussions of your stupidity, the prayers to various gods that you get struck by a particularly painful STD, and the calls for you to be fired, you're actually left some solid contributions to the online discussion.

With that in mind, I've decided to turn this week's column over to you guys, a collection of commenters that I think I can say without hyperbole is the greatest collection of commenters in the history of the known universe. I've put together nine questions about TV that I'd love for you to answer. Don't feel like you have to answer them all: choose which ones are most interesting to you and then have at it.

I'm anxious to hear your opinions, so let's get to it...

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