Archive for December, 2006

My Favorite Holiday Movie

December 24, 2006

What’s your favorite holiday movie?

‘Muppet Family Christmas’ is only a TV movie, but it’s by far my favorite holiday anything. Being the comic book nerd that I am I have always been fond of crossover events, and ‘Muppet Family Christmas’ is the greatest Muppet crossover of them all. It features not only the Muppet characters, but also the Sesame Street crew and the Fraggles as well.

The basic premise involves Fozzy Bear inviting the whole gang up to his Mother’s cabin in the mountains, only he doesn’t realize that his Mother has rented out the cabin for the holidays — wacky antics ensue! Great moments include the Swedish Chef trying to cook Big Bird for a Christmas Feast, and Robin learning the true meaning of Christmas from the Fraggles.

Seeing as this is a ‘Muppet Family Christmas’ music is featured quite prominently in the special as well. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard the Electric Mayhem perform ‘Jingle Bell Rock.’

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Gimmick of the Year

December 19, 2006

While I’m sure you’re well aware of this already, Time Magazine has just recently named You as their ‘Person of the Year.’

No, not you, you suck. I’m talking about ‘You,’ with ‘You’ being an abstract way to represent the growing power of user-based content on the internet. This choice isn’t a proper one. With a title such as ‘Person of the Year’ I expect the honor not to be held by an abstract idea or a generalized group of people, but an actual, specific person.

Recent broad selections such as 2006’s “The Good Samaritans,” 2003’s “The American Soldier,” or 2002’s “The Whistleblowers” were equally weak. ‘Person of the Year’ should be the person who most defined the past year, for better or for worse. Why has Time been so unable, or perhaps, afraid, to present a single person with the title?

Person of the Year

Maybe Donald Rumsfeld would be a more fitting selection, or Mark Foley, or Brad Pitt; by most accounts he is a human being, and he has received more news coverage this year than all of the nation’s recent scandals combined. How about placing Paris Hilton on the cover, with a simple headline, ‘This is what you really care about. Why America is a bunch of idiots.’ It’s the growing infatuation with celebrity that is destroying these publications from the inside out, not YouTube.

Choosing mySpace’s Tom, or that ‘Lonelygirl’ could be just as symbolic without further compromising the integrity of the title. This current selection seems desperate attempt to maintain relevance in a time when the media’s authority is constantly in question. What power can a weekly magazine hold when blog posts and streaming video can change the world overnight?

Like so many others, Time is struggling to create a new identity for themselves in the online world. Unfortunately, on the internet, true power is not held by faceless corporations, but faceless consumers. The individuals’ power to control information is what ultimately defines this generation. Though this is am important story to tell, it feels inappropriate and self-serving given the history of publication.

What they should be announcing on their cover is the death of print journalism, not the birth of an online revolution. The revolution has been here for years; it’s only through mySpace or YouTube that it has received a face.

Who is your Person of the Year?

QotD: Books From My Childhood

December 11, 2006

What books did you love as a child?
Submitted by hearts.

Some of my favorite books growing up were the ‘Clue’ mysteries, based on the popular board game. There were 18 in total, each containing ten self-contained stories. These stories featured a wide variety of mysteries, ranging from who stole the last piece of cake to who killed Mr. Boddy. It should be of no surprise to anyone that I wasn’t very good at solving these mysteries. I mostly read them for their (seemingly) sophisticated humor, and because I was obsessed with the board game.

Clue

Poor Mr.Boddy. Although he was only a corpse in the board game, here he was a real-life, interesting character. These stories helped to flesh out the world of ‘Clue,’ and made you care about Mr. Boddy before he was ‘killed’ off in the final chapter of each book. Don’t worry, though, in the next installment he would miraculously reappear, ready to invite back the guests who had just attempted to kill him. Part of me always felt sorry for the guy; although none of my houseguests had attempted to push me down the stairs (that I know of) I knew what it was like to have rude houseguests.

