Television

Posts filed under Television

Bewitched. Reflections of the past.

Filed in MemoirsTags: , , , , , , , ,

I've been watching episodes from a TV show I watched as a kid, a show called Bewitched with Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York. I didn't get to see every show when I was a kid but I enjoyed it anyway, and love it even more now because it's part of my past. That's also part of the reason I enjoyed the Bewitched movie last year with Nicole Kidman who is probably one of the most exceptional actresses I can think of.

Anyway, watching Bewitched lead to two thoughts. First, it's interesting watching the old tv shows because you get to see the society values in place at that time. For example, in Betwitched's time, the women stayed at home and looked after the house. They were expected to keep the place clean and have food on the table when their husbands returned home. They were also active in various committees and charities around town. These days, women have become the power players in many corporations with men taking second place, at least in some of the corporations I know. Overall, men may still have more power positions than women but women now have far more power than ever before. We're almost at the point where the men will stay at home and look after the house and family while the women go to work.

Second thought. In Bewitched, Darren requires that his wife Samantha not use her witchcraft. In today's world, he'd probably get sued for being prejudice. His requirement that she not use her witchcraft and her willingness to accept his demand is also reflective of the men-women roles at the time. Women will expected to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, something that most women today would strongly object to; justly so as far as I'm concerned. Marriage should be a partnership, not a dictatorship.

Other shows that I fondly remember from my childhood include "Mr. Ed" (featuring a talking horse), "I Dream of Jeannie", "F-Troop", "Gilligan's Island" and "My Favourite Martian" (whose Martian actor Ray Walston I still feel affection for).

While looking for links to these shows on the internet, I thought of one more thing. All of these shows ran for several seasons. It's probably the length of the showing that gives us time to bond with the characters and the show. TVB's series never run for long; usually only twenty or thirty episodes. That being that case, there is very little chance for anyone to bond with the characters or any particular show. Am I wrong? Have any of you bonded with any particular actor, actress or TVB show?

A new age of video begins

Filed in Music, TechnologyTags: , , , ,

iTunes changed the music landscape around the world, even in places where people were unable to purchase music from the iTunes store because their address was not within an authorised country. Before iTunes, people only had two choices for music; buy it at a music store, or download it from an unauthorised source on the internet. Once iTunes proved to the world that people would legally buy digitised (and medium rip quality at that) music if given the chance, other companies began working out how they could join the bandwagon and divert some of that new money into their own bank accounts.

iTunes allowed people to buy music from a corporately condoned online source. It allowed people to easily search for and sample music before buying it, and in the process allowed consumers to expand their music horizons, discovering new musicians and new genres of music, including those not affiliated with the big record labels. Most significantly perhaps, iTunes has also had a permanent affect on the music business itself.

The strongest controller of any market is the distributor. Distributors are dictators. They are the filters and the bottle necks of any market. If the distributor doesn't make a product available, you won't be able to buy it. If the distributor doesn't advertise a product, you probably won't know about it. For the most part, the big record companies were the distributors of the music we heard and bought. As such, they controlled who became successful musicians, and were even powerful enough to be able to turn singers with no music sense into successful money-making objects. They controlled whose work was marketed, whose work was broadcast over the radio how often, and since air time is a limited commodity, they also indirectly restricted non-affiliated musicians from getting their work heard.

Aspiring musicians for many years looked to the big record labels as the key and singular hope to becoming world renown musicians, to becoming stars and for many, to becoming rich. All of this has now changed; significantly. No longer do musicians need to sort out the big record companies. They can join a growing number of internet sites whose sole purpose is to expose the public to as many musicians and music as possible. Smaller record companies are popping up everywhere except that they're no longer record companies per se; i.e., they no longer need to make records, just record and sell the music directly over the internet without the extraneous manufacturing costs of printing physical product. Consequently, there are now more musicians getting their work heard than ever before.

Since musicians no longer need the big record companies to succeed, distribution is no longer their biggest obstacle. The biggest obstacle for today's musicians has become one of exposure and marketing. If people haven't heard your work, why will they buy it?

Just a few minutes ago, I stated that people can search for and listen to any music they like on the iTunes store. It therefore probably sounds contradictory to first say that and then say that musicians will continue to have problems with exposure and marketing but it's true. The underlying problem is numbers.

