Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Say Goodnight, Gracie"

This is probably the very last entry at this blog. It's over. Done. Finished.

Since TV Guide bought TVShowsOnDVD last February, the plan was always to eventually move the blogs over to at some point. Gord's been posting over there for a while now, in his "Commentary Track" blog. Now I've officially moved over there starting tonight, with my new blog "DVD Guy". It wasn't my first choice for a blog name, but it'll do for now. :)

My first entry over there is "Why Aren't The Original Bionic Shows On DVD? Questions Answered!", a post that many of you have been eager for! So go over there, take a read, and leave a lot of comments for me, okay? (It will impress my bosses at TV Guide! )

Thanks for all the support over here. See you on the other side, eh?


Monday, October 01, 2007

A TV-on-DVD Guy's Thoughts on the New Fall Season So Far

So, we've had a full week of the new fall season and the various series and season premieres. I am not a "TV critic" as far as this stuff is concerned; I watch them on the tube the same way as anyone else does. Or catch them online at the network websites, or whatever. So I haven't seen every show, and I'm not here to get judged on my choices of what I did or didn't watch. Just, as a "regular guy" who saw this stuff, here are my thoughts on what I saw. And I'd love to hear what you all thought as well.

Wonderful new surprises:
Life, Chuck, Back To You, and Ken Burns' PBS mini-series The War.

Enthusiastically enjoyed the hell out of the return:
Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, Desperate Housewives, Smallville, Las Vegas, House, Deal or No Deal

Still alive and kicking:
ER, The Simpsons, Boston Legal, Family Guy

Disappointing on some level:
The Office, Journeyman, Private Practice, King of the Hill, Bionic Woman

The ones that kicked ass the most, to me, had to be Grey's Anatomy and Heroes. Not to slight some of the others, but both of these two just simply had be in thrall. I was worried that Heroes would drop its momentum, and it didn't miss a single step with the return. We'll see tonight if it was just a good start, or if it continues that way. As for Grey's, I was really worried after a bit of a blah-ness to last season, and after being truly disappointed with Private Practice, that the 4th season of Grey's would continue along those lines. NOPE! I watched it twice in a twelve-hour period, it was that good...and I wanted to absorb every juicy detail!

Honorable mention to Desperate Housewives, which put a smile on my face with all the secrets and twists, and to Smallville, which turned my head a few times (despite the old comic book geek in me railing against the changes to true Super-continuity; putting all that aside, this was some really good television!). And another huge honorable mention to The War. Bravo...this is a well-done look at true historical drama. A must-watch, if you ask me, and a great example of the power of the tube to educate AND entertain. If you think history can't be entertaining, then watch this...and learn!

Decisions, Decisions: which of the new ongoing primetime shows (that I've seen so far; some - like Pushing Daisies, for instance - didn't begin last week) is the best? To me, it's between Chuck and Life. Both NBC shows, so kudos to them. Which has the edge? Uhhhh...I can't decide. Really. If I was forced to choose which of these to watch, and couldn't tune in to both, I would be hard-pressed to decide which is better. Both were very entertaining, in different ways. I'll be keeping up with both, and hope that both can keep it up.

The biggest disappointment, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is another NBC show (and a much-hyped one at that): The Bionic Woman. Wow, was it bad. This one better get! I was definitely left with a "WTF?" feeling when it was over. It may be simply that I had set such high expectations for it, but give me the Lindsay Wagner version any time. Maybe some things are best left alone, eh? Well, we'll see.

I was a tad disappointed in Private Practice, feeling that a lot of it - from the opening discussion with Richard at Seattle Grace, to the naked dancing and being spotted by Dr. Sam, to - well, to most of it - just felt so damned contrived and silly. It did little to make me care about these characters (and took a character I did care about, Addison, and practically tossed that out the window). Still, I could follow the story and could see potential in it, and potential for getting into the characters.

Bionic Woman? I see little potential in, if they don't get it back on track fast.

