Marketing BS & Unwanted “Features”

Speaking of the Philips Cinema 21:9, Scott Simmons of Editblog fame has a post concerning, to put it bluntly, the bullshit of “picture enhancing features” on new TVs, specifically, Philps.  This sums up his feelings (and mine):

I call marketing bullshit on this TV.

I couldn’t have said it better. And I won’t. Go read Scott’s take on features like Ambilight, “Perfect Natural Motion,” and “distortion free” picture resizing. The general consensus is that none of it adds to the viewing experience in a positive way.

Please Enjoy This Commercial Break

So it turns out that commercials might not be such a bad thing. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that test groups enjoyed a tv show more when there were commercials inserted.

In one experiement, two test groups were shown an episode of Taxi; one with commercials, the other without. The group who viewed the show with commercials enjoyed the show much more. According to the author, the theory is that commercials provide a contrast to the show. At each commercial break, the viewer is reminded that that show they were watching is much better by comparison.

I have a different theory, one that the Freakonomics blog shares: TV shows are written and edited with commercial breaks in mind. Some shows like Arrested Development and The Office make great use of the few moments right before those breaks. When watching those shows on DVD (while still great) the breaks suddenly seem slightly awkward. In other shows such as Lost or Heroes, the commercial breaks can give viewers a time to talk with others about what they just saw, theories they have about the show, or what they think will happen next.

Freakonomics sums it up nicely:

Filmmakers don’t seem to need commercial breaks to keep audiences interested. Or could Sam Mendes have pushed his Revolutionary Road into a Golden Globe for best drama by chopping it up with a few well-timed words from his sponsors?

The answer is “no.”

Fringe: Why I Won’t Be Watching

Last week, J.J. Abrams’ latest television show, Fringe, premiered. At first, I was excited to see another serial sci-fi on network television. Unfortunately, it did not take long for my excitement to wane. And (mostly) not due to the content of the show, rather it is the artistic choices that have me disappointed.

On the surface, Fringe is about an FBI agent who is assigned to a special group to investigate strange happenings that are collectively dubbed “the pattern.” It is believed that these events are the result of some one (or group) using the world as their laboratory. The general premise is interesting, though the details are a bit infuriating.

Granted, the show is about fringe science, but a “pulse camera” that when aimed and flashed at a dead woman’s optic nerve (after the eyeball has been removed from her socket, though while it is still atached) produces images on a monitor that she saw before she died. Not the moment before she died, mind you, but rather hours before when she was conveniently looking out a window to see a bridge that tipped the investigator off as to the location of the killer. Normally, I’m all for suspended reality, but there were so many times I would audibly say to my self “oh, come on!”

However, like i said, it is not really the content or premise of the show that pushes me away. It is the uncanny artistic resemblance one of Abrams’ other shows that does it for me. The soundtrack could be lifted directly from Lost. The stingers and transitions are just too identical. Then there’s the mysterious, possibly evil, Massive Dynamic, which provides a plot convention so similar to The Dharma Initiative that I was expecting to see Dr. Pierre Chang from the training videos walking around somewhere. Not to mention that there was a Massive Dynamic commercial at the end of the premiere pointing to their website for yet another ARG.

Lastly, while each episode can stand on its own, there are still so many questions posed which you just know aren’t going to be answered until season 3 (or will all be answered in one fell swoop in the season finale, only to ask 20 more). I get it Mr. Abrams, you like to keep people guessing and have a story arch spanning entire seasons. I just hope you learned from Lost that you have to actually answer those questions as you go along and not piss off your viewers.

I want to like Fringe, I really do. In fact, I might catch an episode here and there. I like Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv is okay as Olivia, and Josh Noble plays the cliché mad scientist well. But there just isn’t enough to keep me hooked, and there’s too much to push me away. It felt too formulaic, granted it is an Abrams formula, but formulaic still. It’s a shame.