Tag Archives: TV

Ads Should Not *Break* Streaming Video

After finishing season one of Leverage on Netflix, we’ve started watching season two on TNT’s website. Netflix’s streaming video has been great, and TNT’s has been decent enough aside from dropping out of full-screen for commercials…until yesterday.

Last night, while watching “The Order 23 Job” on our MacBook, we got to the final commercial break — and TNT popped up an error saying that the content required Windows to play. The episode played fine. Previous commercials played fine. But this one? The DRM wasn’t compatible with the player on the Mac.

Yeah. The DRM for the commercial wasn’t compatible.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if TNT approached it the way Hulu does when a commercial fails to play, which is to blank the screen for the duration of the ad (typically 30 seconds) and admonish you for not watching the commercials. Unfortunately, the episode didn’t pick up again.

As near as I can tell, the player was set up to continue the episode when the ad finished, and didn’t account for the possibility that the ad might not play. To make matters worse, the scene selection thumbnails don’t work right in Safari, so we couldn’t jump straight to the final act.

Because neither of us wanted to spend a lot of time troubleshooting, we just went into another room and brought up the Windows box to finish the episode. I suspect the scene selection would have worked in Firefox on the Mac, but haven’t tested it yet. I did go back later to see where I could report the problem to TNT, but the wording in their FAQ suggests to me that they’ll just ignore any reports of Mac problems.

I don’t mind watching reasonable ads to get a free service, but if the ad breaks, it shouldn’t take the actual service down with it. You don’t kick people out of a movie theater because the previews didn’t play, and you don’t send them home part way through an event because one of the sponsors’ banners fell down.

Crepe on TV

There’s a TV on the wall of the crepe cafe where I’m having lunch, bigger than the TV I have at home. Right now it’s showing a live view of the kitchen. This might be more interesting if the kitchen weren’t open to the dining area. I can see the same thing (from another angle) just by turning my head. #

Flash Forward Premiere was Awesome!

The first episode of Flash Forward is one of the best-constructed pilot episodes I’ve seen in a long time, especially of an arc-driven series. (I’ve been trying to think of the last show I saw where I didn’t feel like it took the cast or story a few episodes to get up to speed, and all I can come up with is Firefly.) In one hour, it managed to introduce a slew of characters, show the major world-changing event that sets the arc in motion, pose serious questions (both story-wise and philosophically), force characters to change, set up conflicting agendas and points of view, establish a mystery or two, and find a thematic conclusion to the episode that doesn’t feel like it’s just the first hour of a two- or three-hour show.

Most shows would take two hours to do all that, or pick and choose to cram it into one. (They even found time for a car chase.)

One of the things that really impressed me was that, just using one episode’s worth of characters, they showed the beginnings of so many totally different ways of looking at humanity’s glimpse of the future, whether through hope, fear, or simply confusion. From what they said at Comic-Con, one of the ideas is to be able to expand this to theoretically anyone in the world.

The extended preview of upcoming episodes (a flash forward to Flashforward!) seemed to be making a great effort to say that yes, they’ll be answering questions, and no, you won’t have to wait 3 years to find out what the heck is going on (unlike that other show with Sonya Walger, Dominic Monaghan, and Oceanic Airlines).

There were a couple of moments that I thought were forced, though the only one that really stands out was the immediate juxtaposition of the “we’re being punished” and “this is a gift” reactions.

Adaptation

They did a good job of taking the source material, Robert J. Sawyer’s novel Flashforward (I’m getting really confused as to whether the TV series has a space in the title or not, but the book definitely doesn’t), and making something that’s recognizably the same idea, but telling a new story with it. It has the benefit of all the thought he put into it:

  • What are all the consequences of everyone blacking out for two minutes?
  • If everyone experiences his or her own future at the same instant, what about people who are asleep at that time?
  • How do you determine whether people are seeing different possible futures or the same future?
  • How do you determine whether the future can be changed? (It’s a common enough storytelling trope, but how would you scientifically prove it?)

And so on. But they can tell a larger story, with more characters…and still surprise people who read the book. I don’t know whether they plan on using a similar explanation for what caused the event, or whether the TV version will come down on the side of “The future is not set” or “You can’t fight fate” (though I expect it will be the former, for storytelling reasons). And there was a moment a few minutes before the end that just came out of nowhere and left me thinking, “Wait, what???

The book is definitely worth reading, especially if you like science fiction of the “what would happen if…?” variety, and it looks like it probably won’t spoil much.