Category Archives: Television

Survivor Gets Racist

The next season of Survivor will be a social experiment involving race and ethnicity. The 4 starting tribes will be segregated racially/ethnically: whites vs. blacks vs. Asians vs. Hispanics. They claim this is a response to complaints that the show isn’t ethnically diverse enough, which in turn they blame on low numbers of minority applicants. [1]

Now, there’s something that Variety reported that most other news outlets (like Reuters, where so many places get their news) aren’t including. [2] Show runners Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst believe that, judging from past seasons, the tribes won’t stay together for very long. The most successful contestants will integrate with other races.

They also believe that the nature of the situation will cause contestants to ignore race. I mean, survival is at stake, right? Resources are scarce. You don’t know who you can trust. In some situations, you have to get by on your wits. In many others, might makes right. It’s an unfamilar environment, and a lot times, you’re just plain scared. All the while, the people in charge refuse to interfere unless someone needs medical attention, or they have some sadistic game they want to play.

If only there was some place, some sort of social institution that had similar conditions, which might give us some clue as to how this might turn out. But clearly none exists. Except, maybe… Nawww, that’d be an unfair comparison. Right? I mean…


Of course! Now there’s a textbook example of how adversity destroys race lines! Walk into any prison today, and you’ll see race isn’t an issue. It’s a fucking rainbow coalition in there! Everyone working together to overcome adversity, completely color blind. It’s friggin’ inspirational, is what it is.

But some people aren’t so happy about this. The Hispanics seem to be the most outspoken against it. [3] Those upset seem to fall into two camps. The first is concerned that the burden of representing an ethnicity is unfairly placed on the 5 Hispanic contestants. Ok, that’s reasonable, the producers could easily game the system to make an ethnicity look good or bad, by casting more or less capable contestants. [4] Perhaps they’re concerned Mark Burnett took a pickup truck down to Home Depot and said (in Spanish), “The first 5 to hop in the back get $20 an hour!” Done and done.

The second camp is pissed that the bookies have set the odds at 3:1 against them. [ [5]] My guess is that the bookies did some research and found out Burnett did not do casting at Home Depot, ’cause that tribe would kick everyone’s ass. And they’d all stick together, mainly due to the language barrier.

Still others have pointed out that, all of a sudden, the word “tribe” is starting to sound racially insensitive. This might explain why there’s no American Indian tribe: too obvious.

Well, I’m certainly curious as to how this will turn out. [6] To be honest, I think a really interesting experiment would be to start the teams out desegregated. Say, 5 teams of 5 (add in Middle Easterners), where each team has one person of each ethnicity. When the new tribes were formed, would they remain desegregated? I posit this: the producers were too chicken to find out.

[1] I’m not sure if they complainers are saying the Survivor casts’ ethnic makeup isn’t representative of society at large, or they just don’t know what “minority” means. For better or worse, the US is about 80% white, so for a cast of 20 you’d expect 16 whites and 4 non-whites. I’m not being racist, just crazy awesome at math.

[2] Which is why you should get all your news from The Crack Team.

[3] Unfortunately, I only have the media as a source.

[4] And I can almost guarantee that’s the first thing certain members of the losing race/ethnicity will claim.

[5] Motto: “Help, I can’t stop gambling!”

[6] Almost enough to finally watch an episode of Survivor.

Future of HBO

HBO has revealed it’s future TV plans. The bad news is that Rome will be gone after next season. It was an extremely well done show, which I guess made it a bit too expensive ($100M). But it looks like Curb Your Enthusiasm will be coming back, a show I thought was already dead after the last episode seemed so much like a series finale. Alan Ball, creator of 6 Feet Under and writer of American Beauty, is working on a vampire drama, which should be pretty interesting coming from that mind. And of course, only one more season of Sopranos (really, the second half of this one).

JLU Canceled

Man, this is really turning into The Bad News Blog. Yes, I know that’s my fault. And I also know it’s only a downer to me, so don’t rub it in.

Anyway, my hunch was just confirmed: Justice League Unlimited, this generation’s The Superfriends, recently aired its final episodes. Not entirely sure what caused it, but there’s talk about stupid character turf wars. That explains why the Joker never appeared (the Batman movie option covers the character rights? Stupid, if that’s the case.)

Well, it was a great show with top voice talent. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but apparently The WB has been airing The Batman, another animated series. Sounds like it’s about a younger Batman, ala Batman Begins. Could be cool if it’s not some Amer-anime targeted at 6 year olds. Before you say it, Justice League was for kids 8 and up, so nyaaa!

Last 70’s Show

Just a reminder that tonight is the series finale of That 70’s Show. It seems most of my friends are split into two camps: those who stopped watching it years ago, and those for which it is the only TV show they make time for. I will miss it, even though it went downhill when Topher Grace (Eric Foreman) left the show. At least it’s the hottest season for Mila Kunis. I figure that now she’s only doing voice acting (she’s Meg on The Family Guy, in case you missed it) I have a good shot at dating her. Ok, I guess technically she’s also doing some super-modeling, but that can’t drive her stock up that much.

More quietly slipping away was Malcom in the Middle, which had it’s series finale Sunday night. Fox let it go with far less fanfare, perhaps because Ashton Kutcher wasn’t returning for the last episode. Well, I think they handled it really well, but would’ve gotten a nice boost from a return appearance by Malcom’s brunette friend with the big chest. (The one Reese dated, but didn’t know her name – Dolores, perhaps?)

