Monday, February 22, 2010

sweeping into the house

The two biggest complaints about the Olympic telecasts this past weekend were that many of the events were tape-delayed and that the USA vs. Canada hockey game, while live, was not in high-definition. Of the two, I think the non-HD offense is worse. There is no excuse for NBC to have relegated the popular match-up to a standard-def channel.

Admittedly, I am an HD snob. I filter my on-screen guide to list only the HD channels. As a result, I didn't even know the hockey game was on until I saw the complaints on Twitter about the SD broadcast. Today I watched all eight goals in eight minutes, in HD and found I enjoyed it. Sure it was delayed but I didn't mind. It was similar to NFL Replay, but faster.

The HD highlights were only a couple of button pushes away via the On Demand menu on my Comcast Digital Cable. Quick disclaimer: I pay for Comcast service but I get it at the employee rate because ten months ago I started doing testimonial spots for them on the radio.

The only curling I've seen is On Demand. When a bonspiel is boiled down to a minute, the sport actually makes sense to me.They seem to get points for wearing outrageous pants while putting their rock in the circle and hitting the other team's rock out of the circle. Does it deserve to be an Olympic sport? I don't know. It looks like an amusing backyard game, along the lines of croquet or bocce.

I have tried watching NBC's prime time Olympic coverage and have lost interest almost every night. The On Demand choices give me enough to satisfy my curiosity about events such as ski cross and also the opportunity to go back and see the events that people are talking about, such as the hockey game and last night's ice dancing. I like some of the short clip packages too. I just watched a one-minute collection of snowboard crashes.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

blood relative

Pomegranates have been my favorite fruit since I was a kid. Nowadays, I use them as a salad garnish. Before dinner tonight, I put one in a large bowl of lukewarm water and plunged a paring knife into the stem. As I twisted the knife and cut through the white membrane on the inside, my son started humming a familiar tune. He even activated the mp3 player on his phone to play the theme from "Dexter." I peeled away the skin and accidentally broke an aril or two, which reminded me all the more of the show's outstanding opening sequence.

The show was top of mind for both of us. It's been a favorite of mine since it debuted. When my son got home for Christmas break, he expressed an interest in catching up on the exceptionally good season 4. So far we have watched four episodes in high def via video on demand. I don't usually rewatch shows that I've already seen but with the advantage of hindsight after the shocking season finale, I am interested in looking for clues and subtext.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

champing at the bit

"Seinfeld" fans like me are ecstatic about the cast appearing on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." In the show, Larry David suddenly changes his mind about a reunion show when he thinks it will get him back together with his estranged wife Cheryl. Some of the best moments occur when Jason Alexander describes the character of George to Larry. For the uninitiated, George Costanza was based on Larry David. The HBO website has plenty to read and watch about the episodes.

I have been in a "Seinfeld" state of mind lately after seeing some episodes on TV. In the years since the series ended, I have generally avoided watching the syndicated reruns. My DVRs are always full of first-run shows to watch instead. I also keep flipping when I see a "Seinfeld" rerun on local television because the picture quality is poor. When I came across an episode on TBS recently, my remote-pushing thumb stopped dead in its tracks. The picture looked like real HD, not the stretched out garbage that I've seen on other TBS shows before. I think they zoomed in and cropped the edges but it looked a lot better than the few minutes I've seen of "Sex and the City" or "yes, dear" on the same network.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

coco chris

It's unfair to judge "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" after only two episodes but I thought the first two shows were okay. Tom Hanks was, no surprise, a great guest. Green Day was fantastic. They should have booked both of them for night one instead of Will Ferrell and Pearl Jam.

Many people I know posted the cold open from Conan's first show on their Facebook pages on Tuesday. I was proven wrong when I thought for a moment that the whole bit would be recorded in the New York and Los Angeles areas. I loved it when I saw that he was really traveling across America.

As they showed Conan running through Wrigley Field, I grabbed my cell phone and called my son, who was downstairs in his room. I said, "you've got to come up and watch this." I rewound the show to the beginning and noticed that NBC started the show at 11:34 but my DVR didn't start recording until 11:35. It stopped recording at 12:35 while the show continued until 12:37.

I also got a kick out of Conan hijacking the Universal Studios tram. They took it out onto Lankershim Boulevard. I pointed out to my son that they drove past Toyota of North Hollywood and the 99¢ Only Store, which were both walking distance from the Kling Street apartment where I lived before my family moved West to join me.

The first two nights of Conan's show felt more like the real "Tonight Show" than Jay Leno's ever did. Some of that comes from the set, which mimics Johnny Carson's and the "More to Come" bumper art. The music helps too. Max Weinberg plays with an energy more like Doc Severinsen than the sleepy slow jams Kevin Eubanks played.

Conan won't get me to switch away from "Jimmy Kimmel Live." On nights that I'm up late, I might watch Conan or David Letterman for their first half hour before switching over to ABC. I have a season pass set up to always record Jimmy's show whether I'm awake or not. That reminds me. There is something wrong with the HD feed from WATE. I've been meaning to call or email somebody about it for the past week or two. They've got eight days to get it fixed.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

wow, the clarity

ABC showed some love to "Jimmy Kimmel Live" by finally making the switch to high definition with Tuesday night's show. There wasn't much advance publicity about the upgrade. I had missed an article on the TV Week website from two weeks ago. On Tuesday afternoon, I was scrolling through the onscreen guide and noticed that the magical HD logo had been added to the listing for Jimmy's show. I shot him a quick congratulatory email and asked if the program grid was correct. His reply was "that is the plan."

