Monday, January 15, 2007

Com: Blogarithmic #199

I've got a new site/blog up for Diogenes/Dionysus. It has some short, preliminary bios for cast and crew, and scheduling info. More to come.

It's at http://diogenesthefilm.blogspot.com

Michael Hawkins showed me the way to Sean Kendrick's new website this weekend. It's just an opening page, but it's a great flash graphic. Can't wait to see the rest.

Speaking of Michael, he finished the rouhg mix of his new CD with Tony Young this weekend, and it sounds great. We made some MP3s so maybe he'll post some on his music site -- that's http://myspace.com/michaeldhawkins -- once he does a mixdown with Tommy Spurlock, he'll be having them mass-produced and they'll be available at a venue near you.

Our now weekly/annual gathering to watch 24 (the only TV i watch except for occasional sports events) met for the first time last night for the two hour opening. Two more hours tonight. I'd found what seemed like a fun game -- playing bingo with anticipated events (things like Jack disobeys a direct order, and Jack convinces another CTU agent to disobey a direct order), but it turned out to be pretty lame. For one, no one wanted to spend the whole show comparing the events on the tube to the squares on the paper, AND it took the whole first hour for Jack to escape and figure out he was on the loose (key line "I don't know how to do this anymore" after which of course he proved that he did indeed know how to do it anymore). Big phrase for the night, and probably the key to the series this season -- "I don't want to die for nothing." We'll be chasing Fayed for months now i guess. And to top off the night, we were using digital record to pause while we attended to a wonderful dinner, but there was a record session already programmed in and we missed seeing the last five minutes of the show. Thank you-know for little catchup previews they do on each show; tonight we'll find out what happened. So while searching to see if i could figure out the ending i came up with the following ditty that rings a chord -- the kind that reminds me that if i were a TV-watcher, i might not get anything done, ever.

Commentary: I've got series DVD-itis


By Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press


NEW YORK (AP) -- A few nights ago, just into the 97th hour of my exhaustive, exhausting quest to watch every existing episode of "24" before the new season starts this weekend, there was one of those big payoff moments.

It was a sit-up-straight-and-gasp surprise, the kind you wait for in this adrenaline-fueled series about a counterterrorism unit -- more unexpected because it happened in the first moments of the fifth season, almost as the credits rolled. Former President David Palmer -- pensive, strong, seemingly indestructible -- was standing calmly by a window when an assassin's bullet crashed through and killed him. Whoa.

It would have been even better if I hadn't known it was coming.

That's one big problem with watching TV shows on DVD, months or years after the show has actually aired. You risk finding out things you don't want to know, merely by glancing at a newspaper or stumbling onto a Web site or chatting with another human being. In this case, some TV critic spoiled the Palmer surprise for me, as many others have been spoiled -- even by my own colleagues. And now, undoubtedly, I'm spoiling it for someone else.

But that's not even the main problem with gorging on 120 hours of one show. The real issue is: Who the heck has time for this sort of thing?

Certainly not those of us who have full-time jobs, kids with busy schedules and other such pesky distractions from our TV viewing. Little did I, a moderate TV-watcher ("Grey's Anatomy," "The Daily Show," some late-night CNN), know what I was getting into a year ago on New Year's Eve, when two fellow journalist friends -- they know who they are -- recommended that my significant other and I check out "24."

I added the first disc to our Netflix queue. It sat for months on top of the TV set, waiting in line behind some erudite foreign film that we'd been sort of avoiding, like homework. (DVD guilt: That's a whole other column.)

But eventually we watched that first episode, and an obsession was born. It became an unspoken contract: We were going to watch the whole thing, no matter what -- even if we stopped liking it, even if it got boring. Why? Would it be trite to say "because it was there?" Leaving the job half done, as federal agent Jack Bauer might say, was "not an option."

We started going out less. Magazines went straight to the "read later" pile. Dinner became a regular date in the living room: us and Jack, that square-jawed, resolute, impossibly loyal yet subversive federal agent played by Kiefer Sutherland. And, like Jack himself (yes, we're on a first-name basis by now), we had good days and bad, but we were pushing through the pain, single-minded in our pursuit.

There were, necessarily, breaks for business trips or vacations. And there were countless times when one of us annoyed the other mightily by falling asleep mid-episode (because of the late hour, not the content) -- meaning we had to rewind and start over. Woe to the one with drooping eyelids. Me to him: "Open your eyes!" Him to me: "Sit up straight!" Or, the most evil weapon: forced feeding of Haagen-Dazs, as an emergency sugar injection. Somehow, we got through four seasons and counting.

All of which begs the question: Is this good for us, or for anyone? All this available entertainment content, waiting to be devoured? Every week a new series comes out on DVD, dozens and dozens of hours of it. Now we have our childhood favorites back, too -- "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeannie," "Get Smart." These days, picking a new show is a major investment. Or as a colleague sighed, when I encouraged her to try "24": "Sorry. It's just too much of a commitment." Another friend did try, but told me she was too "intimidated." Give it a few dozen hours, I advised.

Obsessive TV-viewing has been around as long as the medium itself, according to TV historian Tim Brooks. In the late 1940s it was Milton Berle, "Mr. Television," the first real TV icon. In the '50s it was "I Love Lucy." Of course, back then, there was only one way to watch. "When 9 p.m. on Monday came around, you'd better have been in front of the TV," says Brooks, also an executive at Lifetime.

Now, a half-century later, you don't need to know what day or time your favorite show airs. With DVRs, DVDs and downloading from the Web, it's virtually irrelevant.

DVDs supplanted VHS tapes in the late '90s, but it's really only in the past five years that TV shows, as opposed to feature films, have become established in the format. Now, says Netflix Inc. spokesman Steve Swasey, they're a huge part of the online DVD rental giant's business: fully 20 percent of the 7 million DVDs it sends out per week are TV shows.

"The real phenomenon is people renting a whole season or an entire series," says Swasey. "They'll have a 'Lost' weekend" -- pun intended -- "watching the whole thing straight through. I know people who had a 'M*A*S*H-athon,' wearing fatigues, stethoscopes, the whole thing." Among the most popular series? "Entourage," "Lost," and of course, "24."

So back to our own ticking clock: We're at 107 hours, and coming down the home stretch. We have 13 hours to get through by week's end. Unless we really pace ourselves, that last day could be, as Jack himself would say, one of the longest days of our lives.

And while nothing topped the novelty of the first season, the suspense is still there, although you quickly learn certain immutable rules of the series. Rule No. 1: Jack will never die. (Sutherland has a long-term contract, silly.) But he comes close all the time, and no one else is safe. That's Rule No. 2.

With the end in sight, and only a weekly smattering of "24" to anticipate this season, we're kind of wondering what will happen in our household. Will we start watching our foreign films again? Get caught up on the bills? Clean out my desk? "Maybe," my viewing partner mused the other day, "we'll have to start talking to each other again."

Here's what he doesn't know: I've already ordered the first season of "Lost."


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