Edit: I now have the full list of Fox programs not returning next season:

The Bernie Mac Show
That ’70s Show
Malcolm in the Middle
Arrested Development
Kitchen Confidential
Free Ride
Killer Instinct
Head Cases

Nothing surprising, I guess, and few that I care about. At least The Family Guy and American Dad are returning next fall, and King of the Hill returns when football’s over in January 2007.

DTV Deadline Slips Again

A lot of fanfare in the TV news about President Bush signing a law that forces analog broadcasters to halt transmission on 2/17/2009. It will all be digital then, and there is money to subsidize the purchase of a digital to analog (D/A) converter box for those with analog sets. Everyone on both sides are breaking their arms trying to pat themselves on the back. Digital enthusiasts should be very disappointed, however. Why?

Because previous legislation required this to happen in December of THIS year.

I just want to call attention to the fact that this is not progress, it’s a big step backwards. They are weasel-wording it by saying we are moving to a hard deadline. Did the previous law have a soft deadline? Yes. It said we’re to go digital by 12/2006, or when 85% of households contained a DTV – whichever came first. So it also had a hard deadline. That law was passed in 1997, giving broadcasters 9 years to prepare, and a lot more than that when you consider this started 43 years ago in Japan.

Kudos to this article at for not being afraid to include a little history.

Fox Abandons Comedy, The Love We Used to Share

On the horizon, a dark day for comedy approaches. Fox has decided to cancel That 70’s Show. And Malcom In The Middle. And King Of The Hill. And Arrested Development. And it’s temporarily shelving American Dad so it can try out some new stuff.
     I apologize for such a depressing article, but at least you’re getting it from a guy who cares. There is a tiny bit of hope that King Of The Hill will be renewed, but they stopped production months ago, and considering how long it takes to make animation they said you wouldn’t see new episodes until January ’07 the earliest. Late last year, Mike Judge said it would be the last season of King of the Hill, and I just assumed he was retiring the show after 9 years to move on to something else. Since I heard it reported through the radio, it wasn’t clear that they simply stopped making the show, without so much as series finale, much less a graceful closing story line.
     There is slightly more hope that Arrested Development will be picked up by ABC or Showtime, more likely the latter. If all 4 million viewers moved to Showtime, it would be their biggest show by a wide margin. This is because Showtime doesn’t have good shows. Of course, I’m not into soap operas about gay guys or old lesbians, so I’m probably biased. But I think we can all agree it’s no HBO. Anyway, I would pick up Showtime as long as it had Arrested Development, because it’s simply the greatest written comedy on TV today. Just in case none of that happens, they do have a 2 hour season finale set to air a month from now (only a month, those bastards!).

Just one more thing… If George Michael doesn’t get Maeby, there’ll be hell to pay.

TiVo vs. Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD

Some of you might already be thinking, “This is a no-brainer.” Of course, you might have different answers. I was pretty die hard TiVo before I switched, so I thought I’d give a rundown of the pros and cons of each.

My setup:
+ TiVo Series 1 (but I’ll comment on DIRECTV HD TiVo)
+ Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD
+ Toshiba 57″ HDTV (thanks to Agent Assassin)
+ Time Warner Digital Cable
+ Automator remote by Universal Remote Control

The first issue was cable vs. satellite. Without going into that whole personal battle, it came to this:

+ HD TiVo, but it costs $500
+ No local channels without an antenna; I rent a house, so no aerial, and indoors mostly suck
+ Need DSL for broadband internet, already have cable modem
+ Can get crappy reception when it rains
+ Cost for HD DVR + service + HBO: $500 + $54/mo. (with contract)

TimeWarner Cable:
+ Charging me for an extra tuner, and a we’re-renting-you-an-extra-tuner fee! (Yeah, they’re jerks.)
+ Cable modem is a better deal than DSL, and no changes
+ Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD for $10/mo. So it’ll be over 4 years before I spend on it what the HD TiVo would have cost me (and it was $1,000 when I made my decision).
+ Get local channels, except for UPN and the WB. It’s TimeWARNER, and they don’t carry WARNER Brothers on HD? What’s the conspiracy, man?
+ Cost for HD DVR + service + HBO: $68/mo.

Ok, here’s the comparison:

Series 1 TiVo:
+ Way friendlier interface, but you knew that
+ TV listing data for a week or so out; the 8300HD prefetches only 2-3 days, makes you manually scroll out for more data, and caps at about a week.
+ Can select a TV show (Season Pass) and see all the upcoming showings, on all channels
+ Shows you what it’s not recording due to repeats
+ Better search feature, more options (by actor, director, just show movies, etc.)
+ If you’re willing to hack the box, or pay someone to, you can add more/bigger hard drives for more recording time. Do that to your rental unit, and they will literally kill you.

DIRECTV HD TiVo Advantages:
+ Can record TWO shows simultaneously, in HD
+ 30 hours of HD storage (vs. 20 for the Explorer)
+ Records digital audio
+ HDMI interface

Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD Advantages:
+ Can record TWO shows simultaneously, in HD (which HD TiVo will do, Series)
+ Records digital audio
+ HDMI interface
+ Interface responds much faster than TiVo (at least Series 1, maybe 2 is a lot faster. It better be.)
+ Compared to standard TiVos with cable, doesn’t need an extra tuner for HD viewing (where a standard definition (SD) tuner goes to the TiVo, and an HD one goes directly to the TV and surround system).

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the 8300HD, as I had heard awful things about the previous cable co. DVRs. The interface/features still leave me wanting, but it has more TiVo functionality than I was expecting. That said, now that the HD TiVo is only $500, it’s a tougher decision for those making it now. I’d probably be more displeased if I was switching from a Series 2, which allows you to manage you TiVo from the web.