During the monologue, Jimmy pointed out that they were finally going hi-def after almost six-and-a-half years on the air. They did a fake countdown to the switch, at which point Jimmy was replaced by "handsome devil" John Stamos. Panel guest Jorge Garcia amusingly referenced the higher quality at the beginning of his interview.

A while back I had written to Jimmy and mentioned that I thought it sounded like the "Nightline" anchors were turning the transmitter off for the night when they ended the show. Since then, the newscasters have changed their closing. They now mention that "Jimmy Kimmel Live" is on next. It's great to see his show getting some respect. Even Jay Leno had nice things to say in a new GQ interview.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

just to be nominated

The Oscars have been awarded and my score is five winners and five losers. I only saw ten of the nominated films, five of which won an award. Now that the pressure to see the nominees is off, I can probably wait until the other five films that interested me show up on one of the HD movie channels. I saw "The Visitor" on Starz the other day and thought it was pretty good.

Here are the five winners I saw:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Slumdog Millionaire

The five losers I saw:
Iron Man
Tropic Thunder
The Visitor

And the five still on my "to do list"
In Bruges
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Wrestler

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Friday, February 20, 2009

the homecoming queen's got a gun

George Mason University's homecoming game was televised last Saturday. I watched it, in high definition no less, on Comcast SportsNet MidAtlantic. So why has it taken almost a full week for me to find out that this year's homecoming queen is a dude? There was no mention of it during the telecast. The Washington Post finally had the story today. WTTG-TV and WRC-TV aired reports last night. I got all three links this morning when my daily Google Alert for GMU arrived. I suspect that the mainstream media got their news from Broadside, the weekly student paper.

Reann Ballslee, the queen in question, has previous royalty experience as a drag performer at Freddie's Beach Bar. When not in character, Reann is a popular student named Ryan Allen.

Oddly enough, this is not the first time I've mentioned GMU and drag queens in the same blog post. Please see the last paragraph of my May 18, 2006 entry. It tells you that I knew of the Queen Mary but not that I've also been backstage. The Queen Mary is the same club that Tobias Fünke referenced on the "Arrested Development" rerun I watched yesterday on HDNet.

Tobias would be jealous to know that Maximilliana had me hold his falsies as he dressed as a she. Max has posted video from that night on YouTube. It was part of the infamous Mark & Brian Show football bet punishments.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

mixed marriage

The George Mason at James Madison basketball game seemed like a good thing to put on the TV while my wife and I were relaxing at home yesterday, that is until the Dukes narrowly won in an upset. At least my wife, the JMU alumna, was happy about our schools' rivalry for the first time in five years.

The game was on DirecTV channel 642, which is Comcast SportsNet MidAtlantic. The technicians had some trouble deciding whether or not the broadcast was supposed to be in HD. They switched several times from widescreen to pillars and back. I was hoping to hear the "Mason Nation" jingle during the game. I have read about it but not heard it yet.

The GMU Patriots will be televised again on Thursday night when their away game against the Delaware Blue Hens is on ESPNU. Fans at the game will be entertained by multiple mascots, which might be lucky enough to get some nominal TV coverage. No word if Two Face will be there or not.

Apparently the University of Delaware is a mascot factory. Who knew? In addition to the current YoUDee, the court will be filled with former UD mascot team members who are now working as mascots for professional sports teams. The list includes Screech from the Washington Nationals, Slapshot from the Washington Capitals, Poe from the Baltimore Ravens, Wool E. Bull from the Durham Bulls and Swoop from the Philadelphia Eagles. They should ask Jennaphr Frederick to show up and dance with the mascots like she did a few years ago.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

the world is a stage

Why does the Tournament of Roses bother having a parade theme each year? Or why don't they do a better job of enforcing the use of the theme in all the floats? This year's theme was "Hats Off to Entertainment," apparently chosen because the current tournament president owns a restaurant called The Hat. There were some great floats that made use of the theme but there were others that made no sense to me. Knoxville native Jack Hanna rode on a float with realistic representations of wild animals. I didn't see anything about entertainment there. Hanna even kept his hat on. I also wonder why they still have so many equestrian units in the parade. I like parades with floats, bands and balloons. I don't need to see people riding horses unless they're doing something special, like the group that does rope tricks.

I thought there was a meeting each year for all the float sponsors to present their sketches to the committee. If any were too similar, changes would be made. The City of Burbank's self-built float represented a 3D sci-fi movie. A professionally built float for Trader Joe's also had movie monsters and 3D glasses. I have a feeling that this has happened to Burbank before but I can't remember exactly when. They might also want to make sure no two bands play the same song, like "That's Entertainment!" for example.

The City of Roseville had a float that looked like an old steam locomotive, spouting clouds of steam. It was funny that the float giving off the most steam exhaust won the trophy for best depiction of life in California. Jack in the Box entered the parade for the first time with two other firsts. According to the announcers, it was the first float with a disco theme and the first float with its own bathroom on board. The highly-touted, overrated Honda entry took forever to do its little trick and shoot confetti out of a hat. I think the rest of the parade had to pick up the pace to make up for the extra time Honda took.

