Category: tv

Where’s my head at?

Posted by – January 26, 2013

In lieu of some longer reviews right now, here a few scattered thoughts on what I’ve been reading and otherwise seeing or hearing the last few weeks:

  • Cyborg 009Ezra Claytan Daniels’s serialized Upgrade Soul comic on iPad: Andrew Hayward clued me into this one via his review at Mac|Life. It’s a slightly animated multimedia version of a comic with surreal and sci-fi elements, and it makes much better use of its medium that most other motion comics or similar narrative presentations that you’ve probably run into. I recommended trying an issue and seeing if it’s to your liking.
  • Girls is back on at HBO, and I’m caught up with the first two episodes of Season 2 as of today. It’s interesting that show dived right into responding to last season’s race criticism by introducing Donald Glover’s new character Sandy. Nevertheless, it’s been a pretty shallow response as far as the writing goes. They’re upping the ante as far as Adam’s creep factor goes, but right now this is still a show my heart’s only about half into whenever it’s on.
  • It started reading George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows, and was quickly steered toward reading the book simultaneously with A Dance with Dragons by Sean T. Collins. I’m reading Sean’s chapter remix sequence at the moment, and it feels very natural. Also, I think this is the approach that any real Tyrion lover should take, based on what I’ve seen so far.
  • For $2.99, the new Archaia take on Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009 was a pleasant digital surprise. I picked up issue #0 from comiXology, not realizing that the new comic came with 60 pages of the original manga packed into the file as well. I’ll definitely be with this one for at least a few issues, but both the old and new material were a steal for the price.

CES 2012 highlights that matter

Posted by – January 10, 2012

Ubuntu TV

Unfortunately, my work did not take me to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year. I’ve been forced instead to keep up with announcements and displays through CNET, GigaOM and the Chicago Tribune’s Wailin Wong on Twitter, as well as a few other places. As I touched on a few weeks back, the intersections of mobile, TV and identity recognition are places that I am paying close attention to this year. Thus far, the attention-getters at CES have largely corroborated those expectations.

Ubuntu TV was an interesting development, however. It’s true that I am forever going to associate mainstream awareness of Ubuntu with a shameful 2009 story out of Wisconsin that you may remember. (Basically, a girl dropped out of college and blamed the operating system.) This story will always make me cringe, but if the Ubuntu brand is lucky, attention for its TV endeavor will outgrow the attention it received for that bizarre tale.

• The Roku Streaming Stick seems like something completely logical that was a long time coming. True to the trend of digital content boxes getting smaller and smaller, this thing is basically a box that’s the size of a thumb drive.

• I am mostly uninterested in control peripherals for the iPhone and tablets. “Super Crate Box” on iPad has recently made be reconsider that stance, though. Ion’s iCade Mobile is a sort of solution to button needs, even if it does make your device look like an Atari Lynx.

• Elsewhere, Razer unveiled its Project Fiona tablet, which I’m not sure I entirely understand. But hey, it’s got an i7 processor.

• Samsung has their new 55-inch Super OLED TV, meanwhile. It’s a little hard to appreciate much more than the product design through pictures on the Internet, and few things interest me less that 3-D TV capabilities, but I think it is notable that we’re now at the point where we’re talking about real TV sets with quad-core processors.

Where Microsoft is catching up with Apple and vice versa

Posted by – December 19, 2011

My personalized cover to Flipboard this morning, featuring an Instagram photo from Sean Dove.

2011 was an exciting year for consumer tech developments. As Apple continued to devour market share in the PC market, Microsoft got behind their Kinect controller and got together with Nokia to give the Windows Phone platform a bigger push. I don’t think that you’ll find too many critics willing claim that Microsoft has been ahead of the game in the mobile or desktop OS markets over the last few years, but some notable apps and news stories have percolated recently that offer a little perspective on the battlegrounds and cross-pollinations that will be worth watching in 2012.

• First is the insurgence of Windows Phone-looking design concepts that have been making their way onto the iPhone. Like Bing vs. Google, Windows Phone interface designs have differentiated themselves from traditional iPhone dev schools of design. When I think of Windows Phone screens, I think of tight grids with big, sharp-edged boxes and icons that often just sink into the nav bar, rather that bubbling up on additional shapes. Both the Flipboard and Xbox Live apps have introduced such things to my daily mobile experiences recently, and I think that both work marvelously overall.

• The television market is another place that’s going to be fun to observe in 2012. I looked at a Google TV last year at about this time, and I’ve been testing out an Apple TV over the last couple of weeks. The Wall Street Journal reports that voice commands will likely be a part of the next generation of Apple TVs. Apple already has Siri out in the wild on the iPhone 4S, which no doubt means that they have been gathering lots more user data to funnel into a better voice interface for home entertainment systems. Microsoft began experimenting with a limited set of voice commands when it launched Kinect, so both companies are obviously looking at similar issues and looking for ways to distinguish themselves.

