While I’ve spent some recent late nights leaving lengthy comments over at The A.V. Club’s nightly Olympics coverage, where my colleagues have been breaking down each night of NBC’s Primetime coverage, I’ve largely avoided more formal writing in the interest of academic pursuits (in this case studying for preliminary exams).
However, today was the first time I watched an event—the 10m Men’s Platform Diving Finals—in its entirety live during the day and then watched the same event during the evening session, and so I wanted to expand on a few tweets I sent out that rest on a few educated assumptions and general frustrations with the temporal wonkery of NBC’s Tape Delay strategy.
Advance Screeners in the Digital Age
March 31st, 2011
It is hardly a secret that television critics often receive advance screeners of popular television programs: after all, the role of the traditional critic has been to produce pre-air reviews of programs, which would necessitate seeing the program in question before publication.
However, we live in an era where the awareness of screeners is cultivated through more than simple logic: through Twitter, engaged users know when networks are sending out particular programs, as journalists/critics/bloggers often tweet when a screener package arrives (sometimes even taking pictures if the packaging is particularly novel). It’s like a wave if you’re following enough of these professionals, as various unboxing tweets fill our feeds.
In the interest of full disclosure, although this won’t be a surprise to those who follow me on Twitter, I’ve had my fair share of screeners this year; currently, for example, I have received considerable chunks of new series from Showtime and HBO, including United States of Tara and Game of Thrones. I point this out not to brag, although that seems like an inevitable byproduct of this discussion. Rather, I share in order to express my central dilemma, which is quite simple:
What, precisely, am I supposed to do with them?
And I figured I would turn the question over to you.
Structure and Scheduling in HBO’s Mildred Pierce
March 27th, 2011
The front cover of the press kit sent to critics for HBO’s Mildred Pierce suggests that Kate Winslet is Mildred Pierce in a five-part Miniseries.
The inside cover, meanwhile, touts Academy Award winner Kate Winslet starring in a film by Todd Haynes.
None of this is ostensibly untrue. Kate Winslet is both an Academy Award winner and unquestionably the centerpiece of this project – if there’s a single scene in which she does not appear, I have no recollection of it. And this is indeed a project directed by Todd Haynes, and it will air in five parts over the course of three weeks starting this evening at 9/8c.
However, I’m admittedly quite intrigued by the notion of “miniseries” and “film” being used as synonyms. To be clear, I know it isn’t ostensibly wrong: considering that Todd Haynes directed all five parts of the miniseries, and that they were all scripted by Haynes and Jon Raymond, this is a single cohesive project which has simply been split into five parts (oddly enough airing over three weeks). And yet there’s something strange about considering this as a single project given the way it will be seen by the majority of its audience, and the way it will be covered in certain locations which cover shows on a weekly basis.
I was actually going to write about the reception of the miniseries independent of having seen it, but I felt that I should withhold that commentary until actually sitting down with all five and a half hours. And yet, watching it has created only more questions: did I watch it in the “correct” fashion by seeing it all over the course of a single evening with a brief intermission, or was it actually meant to be consumed in the episodic fashion being utilized by HBO?
And, perhaps more importantly, is it worth your time at all?
Day Four: Scheduling Patriotism
February 15th, 2010
Perhaps I am simply a proponent of less is more, but there’s something about having a large percentage of the medal winners at the Olympic Games stand on two separate podiums at two separate times that seems sort of funny. I understand the logistical issues surrounding it: because the events are scattered all over the place, they don’t want to have to have that many sets of flags kicking around, nor do they want to have the medals spread all over the place for security reasons. Doing most of the medal ceremonies in controlled environments either at BC Place or at Whistler makes perfect sense, except that it creates two separate “moments” for viewers to experience.
At a point during CTV’s broadcast of the medal ceremony for Canada’s first ever Gold medal on home soil from Alexandre Bilodeau, James Duthie made the argument that now Canadians will remember precisely where they were twice: once when Bilodeau won gold, and once when he received it. Now, I would tend to believe that I am never going to be telling my grandchildren that I was sitting in my parents’ living room watching Bilodeau win gold, but I can absolutely guarantee that I will not specifically remember a night later when, free from all suspense, Bilodeau stepped onto another podium and got that medal around his neck.
Both moments are memorable, but the excitement of the former and the resonance of the latter feel disconnected by the separation, and I have to wonder if the logistics (and the networks’ desire to be able to get two separate viewership boosts) are damaging the true impact of these Olympic moments.
Going Negative and Going Gold
February 14th, 2010
Earlier today, I was watching CTV’s Olympics coverage when they aired a video package surrounding Dale Begg-Smith, the defending Olympic champion in the Men’s Moguls competition. Begg-Smith, who skis for Austrailia, is of particular interest to CTV because he used to be Canadian, and used to compete for Canada as a teenager. However, like Darth Vader turning to the dark side, at a certain point he left Canada for Australia for reasons which are subject to a great deal of speculation. To give CTV some credit, they didn’t go too far into the circumstances involved, but if we trust Wikipedia (which we don’t, considering the “citation needed, “but for the sake of argument) this was the situation:
Begg-Smith was skiing for his native Canada as a teenager when his coaches told him he was spending too much time on his fledgling business, and not enough time in training. He subsequently quit the Canadian ski program because it clashed with his business interests and, along with his brother, moved to Australia at age 15. The brothers chose to ski for Australia because the country had a smaller ski program that offered them more attention and flexibility. This ensured that they could still successfully manage their business.
There’s a lot of other rumours surrounding just what his internet business (which has made him a millionaire) entails, and CTV isn’t interested in any of it (especially since it’s all conjecture). What the piece focused on was how Dale Begg-Smith has become a villain, how his lack of emotion on the podium in both victory and defeat makes him seem unapproachable, and how this could be seen as strange for someone who is the face of his sport. While they tried to seem disappointed that he refused an interview request, it only made the story that much more damaging, and anyone who watched the clip would be tuning in that night not only to see four Canadians take part in the Moguls competition, but also to see if anyone could unseat the cold-blooded turncoat who dared to spurn this country.
And, much to the delight of viewers across the country and CTV, Canada found its Luke Skywalker.
Hot Tubs and Hot Topics
February 13, 2010
As Donald Sutherland has been telling me for weeks now, through the ubiquitous and overexposed commercials CTV has been pummelling us with, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games are Canada’s, in more ways than one. While there is always a sense of pride surrounding the honour of hosting the games, it seems as if the games organizers are intent to engage the entire nation (rather than just those on the West Coast) in the excitement surrounding the games.
This is, clearly, an honourable discourse, and of course those of us on the opposite end of the country want to feel as if these games belong to us to some degree. However, I can’t resist pointing out that these efforts exist to drive viewership more than national pride, and in some ways I’m more interested in how the media is covering these games than in the games themselves (if only because I have serious issues with suspense during sporting events, and the focus on Canadian athletes makes my heart race involuntarily).
This is likely fairly niche for most of you, and I promise to talk a bit about the Opening Ceremonies to keep non-Canadians from being too detached, but I want to take a look at CTV’s coverage leading into the ceremonies, and what it tells me about how the network is handling its takeover of the games from the nation’s public broadcaster, CBC.