I am curious to know how Stephanie Edwards got her old gig back as co-host of the Rose Parade coverage on KTLA. The station must have done some callout research. Bob Eubanks and Stephanie could also be seen nationwide on the Travel Channel. I could not find a high definition feed of KTLA's coverage like I did last year. Unfortunately the Travel Channel is still not in HD on DirecTV. The picture was blurry and unwatchable. On top of that, they ran an annoying crawl across the bottom third of the screen with text messages from viewers. In Los Angeles, the KTLA broadcast used to be commercial-free. The Travel Channel stuck advertisements for the Snuggie, the Twin Draft Guard and Mighty Mendit into the live broadcast, which made it feel like we missed seeing some parade entries. They should have timed the commercials to coincide with the equestrian units. KTLA has posted video of the entire parade on their website.

While the Travel Channel was unwatchable, the NBC coverage looked great but was unlistenable. Al Roker would not shut up. When some shirtless Hawaiians were on screen, he declared the new parade theme to be "pants off to entertainment." When the Penn State Blue Band performed, Roker said that it would take a long time for the band to "clear our cameras." When I flipped past, I almost always heard Roker talking over a band's performance. An interesting article in the Los Angeles Times says the Tournament of Roses gave NBC better camera positions to keep them from dropping their coverage.

Meanwhile on ABC, the parade hosts let the pictures do the talking. They let the bands be seen and heard. In the past, I have felt that ABC's coverage was lacking, that they only broadcast the parade as part of their obligation to get the rights to air the Rose Bowl. This year's telecast had a different feel. The hosts, Hannah Storm and Josh Elliott of ESPN seemed happy to be there, they did a good job of describing the floats and bands without getting in the way, they had good camera angles and interesting pre-taped features by John Naber about the building of the floats. It's as if the network stepped up and made their coverage the "official" broadcast of the parade. They had microphones on Cynthia Nixon and Cloris Leachman with the intention of interviewing both ladies as they rode past. Nixon's interview about breast cancer went well. Leachman's mic worked fine but she seemed clueless that Storm and Elliott were talking to her. Hannah Storm handled the mishap well. Because I was flipping channels, it took me a while to even realize that I was watching Hannah Storm. A couple of years ago I was critical of the terrible job she did on CBS' coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I've realized since her departure from CBS that it wasn't her fault. Her replacement made all the same mistakes, which indicates that the problems are with the writers, researchers and directors of the CBS coverage. CBS has stopped covering the Rose Parade. They should drop the Thanksgiving parade too.

Another possible reason for my not immediately recognizing Hannah Storm could be her new look. She may have had some kind of fashion makeover. Whatever she did, it worked. Toward the beginning of the broadcast, Josh Elliott sat there staring at her while she was talking. He looked enamored. About 40 minutes into the broadcast, WATE came back from a local commercial and forgot to switch from SD to HD. I had just complained about this same thing during the public affairs show I did this past week. Naturally, I called WATE to inform them. The guy who answered the phone put me on hold and called master control. As he got back to me, the problem was fixed. I noticed that they were right on time with all of their other switches after local commercials.

At the same time I was flipping between ABC, NBC and the Travel Channel, I was recording the commercial-free HD broadcast on HGTV. If I could only watch one version of the parade, this would be it. The audio was excellent, the video was excellent and the hosts did a solid job. Jann Carl and Robb Weller did both say "toin coss" instead of "coin toss." But if it was the only channel I watched, I would have nothing to write about today except their inadvertent spoonerism.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

is this my new TV?

Contrary to popular belief, today is the fifth day of Christmas. In lieu of golden rings, I'm taking a break from holiday themed blog posts to share a podcast with you. Today is also 50 days until the digital television transition. As a cable and satellite subscriber, I thought I was ready until WATE ran a test recently and my cable company failed. Way to go, Knology!

On yesterday's public affairs radio program, I interviewed Russ Manning of East Tennessee Public Television. They had to make the switch early when their analog transmitter broke down last June. You can listen to the show by clicking on the play button below or you can download it by right-clicking here. During the interview, Russ mentions that you can get more information from their website. He also recommends a site called Antenna Web, where you can enter your address to find out about the broadcast towers near you and where to point your antenna to receive their free over-the-air broadcasts. There is still time to get a converter box coupon before the switch.

After the taping ended, we were still talking about local TV. I told Russ about my blog entry on WBIR's local HD programming. And we both wondered why WVLT cannot control the volume on their local commercials.

I had fun with the on-air conversation too, especially since I got to gripe about the way some local stations switch from HD to SD before the late local news. I also talked about a blog post by a woman named Cassie whose mother hated the new digital TV they bought for her on Black Friday. Toward the end of the show, Russ and I reference a very funny viral video that I told you about forty days ago. Whether you've seen it before or not, please take two minutes to enjoy this PSA from "Talkshow with Spike Feresten." And then you'll be up to speed for the thirty-minute podcast.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

see you in the funny papers

Dagwood Bumstead is more like me than I thought. He said two things this week that could have come out of my own mouth instead.

As a kid, I used to read the comics every day. Now I mostly read the newspaper online, only glancing at the comics when I have access to the dead-tree edition. Most comic strips are available online (including my current favorite, Bizarro) but who has time to visit each strip's website? It's not the same as scanning two whole pages of newsprint to see if something makes you laugh. I have long wondered if comic artists need to draw a new set of pictures for each strip or if they can use stock images and put new words in the speech and thought balloons, especially for heritage strips like Blondie.