I remember begging my Mom to take me to local book stores, searching desperately for the missing books in my collection. Before the days of the internet or Barnes & Noble, finding certain books became quite an undertaking. Of the collection I think I only ended up with a dozen before I lost interest in the series as a whole. Elementary school students are incredibly fickle, and by the time I had given up on Clue I was into fantasy novels by way of Tolkien, Lewis, and Baum.

Remembering the Dumont Network

December 6, 2006

The creation of the new CW and MyTV Networks promised to firmly establish a fifth and sixth network in American television, filling the roles that were once occupied by The WB and UPN respectively. Today with the advent of cable and satellite, networks are created and renamed with little consequence. However, there was once a time when the death of a single network signaled the end of an era, and set standards in American broadcasting for the next 50 years.

The Dumont Network, America’s first fourth television network, launched in the late 1940’s with a handful of stations across the country and very little programming. Dumont Laboratories, a popular television manufacturer of the day, launched the channel in hopes of breaking ground and attracting viewers with experimental programming. Unlike its’ competition, Dumont didn’t have a radio network or a staple of talent to draw from. In many cities, it didn’t even have a dedicated television station to air its’ programming.

Dumont Logo

In most cases, Dumont had to share time with other networks, and local affiliates cherry picked which of the two networks’ programs they would air. This in turn made the schedules for those stations completely erratic, and more often than the only Dumont programming that would find its way onto a shared schedule were sports broadcasts.

Thanks to a groundbreaking step by Dumont, these sports broadcasts, and other programs were aired live from the Midwest for the first time. Prior to that all live television broadcasts were only aired from the East Coast due to technological limitations. Dumont embraced this new technology and aired nearly every program they produced live, which became a staple for the network.

Not only did the Dumont Network break ground by pioneering new technology, but also in terms of programming. They developed the first television sitcom, ‘Mary Kay and Johnny,’ and the first network soap opera, ‘Faraway Hill.’ In addition, they originally aired ‘Cavalcade of Stars,’ a popular variety show whose comedy skits were the foundation of ‘The Honeymooners.’ Many of these shows were produced on the cheap to compensate for the network’s low advertising revenue. Dumont created business models for cheap programming that its’ competition would follow for decades.

Dumont

Unfortunately, the network still suffered from a lack of dedicated stations to air their programming. In the early 1950’s the FCC prevented broadcast networks from launching or expanding, as literally thousands of companies attempted to flood the market to capitalize on the popularity of television. This left the two smaller existing networks, Dumont and ABC, struggling for both airtime and advertising revenue in the early part of the decade. ABC had staved off bankruptcy by merging with an offshoot of Paramount Studios, which provided Hollywood stars and connections that Dumont simply couldn’t compete with. Even their most popular stars, including Jackie Gleason or Morey Amsterdam, left for ABC and NBC, capitalizing on the success of their Dumont series.

With no other way to earn revenue, Dumont was finally forced to sell off the first of its’ three broadcast stations in 1955, and eventually signed off for good within a year. Those stations that had once aired Dumont programming were forced to change their line-ups, giving more airtime to competitors, and the growing market for local programming. It wasn’t until after Dumont had gone under that ABC was able to acquire enough broadcast stations and the “Big Three” dominance of American television was established.

Captain Video

Smaller, local broadcast networks eventually formed throughout the country as the FCC regulations began to ease up. UHF stations, which could only be accessed by more expensive television sets, provided an outlet for independent broadcasters hoping to provide more choices for the American television audience. It wasn’t until the formation of the FOX Network in 1986, that the country had its’ first viable fourth broadcast network since the death of Dumont 30 years earlier.

Today Dumont’s legacy lives on not only in FOX, but in the new CW and My13 Networks as well. In fact, many of the stations that once carried Dumont’s programming 50 years ago are now CW and My13 affiliates. Unfortunately, very few copies of Dumont’s original programming still exist, and most are believed to have been destroyed or thrown away in the decades following the network’s demise.

Thanks to both the successes and failures of the Dumont Network the framework of American television was set for decades. Although their time was brief, it’s likely that in half a century scholars will be saying the same thing about the WB and UPN, networks which brought us such gems as ‘Homeboys from Outer Space’ and ‘Birds of Prey’.