Cast changes on Boston Legal (John Larroquette) and Las Vegas (Tom Selleck) were not something I was expecting to enjoy. I tuned in to both anyway. Loved it. Good job. I'll miss Paul and Eddie, but stuff happens in TV land. Could either show be jumping the shark? Sure. Maybe. Probably. But right now, I don't mind, at least not yet. Let's see how it goes. The last couple of minutes of Boston Legal did splash some cold water on how I felt about the episode, though. We'll see how it goes.

I could say the similar things as I did about the two above, but about ER and Stanley Tucci's addition. But I honestly expect this to be the "wrap up" year for the show, and all signs point to a wind-down. I've enjoyed ER consistently for all this time, but it's time is clearly up. All the old cast are trying to be drawn back in for visits during this season; I've got to consider it's to send things off in a special way. Good, let's do that while it's still enjoyable; head out on a high note, okay?

I expected much more from the Jim/Pam romantic fallout than we got. And the whole thing with the way Jan has ended up, and all the stuff with Michael and the car and the rabies run and all that, well it left me quite cold. The most enjoyable part was the cat stuff, and I'm not exactly a cat person. I wanted better from The Office. Really.

Meanwhile, Family Guy did just fine with the Star Wars parody. Look for news very soon about a special DVD release of just that episode. I'm certain of it; it was too good not to deserve that.

Okay, those are my thoughts, extensive as always. What do you all think?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Get your K.I.T.T. together; NBC goes a Ridin' to-Knight!

Do my eyes deceive me, or did our friends over at sister site just post word that NBC is re-inventing classic show Knight Rider as a new telefilm that might lead to another series?

And tossing in a Transformers angle to boot? Err....

I see that Doug Liman is attached to direct. He directed the Mr. and Mrs. Smith film, along with Bourne Identity. He was a Producer on all three Bourne films, in fact.

Maybe. I dunno. What do you all think?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Life Lessons about Technology

I just got through watching the first episode of NBC's new series, Life, a little while ago. If you missed it, I recommend it...I enjoyed it a lot. It's about a former cop, Charlie Crews, who went to prison for over a decade, was exonerated for the crime and let go, then got a ton of money (some say millions) as a settlement for the false imprisonment. Along the way, his wife divorced him and re-married, and Charlie picked up some interesting philosophy and a rather spiritual (for lack of a better word) outlook on life. In the meantime, part of the settlement is that he's back on the force as a Detective, so he can try to figure out who framed him for the crime.

The running gag throughout the show was how much Charlie was out-of-touch with technology that's come along in the last ten years or so. He had no idea what an I.M. was, he wasn't used to cell phones that fit in his pocket, and he absolutely freaked out while driving his car when his Detective partner called him and the car's Bluetooth system answered it and he began having this conversation to "thin air". Oh, and let's not forget when his old (pre-prison time on the force) partner wanted to take a picture with him, and Charlie told him "that's a phone"; he didn't know about cameras in cellphones yet. Or when his current partner sent a mug shot to his cell phone.

Hmmm...other than the IM, the majority of the technology changes Charlie didn't know about was cell-phone related. There's been a whole lot of other tech developments in the last decade, right? DVDs (and now Blu-ray and HD DVD), for starters. Surround sound in the home. HDTV sets and high-end LCD or Plasma screens that are super-thin and hang on the wall like a picture...something right out of The Jetsons to a guy like Charlie. Smaller and lighter laptop computers, as well as PDAs and Blackberries. Wireless computing in general. Universal remotes. Modern digital cameras and video-cams. iPods and MP3s instead of CDs. The sheer realism of modern videogame systems (PS3's instead of PS1's!). Wii's. The advancements of portable videogame systems, and cell-phones (whoops...okay, I went there!) that play videogames that used to cost a quarter or two in arcades back in the day. XM and Sirius. TIVO. DirecTV. Archon units. Does he know about cameras at red lights that check to see if you're speeding?

Heck, forget technology: just stick the guy in a grocery store and have him comment on changes in the supermarket since 10 years ago. Wanna go the tech route in that store? Okay: paying for groceries by credit card and debit card wasn't all that common a decade ago. How about RFID tags?