On Thursday
, Dagwood was griping about the amount of money Jerry Seinfeld got to do those odd Microsoft commercials. I identified with his answer when Blondie asked him what products he could endorse. I also would gladly do commercials for pillows, recliners, homemade pies, mattresses, hamburgers, hot sauce, cakes, pizza, ice cream parlors and BBQ joints. It makes perfect sense, just like the time I endorsed a company that sells and installs high-def TVs.

I spotted another similarity with Dagwood yesterday. Like me, he's a fan of naps. Unlike me, he claims there's a difference between sleeping and napping. When I take a nap, I do it right, changing into sleepwear and crawling into bed, not to be disturbed for three hours.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

color, cut, clarity

Apparently the clues were out there if only I had the slightest idea to look for them. Instead I flipped past a locally produced show on WBIR tonight and did a double-take. Did my eyes deceive me or was "Heartland Tonight" on my screen in glorious high definition? The episode followed a barge up the Tennessee River to Knoxville. It almost didn't matter what the show was about, I couldn't stop watching.

I was under the impression that our local stations only aired HD programs that "passed through" from the networks. I didn't know any of them had bought the equipment to broadcast their own shows in HD. When I saw John Becker at Boomsday, I asked him when WBIR would go HD. I was thinking of their annual telecast of the fireworks as well as their news programming. John's quick retort was "do you have two million dollars?" Switching the local news to HD will require all new cameras, sets, lighting, etc. The prerecorded shows I saw tonight were shot on location with smaller, more affordable HD cameras.

What's that? Did I say show or shows? Yes, "Heartland Tonight" was followed by another local HD show. WBIR pre-empted a rerun of "Chuck" to air "Tennessee Shines," a bluegrass music program recorded at the Bijou Theatre. The same performances aired live on WDVX radio last month. The great-looking TV show is a feather in the cap of Doublejay Creative, a relatively new company founded by married couple Adrian and Larsen Jay. Another new project of theirs gives flowers to hospital patients.

While searching out links for this blog entry, I discovered the HD clues that were out there in cyberspace. The second paragraph of a press release from the Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation mentions that "Tennessee Shines" would be in high def. Better still, the program listings on also announced the big news. I guess I expected a lot more hype for a major development in Knoxville television history.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

light 'em up

Like previous years, my TiVo and my HD-DVR got a workout on the Fourth of July as I tried to record as many fireworks shows as possible. I couldn't find any coverage of Nashville's display but there were plenty of other choices. Nashville, Knoxville and Washington DC used Pyro Shows of LaFollette to light up their skies.

The best part of Boston's fireworks came during the song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by Dropkick Murphys (no relation). The music and the green explosions were a perfect match. But c'mon CBS, that show needs to be in high definition like "A Capitol Fourth" on PBS.

The musical highlight of the DC show was the "1812 Overture" although it was also pretty cool to have the explosions start while Jerry Lee Lewis was on stage singing "Great Balls of Fire." The worst part was when they cut away from the fireworks to show Jimmy Smits standing at a podium. Why not just let him do his part as a voiceover? Plus the Clark Gable mustache isn't working for him.

Our local Knoxville fireworks were televised after a weather delay. Did it actually rain on World's Fair Park or was the wind enough to put the festivities on hold? The highlight of the telecast for my wife and me was seeing our friend Mike sit in with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. They had him play his accordion during a selection from the "Kit Kittredge" soundtrack. Mike plays keyboards at our church and has a day job in the symphony's business office. As nice as it is to have coverage of our local symphony, there's very little point in televising fireworks without the benefit of HD. I think the viewing audience would have been better served if WBIR had broadcast NBC's HD coverage of Macy's 4th of July Fireworks from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. They could have shown a tape of the KSO from 10:00 to 11:00 or even 11:30. As it turned out, the Knoxville fireworks didn't begin until 10:20 or so.

The music accompanying the New York fireworks had a very Broadway feel to it, whether the songs were early rock 'n' roll or from the big band era. On the song "Give My Regards to Broadway," they made a point of zooming in on an illuminated Macy's logo every time the instrumental version of the tune got to the point where the lyrics would have said "remember me to Herald Square." Okay, we get it. Macy's flagship store is in Herald Square. And there was a "Miracle on 34th Street," we know. Parts of the patriotic medley, they called it "The Nation's Overture," reminded me more of "Fantasmic" than anything else. Although the "Tennessee Waltz" put me in mind of Knoxville, the highlight for me was "Sing Sing Sing." It seemed the best fit for fireworks being shot in triplicate from three barges.

HDNet ran some hi-def fireworks on the Fourth. Except that they were from the Kentucky Derby Festival in May. To make things worse, they didn't bother to pick up the synchronized music soundtrack. Instead we heard the boom of the shells, a hint of the music in the distance and the same crazy woman whooping after every burst. Travel Channel had live coverage of the fireworks in Washington but they had no music and no HD (on DirecTV). What's the point of showing that? At least the spectators near their microphone did some normal oohing and aahing instead of all that overzealous whooping on HDNet.