The Apple TV, from what I’ve experienced thus far, differentiates itself by emphasizing AirPlay, the ability to stream content directly from iPhones and iPads. Additionally, Apple seems to have been thinking about things from a Nintendo Wii U perspective, allowing developers to implement two-screen gaming experiences.

I think the Google TV largely failed out of the gate due to some poorly executed (and in many cases, un-executed) partnerships, but I’m sure it will remain a player to some extent as well. I’m looking forward to seeing what other trends and developments appear in 2012. Although, I won’t lie to you; in the voice-recognition race, I care a great deal more about who will finally bring me some software that does a halfway decent job of transcribing interviews.

TV Reception: ‘Doctor Who’ Season 6, Episodes 1-7

Posted by – June 7, 2011

Doctor Who Season 6′s mid-season finale closed with quite the emotional moment a few nights ago. Not to spoil anything here, but every time a TV show hinges its plot on a pregnancy in jeopardy, I’m wired to think that it is about to be cancelled. (Thanks, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.)

Nevertheless, the show (and Matt Smith) have been renewed for Season/Series 7, so that’s not something we need to worry about for the time being. The wild ride that began in April with the Doctor and Amy coming to America has reach its cliffhanging crescendo, and the show followed through with a few surprises, somehow managed to orchestrate another prophecy-driven cataclysmic event, and even tried to emulate Star Wars while introducing a healthy crop of new cast members.

One of hallmarks of the Steven Moffat era has been the tendency to keep viewers on their toes by introducing characters with Doctor-related histories and letting you guess as things unfold as to whether or not you should know what’s going on. After “A Good Man Goes to War,” you can bet that one or more of the Doctor’s friends, Vastra, Jenny or Strax, will be back in some fashion. They’re all ripe for many more stories.

Best of all, Moffat finally played the “Who is River Song card?” I won’t ruin that for anyone who hasn’t seen “A Good Man” yet, and many watches likely saw the revelation coming a mile away, but it really did work in a number of ways. Not only did it deepen her relationship with the Doctor; it also cooled the weird quasi-romantic tension his presence created between Rory and Amy.

Admittedly, “A Good Man Goes to War” had a breakneck pace to it that constantly rushed right past explanations and encouraged assumptions and guesses about what was going on along the way. The scads of new characters who have shown up in the mix this season have really enriched the Who-verse, though, and it’s worth noting that new LGBT characters in particular have been on the front lines, from Canton Delaware to Vastra and Jenny, and even the “Thin One” and “Fat One.” The show was already lightyears ahead of Star Trek with its sexual identity diversity, but it really is nice to see a big production like this use gay and lesbian characters whose sexuality isn’t co-opted and reduced to being a caricatured stereotype.

As for the final payoff, Season 6 didn’t need to do much more for me after it brought Richard Nixon on in the first arc, but between Neil Gaiman’s episode and hints at more Silurian tales to come, Moffat and company wrapped up these episodes nicely, and it’s really going to blow some minds if they manage to keep up when more installments arrive in the fall.

TV Reception: ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes 1-3

Posted by – May 5, 2011

Three episodes into HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” I feel like I’m finally ready to have a fair opinion about it. The first two episodes, “Winter is Coming” and “The Kingsroad” really seemed to wander for me.

If you’re curious to know how the series deviated from George R.R. Martin’s original work, I recommend starting out with Sean T. Collins’ initial review; suffice it to say the series does take a few liberties, but none of them involve compartmentalizing plot for the sake of writing episodes that are much more thematically or structurally cohesive than the chapters they were plucked from.

Meandering story was a problem for me during Episodes 1 and 2, but as of this week’s installment, “Lord Snow,” the pacing of the adaptation seems to be more established, and the momentum and tension leading up to winter are lively and taught. All three episodes work much, much better as a whole, and I’m inclined to believe that when Season 1 is over, the same will be the case with future installments. That’s fine, and it’s probably fair to the books. However, it may keep the show from entering the same realm of TV masterworks that I consider “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” to be in.

The range of settings and landscapes that HBO has employed are incredible. Breaking down all of the drama and history that the Targaryens, Baratheons and Starks bring the story takes no small amount of exposition. The consequence of this exposition is that the very large cast cycles around on a sizable merry-go-round of storytelling turns, and the show spends more time focusing on characters telling tales to set up political and historical circumstances and getting bloated by lingering on sex scenes. By the third episode, the sex arc with Emilia Clarke’s character does makes a lot more sense, but it also seems to weigh the first two down.

The show’s greatest strengths thus far lie in its fully-realized world and strong acting from its leads. The bleakness of feudal existence in an unforgiving world of brutally long winters comes across, and by the time “Lord Snow” ends, the personalities and rivalries have been made much more clear than they were during the pilot.

As of right now, the wait has been worth it. I’m optimistic that the rest of Season 1 will be as well after the snow settles in.