When the iTunes store first began, there were only a few hundred musicians available from the store. This meant that people browsing the store had a fair chance of finding and sampling an unknown musician's work. Today though, the store probably has thousands of musicians. That being the case, new musicians may never get noticed.

Marketing is extremely important and despite the power of the internet, traditional advertising methods are still essential today. For most musicians not signed up with the big record labels, radio, TV, outdoor, magazine, newspaper and other print media advertisements will be unaffordable. Consequently, the music market is still skewed in favour of the big record labels and will continue to be so for the near future. On the positive side though, the internet is a very big place, big enough that the big record labels will never control all of its available marketing space. Independent musicians will therefore still have a chance to get their music heard, if they can find the right places on the internet to exhibit their work.

Just as the music world has changed forever, the year 2006 will perhaps witness similar changes in the world of television and video. During January, you will hear multiple announcements relating to the selling and renting of video and television over the internet. At least four big companies have already announced IPTV plans including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Intel. Additionally, many expect Apple Computer to announce their own new IPTV products early this week when Steve Jobs gives the keynote at this year's MacWorld. IPTV is about to explode.

There's just one downside. For the moment, those of us in smaller countries don't have access to the iTunes store. We probably won't have access to the upcoming video stores either. Unfortunately, the big companies are still trying to control what and where music and video is available. They're setting up virtual boundaries to protect their traditional distribution partners, and for the moment at least, those of us in smaller countries will consequently continue to be second class citizens in the world of online music and video.

Hopefully, the content producers will soon begin to skip the middle man and lose their traditional distribution partners, instead distributing their content directly to the consumer over the internet. Without the middle man, they'll no longer have a reason to use virtual boundaries and we the consumer will finally step into a world where we have almost complete freedom to watch what we like, when we like, no matter where that contents comes from. No longer will we in Hong Kong be forced to watch the first season of LOST while people in the U.S.A. are watching the second season.

Much sooner than previously anticipated, the television and video markets will soon begin to change in a big way, and as long as manufacturers don't begin implanting pin cameras into their television sets and video monitors (i.e., 1984's "big brother"), I'll accept those changes gladly.

iTunes began the revolution in how we get our music, and iTunes was also one of major factors in making IPTV a reality, but can you guess the true precursor of internet music and internet video, the real reason the big corporations are scrambling to make music and video content available over the internet? Two letters: BT. Think about it.

The debasement of pop music

Filed in Hong Kong, MusicTags: , , ,

The other night, I heard a professional singer recording for a music show. He was really good but I couldn't help but wonder if he was singing a song or singing a vocal exercise. The vocal range of the song was extreme with rapid movement between real voice and falsetto notes.

Popular music in Hong Kong has lost any sense of feel. In an effort to differentiate themselves, singers have moved to songs making heavy use of falsetto. First there was one singer, then another and then another. Even Jacky Cheung was persuaded to follow suit. The apparent opinion is that if you can't sing falsetto, then you're not a professional singer.

Listen to the Hong Kong pop charts today and you can't help but get the feeling that all the music came from the same computer program. It's monotonous and boring, and it's therefore no wonder that the singing program 名曲滿天星 on TVB Sunday nights m.c.'d by Miss Wong 汪明荃 is getting such high ratings. It's the only place in 'broadcast' town where you can hear real music sung by real singers.

Unfortunately, this is just one symptom of today's society of mass production, mass distribution and unjustly elevated corporate profits, and it's happening in all fields of life, not just music. People are being conditioned to accept lower quality product while thinking that it's better and sometimes even paying more for it.

What used to be solid wood tables is now cheap particle wood with thin laminate. What used to be metallic cups and bowls that lasted for years without wear and tear are now plastic cups and bowls that scratch, bend, melt, fade and may even indirectly cause the extinction of mankind via lower sperm counts caused by the man-made oestrogen used to make most of today's cheap plastics. Where we used to have a huge variety of tasty fruit and vegetables to choose from, we now; thanks to huge supermarket chain profiteering; only have access to a small variety of food which supposedly looks perfect but tastes like cardboard (except in Europe where they insist on only buying food that tastes good regardless of how it looks). Yet we are told that the standard of living is improving, and that we're better off than we've ever been before.

There's not much we can do about it, except perhaps to wherever possible refuse to buy product of lesser quality. Unfortunately, people in general are weak and easily moulded to do the bidding of the corporates so I have no idea where this will all end except to help the rich get richer while the poor continue to get poorer.