I'm not saying that any of this is realistic for someone sent to prison for a decade. I'm just wondering where the writers will go with this stuff. It's an interesting, thought-provoking sideline in a show that's already entertaining in other ways. But it makes you think more about the technology we already take for granted, that we didn't have available to us all that long ago.

What do you think?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bars on the e-Mail Windows?

I'm seeing this more and more lately, where we get a reader e-mail that really calls for a response, and we give a nice, detailed response, and then we hit the send button, and a couple of minutes later we get this auto-reply:

    I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

    To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.

    If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

    Click the link below to fill out the request:

Of course, I'm not giving the link in the e-mail. But to describe it to you, I'm supposed to fill out my first name, middle initial, last name, all my e-mail addresses I could possibly use to send e-mails to this recipient, an up-to-100-character message explaining why I want access to send e-mails to this person, and finally to do one of those "Type the text from the image below into the box to the right" things. Uuuuuhhhhhhhh...nah.

Yeah, I just had this happen. Again. It's been going on for a while. Not too often, but it's starting to get under my skin. I have a little picture in my head of people sitting in a little "computer" house with bars on the windows, keeping the e-mail intruders out. But also keeping away the people that these "homeowners" WANT visitors from, too.

If I'm being honest, then you should know that most times (like, 99.9999999%), I'm probably not going to take the time to fill out these forms just to get my e-mail response through.

As someone who sends and receives lots of personal e-mail, too, that has nothing to do with TVShowsOnDVD, then I would REALLY hesitate to set up some system where the person I want to respond to me has to do work to get that e-mail to me. Most people aren't going to do it, and I'll be waiting for a response that therefore would never come.

And, if I DID decide to set it up because I felt spam was driving me to just that level of crazy, then I might at least include a mention in outgoing messages that such a system was in place, and forewarn the people I e-mailed to let them know to expect this when they replied.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Too Funny! Fans of the original Battlestar Galactica will get a kick out of this!

This was posted over at the Home Theater Forum by Tom Tagliente, and is just so friggin' hilarious that I had to share! It seems to be a QUITE imaginative ad for the original Battlestar Galactica's new (re-)run on Canada's Space cable channel. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Not ANOTHER Hi-Def Format! Does It Have A Chance?

CEDIA is the "Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association", and this week (Sept. 5-9) they're holding their annual Expo in Denver. There's a lot of hi-def media talk going on there since it started yesterday, with each side claiming better hardware sales than the other, depending on what point of view they use. We've been deep in the middle of a hi-def home video format war for over a year now, with rivals HD DVD (which launched its first discs on 4/18/2006) and Blu-ray Disc (whose discs debuted on 6/20/2006) going at it tooth-and-nail. Each holds a very small piece of the overall home video pie, with most of the industry pundits agreeing that any recent single best-selling DVD would probably sell more copies in a week or two than all the hi-def discs of both formats which have sold since launch.

It's kind of like comparing hybrid cars vs. all-electric cars, and trying to decide which one's better on it's merits, and also measure which one is selling better. Yeah, they're both newer technology, with obvious benefits over the old technology. And obviously one of them is selling better than the other, and is better-supported than the other among manufacturers and consumers. But neither hybrid car sales nor all-electric car sales hold a candle - or even a spark - compared to good old gas car's the de facto standard and doesn't look like it's gonna disappear too soon. Right now, Blu-ray and HD DVD is kinda like that: DVD is still embedded as the de facto standard, and the new formats aren't making a significant dent in DVD's market share. At least not yet.

So it's still early enough in the hi-def disc game, thinks New Medium Enterprises ("NME"), to introduce a 3rd contender in the contest. And so they have. Yesterday at the CEDIA show, amidst presentations by Toshiba for HD DVD and by Sony for Blu-ray, NME put on an exhibition of their own. And also issued a press release . The UK-based company announced the USA launch of the HD VMD format.