For me, fireworks are made better by the addition of the right soundtrack. WENS in Indianapolis used to sponsor a fireworks show perfectly named SkyConcert. Friday's telecasts gave me two ideas that, by writing this, I will drop in the cyber suggestion box known as the Internet. The instrumental parts of "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" would make a great addition to the Boomsday soundtrack. Secondly, HDNet should bring their fancy cameras to Knoxville on August 31 to record both the audio and video of Boomsday in hi-def.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

hoping for the movie

TV Squad is showing the love to "Arrested Development" this week. I just spent 22 minutes watching one of the episodes they featured in their Retro Squad department. They started on Monday with a review of the pilot and continued with a top ten list of recurring characters and the top five GOB moments.

I can get in the mood for the Bluths pretty easily. "Arrested Development" was a frequent blog topic of mine back in 2005. I often flip over to HDNet to catch a commercial-free rerun at 12:30 p.m. in high definition. Even if I turn it on late, I can jump right back into any of the complicated plotlines.

The other day I revised my wish list. I replaced the separate entries for the DVDs of each season with the complete set. It's more cost-effective to buy all three seasons together. With the episodes available on, I may not need the DVDs but I still have an urge to collect them.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

not the pooch!

The new mini-series on the Discovery Channel has my inner child counting the minutes until the next episode. I am loving "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions." They have lots of NASA film footage that I've never seen before. And it's all been remastered for HD. The two episodes that were on this past Sunday covered the Mercury and Gemini missions. Like most people, I am primarily interested in the Apollo flights, which will be featured next Sunday.

There seem to be relatively few commercial breaks, unless you count the whole show as an ad for the DVD set. Maybe if you buy the set, you won't be subjected to the promotional announcements on the bottom third of the screen. At least once the graphic obscured something important in the show. A military helicopter was struggling to rescue both Gus Grissom and his Liberty Bell 7 capsule. The NASA footage showed the helicopter trying to lift the water-filled capsule. Near the climactic moment, the spacecraft was behind a big blue bar promoting the Discovery Channel's mobile phone website. Lame.

If you missed the first two episodes on Sunday, you can get caught up on Saturday.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

pick it and click it

Tonight seemed like a good night to try the new DirecTV DVR Scheduler. I only learned of it recently when a short training film about it turned up in my list of recorded programs.

I was upstairs and online while my wife, son, mother-in-law and brother-in-law were all downstairs watching the HD screen. I thought I could schedule the DVR to record "Last Comic Standing" without disturbing whatever movie they had on. I logged on to my DirecTV account, chose My TV Schedule and clicked on "Last Comic Standing." Here is a screen shot:

The only choice for WBIR was the satellite-delivered channel 10. There was no option to record channel 10-1, the over-the-air digital channel that I use. The local channels have been giving me some trouble lately. Last night I recorded "American Idol." The first hour is mostly unwatchable due to digital drop-off and pixelization. I adjusted my antenna around 9:00 p.m. and at least got the second hour. I remembered to add time for the traditional Idol finale overrun.

Back to tonight. As it turned out, I had to ask my son to pause "Transformers," go to the on-screen guide and record channel 10-1 for me. After all that, "Last Comic Standing" wasn't even in HD. C'mon NBC. Get with it.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

happy geburtstag

The ceremony to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to the White House was broadcast live on several TV networks this morning. I recorded two channels, hoping for the one in 13,500 chance that I might spot my daughter in the crowd. As you can see from the pictures taken by her boyfriend, they weren't too far back. She did say it was easier to see the Pope and the President when they were up on the balcony. She was pleasantly surprised to find that she happened be standing near our friend Fr. Ragan Schriver, the director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee.

I chose to record EWTN for their complete coverage and CNN-HD for their high-definition picture. CNN was a disappointment. I wanted to see the White House in widescreen. Instead, they showed the ceremony in SD. On either side of the 4:3 image, they put pillars with the CNN-HD logo as if to rub it in. To make matters worse, anchor Tony Harris would not shut up. He must like hearing himself talk. Prior to the ceremony, he would restate his own question multiple times before letting his guest answer. Then he talked all the way through the Vatican anthem and part way through the Star Spangled Banner before realizing it and commenting on the fact that he was going to finally stop talking. It's no wonder that other bloggers have described him as "terrible" and "clueless."

As the newest U.S. Bishop, Knoxville native James Vann Johnston was chosen to read a question to the Pope at tonight's meeting at the National Shrine. EWTN carried the speech live. Bishop Johnston got his camera time at 7:15 p.m. The question was written by the USCCB and preselected by the pope as one he would like to answer. A local Missouri station only barely mentioned that their new bishop would be present. They also misspelled the word "speeches" and inserted a picture of Captain Kirk in the middle of the article.

Tomorrow I will record EWTN's coverage of the Papal Mass at Nationals Park. My mother and sister will be among the 46,000 in attendance. I don't expect to see them on camera. The Washington media have set up special pages on their websites for the Papal visit. Check out WRC, WUSA and WJLA as well as the Washington Post.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

reblog, reuse, recycle

It's time to revisit a few old blog posts and check for updates. I think Oprah does this all the time. Once in a while I write a brief update in the comments section of an entry, like I did about Gentlemen's Top Cuts yesterday. Three of my past topics turned up in the news today, which was all the incentive I needed to write tonight's post about them.

It seemed incongruous to me that several cable "reality" shows are in high-definition but that "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" were not. Now we hear that the seventeenth season of "Survivor" will be the first shot in HD.

