Am I out of my mind, or are they out of ideas?

So apparently Footloose is being remade. And apparently TNT has ordered a pilot for an updated version of Dallas. Also, At the Movies is returning to PBS — complete with a speechless Roger Ebert. Is there a single original story idea left in the media business? It would seem not. This summer we received The Karate Kid, an original story based upon… The Karate Kid. Even Avatar, This Year’s Greatest Movie of All Time, is essentially Pocahontas Dances with Wolves in Space. Television demonstrates this trend even more:  how many shows use the Law & Order formula? At least seven? As I’ve pointed out before, Fringe is The X-Files for the A.D.D. generation, and ABC tried to similarly recycle Twin Peaks into Happy Town this summer. (Yeah, I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it.) Sure, the producers latch on to the formulas that make money, but whatever happened to risk-taking? Lost was good for the first two years, until the writers ran out of ideas. House was sort of innovative, but it imitates itself too much. The only really original show currently in production that I am aware of is Mad Men — the only show I watch as it airs.

The current drivel that makes up most television programming may reel in the big bucks, but it doesn’t attract me. Maybe when the History Channel returns to history-centered programs I’ll return. But until then, why would I watch The Universe when I can watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on DVD?

The FCC sticks its mits in cable deals.

For nine months and counting, the Federal Communications Commission has been mediating Comcast Corporation’s buyout of NBC Universal, Inc. from The General Electric Company. The Friday meeting of economists [link] at the FCC headquarters is interesting in itself. While Bloomberg L.P. has been a respected source of financial news, its role in the Comcast-NBCU deal is a peculiar one:  it has an interest in the deal’s outcome [link]. Assuming the deal goes through, what will happen regarding CNBC and Bloomberg TV? Will Comcast, as Bloomberg currently demands, be forced to sell CNBC, or will some other deal arise? It is a given that the FCC will not allow Comcast to purchase NBCU without some concessions, given that this will the first time one of the “Big Six” media corporations is owned by a television provider. The FCC may indeed attempt to use this deal as an opportunity to gain some regulation of cable content, as they have been attempting to do for a long while.

Speaking of mediation, the FCC has been keeping an eye on the transmission renewal talks between Time Warner Cable and The Walt Disney Company [link]. While this is not particularly unusual, Time Warner Cable has asked the FCC to improve the retransmission process before, and should difficulties arise in reaching an agreement before the 2 September deadline, the FCC may step in and set a precedent for future scenarios.

Finally, a happier story:  Dish Network has begun offering AMC (owned by Cablevision) in HD [link]. This certainly adds some appeal; I am sure that there must be a few discontent cable users who were holding back on switching and who will now reconsider. Mad Men, which airs on AMC, is the only television show I actually watch on television. I watch everything else on Hulu or on DVD. Now if I can watch Mad Men on Dish’s new “TV Everywhere” site [link], I might reconsider as well.

Agate Pass (Twin Peaks, part two)

For part one, click here.

WordPress will still not allow me to use italics in image captions, so please imagine that “Twin Peaks” and “Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk with Me” are italicized.

After my visit to Snoqualmie Valley, I spent a few hours in Seattle, where I visited Pike Place Market. From there, I spent several days touring the North Cascade Mountains, before taking a ferry across Puget Sound to the Kitsap Peninsula. It was here that I found my next Twin Peaks location. Continue reading

In Twin Peaks

WordPress will not allow me to use italics within image captions, so please imagine that “Twin Peaks” and “Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk with Me” are italicized.

I am a huge Twin Peaks fan. It’s my fifth favorite television show, and I’ve seen the entire series at least twice thrice (as of 9 July 2010). I’ve seen episodes one through sixteen (the good ones) at least four times. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen both the show’s pilot and Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk with Me, the 1992 prequel film. Since becoming a fan of the show, I’ve given the name Diane to my tape recorder — and my father’s Garmin Nüvi — and I dressed as Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole last Halloween.

For the uninitiated, Twin Peaks takes place in the fictional Washington town of the same name, in 1989. The local homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, turns up dead, and the investigation into her murder uncovers a web of mysteries and oddities. The show was created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, and the latter left his fingerprints all over it — in a very good way. Twin Peaks encompasses many genres, from crime mystery to dramedy to soap-opera parody. Unfortunately, the executives at ABC demanded that Laura’s killer be revealed during the second season. After this revelation the show fell apart, effectively becoming the sort of soap opera it had parodied during its height. ABC did not renew the show for a third season.

This summer, I have had the pleasure of being able to visit Snoqualmie Valley in Washington, where many exteriors for the series and film were shot. What follows is a record of my trip. Continue reading

There are no Fringe benefits.

Urged by a friend, I watched the pilot episode of J. J. Abrams’ series Fringe on 21 September 2008. I was leery, as it seemed to be simply a rehash of The X-Files (which, for the record, is my favorite television series). Nevertheless, I jumped in with an open mind, hoping to enjoy Fringe. My reaction, written immediately after I viewed the show, is recorded below. I have edited it slightly from the original version.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet seen the pilot episode of Fringe and wish to do so unspoiled, do not continue.  Continue reading