A Hollywood TV peeve

Filed in Entertainment Ind.Tags:

I've a peeve with the actors/actresses in Hollywood TV.

If you take note, you'll see lots of coffee in the Hollywood series. The NCIS actors have coffee in their hands every episode. Most of the police in other Hollywood series also drink coffee throughout the series. I drink coffee too; more than my fair share; so what's my peeve?

Watch their cups. Watch the way they hold them. Is there any weight in their cups? Is there any fluid in their cups?

No! And that's my peeve. If the actor can't 'remember' the weight and movement of a cup containing at least half a cup of coffee, at least put water in the cup. It takes away from the realness of the shows which means it takes away from the entertainment value.

Put coffee in the cups people!

TVB series. They’re special too.

Filed in Hong Kong, TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視Tags: , , ,

With reference to the TVB soaps, there are a few things I feel I should say, especially after reading the comments to my previous article Hail Hollywood TV.

First. Most of the main actors and actresses are really very good at what they do. Working for TVB is not easy, especially for them. While filming any one series, the average main actor works 18 hours a day and sometimes more, averaging perhaps just 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night. Between scenes or between showers, they have to read their scripts, understand what's going on and work out how they're going to act the scenes. They carry their own scripts around with them (these days usually in an aircraft hand-luggage suitcase on wheels), remember what clothes they wore for each scene and do lots of other stuff that the actors in Hollywood never have to worry about. It is also not unusual to get the scripts only hours before the scene. That makes it very hard for the actor and there's nothing they can do to change the situation.

When working on location, the meals provided by TVB are usually low-cost rice boxes, usually Chinese BBQ assortments so that everyone will have something acceptable to eat, occasionally something a little more special like 茶餐廳 spaghetti. No seating is provided so the actors either eat in the minibuses or sit on any available surface while eating. Actors in Hollywood get buffets.

At the same time, the actors and actresses still have to master the politics of working for the dominant television company, making sure that they're friends with the right people and don't tick off the wrong people. Rumors includes gifts to higher ranking personnel and sometimes other more personal things. These artistes, as a friend of mine calls them, work damn hard. They're worth much more than they're paid by TVB. If they worked this hard in Hollywood, they'd be USD millionaires. Unfortuantely, their contracts make it extremely hard to work with non-TVB productions so it's very difficult for them to make decent money outside of TVB. Occasionally, they'll get one or two well-paid commercials to supplement their incomes.

Incidentally, there is no such thing as residuals in Hong Kong so the actors and actresses make nothing out of a series if it's re-broadcast anywhere in the world or if it sells on VCD or DVD.

Second, the TVB series are never going to compare in terms of quality to those made in Hollywood. TVB is the dominant television station here and no other television company can compete. The audiences crave non-stop for new series and TVB doesn't buy series if they have a choice so they make series non-stop as fast as they can, but there's no competition, so the quality doesn't need to be great; just acceptable. The actors have no time to prepare for their scenes so you'll rarely see their full acting potential. The writers never have time to contemplate the scripts so you'll never see their full potential either. The directors and their assistants rarely have time for sleep and are as fabulous as anyone else could be under the circumstances.

Third, Hong Kong people are different. The daily pressures of work (with super-human requirements and usually more overtime than is healthy), travel, crowding, pollution and mortgages means that they don't want to think when they watch tv. Hence, many Hong Kong people really enjoy the non-intellectual TVB series. I remember hearing one couple tell me how much they loved to watch a show on TVB just before they slept. To me, the show was garbage with corny scripts and extreme over-acting, but to this couple, it was just what they needed to get a good laugh and put the daily pressures out of their minds before sleeping. I'm pretty sure that TVB knows what the audience wants most of the time. In this respect, there are a few actors at TVB who are really good as making the audience laugh and I think they're a valuable asset to TVB. One that immediately comes to mind is 梅小惠. She's one very clever girl.

So while Hollywood productions are obviously better than TVB productions in many aspects, there are still many things about TVB series that deserve respect. For many people, Hollywood series will be the preferred choice. For others, TVB series will do more to brighten their lives if even just a little and that makes them worthwhile.