When I watched a Redskins game on the NFL Network, I was underwhelmed by Bryant Gumbel's play-by-play announcing. I wasn't alone in being relieved that he will step aside.

Shea Stadium's final opening day had me thinking about the place. All the times I was there, I never thought about breaking a seat and stealing the pieces as souvenirs. The attempt to Rickroll Shea may have failed but people elsewhere are still showing the love to Mr. Astley.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

should have tried this sooner

DirecTV didn't offer any Knoxville channels in high definition when I first got my HD setup. At the time, I ordered a supplementary rooftop antenna, only to have my order canceled by the satellite company because they claimed that the Knoxville HD channels were coming in January 2007. It would be another year before they made good on the promise.

As of now, I still have not ordered my local channels from DirecTV. When my rooftop antenna order got canceled, the guys from Strickwood Communications stepped up and brought me an RCA Indoor Amplified Antenna as part of my endorsement deal. I've been using the HD rabbit ears ever since.

Everyone in the family had to learn not to walk in front of the antenna, unless we wanted the TV picture to freeze or disappear. Once I got an HD DVR, we would often find that a recorded show had been ruined by bad reception. I missed most of this year's Grammy Awards for that reason, although from what I read about the show it was no great loss. I started to write a blog entry about it that night but abandoned it because it was going nowhere. Here's how that post would have started:
Like any good disc jockey, I tuned in to the Grammy Awards tonight. Sadly, I found them to be unwatchable but only partly because of their pretentious nature. The problem is that my television gets terrible reception of WVLT.
Of all the local stations, I get the best HD signal from WKOP, the PBS affiliate. The worst signal is from WBXX, the CW affiliate. The quality of WATE, WBIR and WTNZ would depend on how the rabbit ears were positioned.

A week ago I was programming the DVR to record "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" and "The Riches" while I would be out at the Einstein Simplified show. I kept adjusting and readjusting the rabbit ears, trying to find a sweet spot that would work for both WTNZ and WATE. There is a dial on the base of the antenna that is supposed to help with fine tuning. Out of frustration I turned the dial all the way to the left until it clicked and the blue light went off. Had I turned off the power? Maybe I had turned my amplified TV antenna into a passive TV antenna. Here's the amazing part: for the past week, I have gotten the best reception ever on all the over-the-air channels except for WBXX. Their transmitter is out past Oliver Springs, unlike all the stations on Sharp's Ridge. I was real close to calling DirecTV and ordering the local channels via satellite. Now that the rabbit ears are working better, I can save the extra money and stick with the over-the-air signals.

I'm disappointed that the local broadcast stations aren't making good use of their digital subchannels. WVLT gets an A for effort even though I hardly ever watch channel 8.2. They fill the time with infomercials, syndicated shows, reruns and programming from myNetworkTV. WBIR runs NBC Weather Plus on channel 10.2. I wish they would put on 10News2 instead. WATE used to run weather on channel 6.2 and WTNZ used to run music videos on channel 43.2. Both of those subchannels are currently off the air. I hope they put on something because all I need is more TV in my life.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

thank the academy

The Oscars are always must-see TV at our house even though I've seen hardly any of the nominated movies this year. In the past, my wife and I have made an effort to see the films nominated for the major awards. With the price of gas and everything else going up and money getting tight, I am reluctant to shell out cash for movie tickets, much less the concessions.

Lately some movies I had wanted to see in the theater have been showing on a plethora of HD channels. In the past month I've seen "Children of Men," "Pride" and "The Astronaut Farmer." None of them won any Oscars but I enjoyed them nevertheless.

I won't attempt to live-blog the awards like they're doing at Best Week Ever and elsewhere. However, I noticed a few things worth mentioning. Did Steve Carell actually curse when pretending to be upset that he was presenting the animation award instead of the documentary award? One of his "shoots" sounded like the real deal to me.

During the dead celebrity tribute, I always feel embarrassed for the people who don't get applause. Some of the deceased get carryover applause by having their name announced right after a popular actor or actress. Shouldn't they mute the microphones during the annual montage?

I thought I saw Knoxville Catholic High School alumnus Cormac McCarthy in the audience when the Coen brothers won the adapted screenplay award. Yes, it was him. They pointed him out when "No Country For Old Men" won Best Picture.

All night long I've been trying to catch a glimpse of Diablo Cody's shoes. I read that she was going to wear the million dollar pair from Stuart Weitzman. Why do I care? One year, Stuart's publicist hired me to help out during Oscar week. According to her blog, Diablo has mixed feelings about wearing them. Oh yeah, she won an Oscar for "Juno," one of the few nominated movies that I saw.

Hey, the "I Drink Your Milkshake" guy won! I look forward to seeing that movie next year when it's on HBO or Showtime.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

rats, race

USA Today came close to actually calling BS on the broadcast networks yesterday. As anybody with high definition TV can tell you, everything looks better in HD. I suspect that every HD viewer has watched a show for no other reason than that it was available in high def and looked so good. Once I even watched a few minutes of a NASCAR event before snapping out of my HD-induced trance.

I still watch some of my regular shows like "Access Hollywood" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" via the upstairs, standard definition TV and TiVo. Neither show is available to me in HD, so it doesn't matter. For shows that I watch together with my wife and son, it's more convenient to use the big screen TV in the living room. Most of the shows we watch are broadcast in glorious high def except for two glaring omissions.