HD VMD stands for High Definition Versatile Multilayer
Disc. NME's specs say that this is a fully-capable hi-def player, with ability to produce up to 1920x1080p video resolution, 7.1 sound channels in both Dolby and DTS formats, a data transfer rate of 45 Mbps (right in between HD DVD's ~36 Mbps rate and Blu-ray's ~54 Mbps rate, and significantly higher than DVD's ~11 Mbps), a video transfer rate to match, HDMI port, USB port, internet connectivity, and capable of playing (and upconverting) DVD discs. Current disc capacities are up to 30GB on a single-sided disc, according to the press release. Players are thinner and lighter than most of the competition, and would be available in a variety of colors that include White, Jet Black, Solid Grey, and Flaming Red.

Cost for the player? At launch in the USA, the price is just $199.99.

Wow. That's the price point that Toshiba has been struggling to get their HD DVD players down to (and reportedly will achieve later this year, although from a manufacturer that big name retailers like Wal-Mart say they have no current plans to carry). But NME plans to start at that price point, and work their way down from there. One reason they do that, though, is because they use the "older technology" red laser, like a DVD does. Blu-ray and HD DVD use a "newer technology" blue laser. NME feels that it won't matter, though, if the video quality is the same hi-def 1080p levels as the other two.

At the announcement yesterday, no studio support in the USA was given by name yet. However, the press release addresses that by saying "
HD VMD is currently being embraced by content providers around the globe, offering consumers a broad option of content. From U.S. to India to France to China, content from the world's leading film markets will be available to all. VMD is currently being adopted by content providers and distributors in dozens of regions worldwide, including Australia, Brazil, Central Europe, China, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Japan, the Middle East Russia, Scandinavia, and the United States." Elsewhere on NME's site, it is prominently mentioned several times that films "from Hollywood" will be available on VMD.

And why not? One of the advantages that VMD is supposed to have to the studios is that their discs will be cheaper to produce. They indicate that the manufacturing cost of the physical disc will be around $1 per disc, just a bit more than it is for a DVD. That's about one-half to one-third the cost-per-disc of the blue-laser competitors, meaning that consumers may not only see cheaper hardware; they might also see cheaper films as well.

What does all this mean to a site called "TVShowsOnDVD"? Well, it's another format. So far there are 20 TV-on-BD titles either released or announced, and 14 TV-on-HD DVD titles either released or announced. Could there be TV-on-VMD in our future? Gord and I don't know...but if there is, you can count on us to cover it!

Stay tuned.

For now, let's have a look at the current episodic TV titles available or announced for each of the existing hi-def home video formats. An asterisk on the left indicates a title only available on that disc format:

Blu-ray Disc
  1. 12/19/2006: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
  2. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Australia Revealed
  3. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Brazil Revealed
  4. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - China Revealed
  5. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Italy Revealed
  6. 04/24/2007: Planet Earth - The Complete Collection
  7. *05/29/2007: Weeds - Season 1
  8. *06/05/2007: Rescue Me - Season 3
  9. *07/24/2007: Weeds - Season 2
  10. 09/04/2007: Nip/Tuck - The Complete 4th Season
  11. 09/18/2007: Smallville - The Complete 6th Season
  12. 10/02/2007: Galapagos - The Islands that Changed the World
  13. *10/16/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume I
  14. *10/16/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume II
  15. 10/23/2007: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2
  16. *10/23/2007: The Company - The complete Mini-Series
  17. *11/13/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume III
  18. *11/13/2007: Prison Break - Season 1
  19. *12/11/2007: Lost - The Complete 3rd Season: The Unexplored Experience
  20. *12/11/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume IV

  1. *11/28/2006: Smallville - The Complete 5th Season
  2. 12/19/2006: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
  3. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Australia Revealed
  4. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Brazil Revealed
  5. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - China Revealed
  6. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Italy Revealed
  7. 04/24/2007: Planet Earth - The Complete Collection
  8. *08/28/2007: Heroes - Season 1
  9. 09/04/2007: Nip/Tuck - The Complete 4th Season
  10. 09/18/2007: Smallville - The Complete 6th Season
  11. 10/02/2007: Galapagos - The Islands that Changed the World
  12. 10/23/2007: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2
  13. *11/20/2007: Star Trek (Original Series) - Season 1
  14. *12/04/2007: Battlestar Galactica - Season 1