One last thing. Within Hong Kong are many many very talented actors, actresses, directors, writers, camera-men, lighting technicians and others related to the film profession. With the right opportunities, without a doubt, they could create films and television shows equivalent to those produced by Hollywood. Unfortunately, the market was damaged by greedy members of the profession who wanted to make a quick buck. The market was also damaged by piracy, initially by protected powerful syndicates in China and now also by various internet technologies. Without a market, these talented people can do nothing. My hope is that the internet will change this situation soon, that new online markets will emerge allowing Hong Kong-made film and television to be sold and seen all around the world. The introduction of video to Apple Computer's iTunes store may be the beginning or a new era in television and film distribution. I hope so. I truly want to see Hong Kong's film and television industry thrive again soon. The world of film wouldn't be the same without it.

Hail Hollywood TV!

Filed in WorkTags:

Most actors dream of being in the movies. For years, television was considered inferior to movies and actors were classed accordingly. Of course, with soap operas such as Days of our Lives and Daily Hospital, this classification was understandable. These however were not the kind of television productions that we're seeing today, at least from the good ol' USA.

The television episodics now coming out of Hollywood and Canada are superb. The acting, scripts, directing, camera, special affects; it's all amazing and easily challenges anything you'll in the cinema. In fact, I believe that some of the current television series would beat today's movies in a face-off.

Television series that have me captured include Smallville, Medium, NCIS, Las Vegas, House, Lost, Numb3rs, Prison Break, The 4400, The Closer and Veronica Mars. New series that I find intriguing include series from the latest alien invasion trend including Invasion and Surface. It'll be interesting to see how Threshold develops too.

There's also another trend of television series focussed on the spirit world including Medium and Point Pleasant, and new series such as The Others, Supernatural and Ghost Whisperer. Vampires seem to be old hat and out of fashion these days although Buffy will always be one of my all-time favourites.

People watching television in the USA are beginning to find themselves in the difficult position of having to choose some television series at the cost of not being able to watch others, or leaving their Tivos on 24 hours and hope that they have enough time on the weekends to watch all of the incredible series now available to them.

Which actor wants to be in the movies when you could be in one of these amazing television series? I'm jealous of those actors lucky enough to be there in the middle of this new era of television productions. Unfortunately, here in Asia, television series are still in the Days of our Lives era with mediocre scripts, story lines, film sets and schedules (at TVB, we frequently don't get our scripts until the day before filming). Without any real competition or access to larger markets, I don't think we'll see any advancement in the quality of the series for some time to come.

If competition develops for the local television markets, it won't come from local productions. It'll be the Hollywood productions. Even though the productions are in English, even though viewers may have to read subtitles, the quality of those productions is now so high that people may begin to watch them in preference to locally made ones. If so, one of two things will happen. Either local productions will step up to the plate and improve the quality of their work, or the whole industry will collapse and recede just as the film industry has. As great as Hollywood television is, I personally hope that local productions accept the challenge and improve their work. Only then will we continue to have true variety in what we can watch on television.

Will local television productions get squashed out of existence? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, if you're a casting director in Hollywood and need an actor for a new TV series, please drop me a line.

The future of television

Filed in TechnologyTags:

Say goodbye to television as you know it.

Just as PodCasts are allowing absolutely everybody to make and distribute their own radio shows, VideoCasts are also allowing the ordinary people to make and distribute videos. No longer will what we can see on TV be controlled by the rich television companies. No longer will we be forced to watch the Olympic Games because every single available channel is showing them.

In the beginning, PodCasts were made by everyday people, but they became so successful that even big corporations like ABC and NBC decided to get involved and make their own productions. They were rightfully concerned about getting left behind. The same thing is going to happen with video and I don't think the television companies are ready for it.

Of course, video is a completely different animal to audio. Significantly more money and resources, and many more people are usually necessary to produce a good video series, so you won't see shows like Stargate or C.S.I. get released in VideoCast format any time soon.

But one day, VideoCasts will be just as professional and complex as today's television, and we'll be able to watch anything we want, when we want (at least until companies like Google in collusion with governments filter everything 'distasteful' from our search results).

VideoCasts will be the true IPTV that everyone is talking about. I can't wait!

Healing Hands III Discussion

Filed in TVB (H.K.) 香港無線電視, WorkTags:

Some readers saw my performance on tonight's episode of Healing Hands III (strangely enough almost exactly the same time in both Australia and Hong Kong) and requested that I open a discussion 'forum', so here it is. Feel free to chat away.

Please remember that I'll be away from Hong Kong for several days beginning Sunday. Consequently, there may be fewer updates to the blog until I get back.