As USA Today pointed out, neither "Survivor" nor "The Amazing Race" are shown in HD. The paper quotes an "Amazing Race" producer as saying that high def cameras couldn't stand up to the travel on their show. "Survivor's" EP says not now, but maybe someday they'll go HD. Both producers cited the additional cost of new equipment. Repairs could be a problem when in a remote locale too. I half expected them to start worrying about getting beach sand in the camera.

The USA Today writer then points out that several cable shows are high def including the very messy "Dirty Jobs." Best of all, the article points out that the fancy schmancy HD cameras went to the middle of the Bering Sea to film a season of "Deadliest Catch." If it's worth the risk to expose high def cameras to waves crashing over the side of the ship (and it is), they could certainly do something to make the "Race" truly amazing.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

for the mighty and the bold

Seeing the word Knoxville on the Engadget HD site caused me to do a double take today. They ran a blurb about DirecTV finally offering HD versions of our local channels. I thought about trying to write a whole blog entry about this but two things have distracted me. First of all, I can't find the price for the HD channels on the DirecTV website without placing an order.

Secondly, my wife is making a batch of Oreo truffles as her dessert contribution to the casino night at KCHS on Saturday. If you're going to the Luck of the Irish Party, be sure to sample one of these delicious treats.

The smell of Oreo in the air prompted me to start singing (if you can call it that) the DSRL theme from the new Double Stuf commercials. My wife thought I was trying to sing Dies Irae which is part of several famous requiems, like Mozart's for example.

Since I was so far off tune, I registered at the DSRL website just so I could download the theme song by the Lords of the Future. I even put a copy of it on my mp3 phone. I sent the link to both of my kids too with the warning that the tune was stuck in my head. Here's my daughter's response:
...thanks? now it's stuck in my head forever...grrr
so, what the deuce was that? it sounds like someone playing Guitar Hero on Nintendo Wii. pretty whack...and not just the regular type. no, that was wiggitty-whack

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

big rose, small thorn

Four networks offered high definition broadcasts of the Rose Parade this morning. Two of those were commercial free. In Los Angeles, almost everyone watches the parade on KTLA with Bob Eubanks and Michaela Pereira. The rest of us could watch KTLA's coverage on either the HD Theater channel or in SD on the Travel Channel but with commercials.

Last year I wrote that I wouldn't be disappointed if Eubanks retired from covering the parade. He seemed a little better this year than last but I didn't care for the way he used his deep announcer voice to drag out the last syllable of many words. It sounded like "Wells Fargoooo" and "pinata dot commmm." As the Trader Joe's float passed by, Bob said, "I'm always amazed how these designers come up with these new ideas year after year after year." Of course he is. He can barely come up with new sentences year after year. I got a strong feeling of déjà vu while Bob was talking about the equestrian units.

Every time I flipped over to ABC, I heard the announcers remind each other that every part of the floats are covered with organic material. Yeah, we get it. Other than that, their coverage was pretty good. They had a decent camera position and their HD broadcast looked fine. NBC's picture looked nice too. I liked their coverage better last year when Billy Bush filled in for Al Roker.

The best of all the broadcasts turned out to be on HGTV. They had the first camera position along the parade route. Their picture quality was superior. I heard surround sound and stereo separation as the marching bands played. The announcing team of Robb Weller, Paul James and Jann Carl did a good job, without being annoying. My one frustration with HGTV was when they put the marching bands into a small box while most of the screen was filled with a promo for an upcoming show. The band sound was turned down during the promo too, which was a waste of their excellent microphone placement. If they need to run their promos again next year, they should only air them when an equestrian unit passes by.

Did you watch the parade? On which channel? Did you see the City of Burbank float? Isn't Emeril Lagasse starting to look like Jackie Gleason? Aren't you glad the Stanley Cup was exempt from being covered in organic material? Did you see any of that outdoor hockey game in Buffalo today? Oh c'mon. I know you were watching the Vols. I recorded the parade so I could flip over to the game.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

bury, bury good

How could a movie from the 1950s be in hi-def, my son wanted to know. I was about to watch "The Trouble with Harry," which I had never seen. It was on at three o'clock this morning during an Alfred Hitchcock marathon on HDNet Movies. The answer came shortly after I hit the DVR's play button the VistaVision logo filled our plasma screen. The movie opened with images of Vermont in its autumnal glory. My wife jokingly asked if I was actually watching "Planet Earth," the renowned HD nature series. The movie looked so good that my wife and son ended up watching it with me.

Last night I caught the end of "Psycho," which, even in black and white, was spectacular. I turned it on just in time to see Arbogast arrive at the Bates Motel. My "Psycho" DVD may not be working, but I still know the movie pretty well. While we were out today, I recorded the HD broadcasts of "Rear Window" and "The Birds." One is for my wife, the other is for my son. We'll have to save the Bodega Bay travelogue for a time when she's out of the house.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Monday nights bring a plethora of TV choices. On my upstairs TiVo I record "How I Met Your Mother" and "Aliens in America." I have a large backlog of episodes of both series that will help tide me over during the writers strike.

On the HD DVR, I record four other series. My wife and I watch "Dancing With the Stars" together and sometimes vote for our favorites. To do that, we make sure to watch it on Monday nights as soon as she gets home from the weekly Knoxville Choral Society rehearsal. It's funny to see random celebrities in the audience. Florence Henderson has been there a lot. On tonight's final show, I saw Gloria Allred sitting in the front row. You don't think they'll turn up as dancers on a future season, do you?

My wife and son watch "Chuck" and "Heroes" with me. We try to stay current with both shows, meaning we usually watch them within seven days. "Chuck" has been consistently enjoyable while "Heroes" has gotten better, except when Maya and her brother are on screen. When the others are out of the room, I get to watch "Journeyman," which I have previously described as a guilty pleasure.

During the past few episodes, I felt like I missed something on "Journeyman." It's as if they left out scenes in which Dan explains his time travel to his brother. I looked online for reviews that would explain the episodes and ended up finding yet another guilty pleasure. The reviewer on a site called "The Recapist" hates "Journeyman." Absolutely hates it. But that's why M. Wilson Burdorff's reviews are so much fun to read. He eviscerates the show, pointing out all the plot holes and timeline inconsistencies. The negative reviews give me all the more reason to tune in. I don't want to miss a single reference in the recap. On last night's show, Dan traveled back to 1980 after being shot. The emergency room doctor was intrigued by Dan's iPhone. The Recapist posted a photo of that scene with the clever caption: "Steven! It's your cousin, Marvin! Marvin Jobs!"

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Monday, October 29, 2007

hey dummy!

A scene from last Thursday's "30 Rock" has been replayed over and over on our DVR. My wife and I had to hit pause and watch the therapy scene again before we even finished the episode. We showed the scene to our son when he got home. He liked it too, once we had explained the "Sanford and Son" references. Over the weekend, my wife showed the scene to her brother a couple of times too. Thanks to a link I saw posted on Frank Strovel's blog, my wife can now share the video clip with all her friends.

To jump off on a quick tangent, I'm loving the HD DVR. Especially now that we're getting a ton of HD channels. An article in today's Variety will bring you up to speed.

Another Thursday night comedy was celebrated in Scranton over the weekend. Whitney Matheson's Pop Candy blog has photos and a full recap of "The Office" convention.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

now showing in my head

There used to be a disproportionate amount of Food Network shows on my TiVo. I could watch almost anything they showed, especially "Unwrapped" and "Good Eats." Plus I would search for programs about BBQ competitions. Over time I found myself watching less Food Network as other shows grabbed my attention. Last night I once again felt the magnetic pull of food on TV when I tuned to a new channel on my satellite system: Food Network in High Definition. Wow. I could watch it all day. The schedules on the HD and SD channels are different. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of "Unwrapped" and "Good Eats" episodes in HD.

When I go to the supermarket I often can't resist taking pictures of food items I see. It's almost as if I had my own imaginary Food Network show. I had heard that cupcake specialty shops were a hot item in L.A. Our local stores are taking their cupcakes up a notch. I've seen some decorated to look like those dogs that resemble floor mops and some that are supposed to be cute space aliens. I was also intrigued by the birthday "cakes" comprised of many cupcakes that are all iced as one. In the photo below you can see a monster face next to a Care Bears rainbow.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

are you ready for some

Today was my first day with the NFL Sunday Ticket in HD. At 1 o'clock I started flipping through channels 718 and up in eager anticipation of glorious high definition football. Just like on Wednesday, I got the dreaded error message, "channel not purchased." When I tried to call DirecTV, all I got was a busy signal. Repeatedly. Maybe I wasn't the only one having problems. I made myself some lunch and put on one of the blurry SD channels to make sure I was at least getting those. By the time I finished eating, most of the HD channels were working. The problem returned at 4 o'clock. Gradually the channels started coming on but by 5 o'clock I was still not getting channel 721. Coincidentally, the error code for "channel not purchased" is 721. I grabbed the phone and called DirecTV to find out what was happening. First I talked to a woman in the Philippines who had me reset my set top box. When that didn't make a difference, she transferred me to a guy in Montana who thought that the problem was somehow related to the September 19th rollout of more HD channels. The engineers were working on it, he said. People on the West Coast will get the new channels first. I was told to be patient as it may take several days (or longer) for them to work their way Eastward.

This was the perfect week for me to work out the bugs with my Sunday Ticket subscription. The Redskins don't play until tomorrow night. Instead of sticking with one game, I was in the mood to watch them all. They have an easy way to do just that on the ADD Channel or as they call it, the Red Zone Channel. Somebody at Sunday Ticket headquarters keeps an eye on which teams are nearing the goal line and flips from game to game for you. You end up seeing most of the scoring plays live. The rest are shown on replay very shortly thereafter. If nobody seems about to score, they show you whichever game is most interesting. There are no commercials. During today's action, there was no halftime break either. By the time the last game ended its first half, other games had already started their second half.

On Sundays that I can't be at home to watch, I can still see most games over the Internet by using the DirecTV Supercast. The games broadcast in my home market (on WVLT and WTNZ) are blacked out on the web, just like they are on the satellite. The flaw in that plan would occur if the game I want to see is on broadcast television in Knoxville while I'm traveling in an area that gets a different game. For example, I wouldn't be able to see a Redskins game on the computer if it's available on WTNZ. If I happened to be in Atlanta and if the Falcons happened to be on at the same time, I would be out of luck. Maybe there's a way to contact DirecTV if I need to travel on a Sunday and all the other chips have fallen into place. Here's a screen grab of what it looked like toward the end of today's Bengals at Browns game, except that I saw the actual game in the empty black box.

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