Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Stick it to the man...Wait, I'm the man..."

Craig Ferguson (Late Show-CBS) sort of explains the equal time rule.  More specifically:
"Simply put, a station which sells or gives one minute to Candidate A must sell or give the same amount of time with the same audience potential to all other candidates for the particular office. However, a candidate who can not afford time does not receive free time unless his or her opponent is also given free time. Thus, even with the equal time law, a well funded campaign has a significant advantage in terms of broadcast exposure for the candidate."
No Age guitarist, Randy Randall, could not wear his Obama T-shirt and at the last minute he took a Sharpie, turned it inside out, and wrote "Free Health Care."  Randy went on to blog about it, as did the LA Times music blog, as well as contacting as many friends and press contacts he could, including Stereogum.  They played "Eraser" which was slated for the 10/27 show, but CBS aired it early and Craig said he was all for their punk-rock rebelliousness.  Since Sarah Palin was on SNL, one can predict that Obama or Biden will make an appearance, as hinted at here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

**** Grapefruit

Do you have a strong opinion on produce, fruit to be specific?  This webcomic (may be offensive due to language) disparages grapefruit and garnered almost 540 responses.  

Web 2.0 allows us to be engaged with others on pretty much anything.  We've all seen news articles with thousands of comments.  So many that it's practically impossible to read them all.  What's the point?  Does Web 2.0 just allow the consumer to generate even more clutter for us to sift through?  Also, from the point of view of the consumer/user, why bother?  What is compelling about having voice in a discussion about someone's arbitrary typology of fruit?

One of my students (Nick) sees the value in all of the data behind Web 2.0...the data behind the social network sites, blog profiles, tagging, Amazon transactions, wiki entries, etc., but is there value in experts or those "in the know" cutting through the clutter?  Can this even be implemented?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot

Next month on November 23, Fox will air a 2-hour prologue to season 7, 24: Redemption (trailer).  The regular season will begin in January but won't have American Idol as a lead-in.  It's slated to be after Joss Whedon's (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) new show, Dollhouse
Above is a spoof video that was circulating last fall from CollegeHumor.  I remember those early days of the Internet.  E-mail using Pine and Eudora, crunching numbers with SAS & SPSS on the VAX and having to pick up dot matrix printouts on green-bar paper, using Gopher, Telneting into the libraries at Oregon, Irvine, & Berkeley, and wasting time on Doom or that lame-ass Super Maze Wars.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Life on Mars

I usually take the time to monitor at least one broadcast TV show per fall TV season, seeing how it fares in building buzz and audience.  In 2006, it was Studio60 (NBC), in 2007, it was Pushing Daisies (ABC) & Bionic Woman (NBC), and this year it'll be Life on Mars (ABC).  This NYTimes article notes how David E. Kelly handed over the keys of LoM, which I think was a good move in terms of the show and production costs.  

I think this project is really risky--a high-concept period drama (it takes place in 1973 New York City) finding and keeping audience should keep most involved in the project up at nights.  The production team is trying to stack the deck.  The show is an imported formula from the UK, so the concept might get traction.  In addition, they're using starpower and familiarity, with Keitel, Imperioli (The Sopranos), Bonet (of Cosby Show / A Different World fame), & Gretchen Mol ("eye candy" 
that can be used as a feminist foil).  Like AMC's Mad Men, this period drama can talk about current themes (e.g., gender and sexism) in ways that would be harder for contemporary shows without sounding shrill.  Some of the writing needs to fall into better groove to build the characters, as opposed to allowing them to remain 70s caricatures. 
I found it visually interesting and gritty, feeling it was drawing upon a 70s NYC that Scorsese captured so well in Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, as well as a hint of Luc Besson's NYC (à la Léon). There was the obligatory reference to the 8-track cassette & a shot of the Twin Towers(left), but could it not?  I don't recall anyone drinking Tab, though.

Clip of the UK-BBC version

You can watch episodes online here, but you'll have to download an applet.

I think there's a lot of potential here, but the budget must be astronomical.  The Nielsen ratings are OK, but it's the best premiering drama thus far for the attractive 18-49 demo(graphic), (3.7 rating/10% in 18-49, and 11.33M total).  It beat out the CBS crime drama,
  Eleventh Hour (3.2 rating/9% in 18-49 , 11.37M), but both lost to ER which periodically resuscitates itself, keeping itself out of the morgue (3.9 rating/11% in 18-49, 9.41M).  Eleventh Hour is another UK format import. The original starred Patrick Stewart, but only 4 episodes of that UK-version were produced...probably because of the £4.5M pricetag.

Producers are trying to tap into the 1970s.  The summer replacement, Swingtown (CBS), tried to use racy themes (which prompted the show to protested by some), but the formula just didn't catch on despite that buzz.  Funny how advertisers and brand managers who were worried about the protests about Desperate Housewives changed their tune after it became a hit.

We'll see how this one evolves.  At the very least, it will expose a bunch of people to older Bowie tracks.  You can also listen to 1973 radio courtesy of ABC.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kath and Kim

I've seen the promos for a new sitcom on NBC's Thursday night lineup, Kath & Kim.  Like it's prime time neighbor, The Office, it's an imported format from Australia.  The stars of the US version aren't unknowns, Molly Shannon (Kath) and Selma Blair (Kim), but the early reviews aren't hopeful. It's timeslot is between My Name Is Earl and The Office, so everyone will be watching to see if the ratings tank between the shows, particularly over as the season progresses.  The SF Chron had an idiotic review comparing the two versions.  Huh?  The Office has to be tweaked for US audiences, as are most format imports.

Here's a clip of the Australian version on YouTube:

I don't think a straight copy of the formula would work, but more on the show later.

What caught my eye in NBC's promo blitz was the free preview on  An ad on Amazon got me to watch the pilot.  I think the premise can work, but the writing needs a bit of work to play to the strengths of the actors...the Aussie version's Kim is more edgy, while Selma plays-up a young/dumb/vapid caricature in the US version.  

NBC Universal defected from Apple last year, only to return a year later, underscoring the power of iTunes and its downward pressure on price (regular content is $1.99 & HD is $2.99).  Premium cable content may be higher, depending on the deal in place, but one thing is clear...Apple wants to keep prices low and structured.  

What's your take on the show itself?  What do you think needs to be done to build audience?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Communicating Safety Video: Virgin

This is a real safety video, unlike this one from Diesel.  I must admit I never pay attention to these.  Flying to Canada, I've also grown accustomed to hearing the safety information in (often butchered) French or a tape that sounds like those shrill old language lab recordings..."écoutez, ne répétez pas," still makes me cringe.

I'm sure one of the airlines has or will be offering up videos more like this take-off on "Survivor" by Destiny's Child (from Soul Plane).  Why not?  It's a challenge to get passengers to watch this stuff, but it's also an opportunity to bolster the brand.

Friday, October 03, 2008

sold out gold or how I really, really, really learned to hate cat power + chan marshall

In the late 80s or 90s, there was a SNL skit on "Sold Out Gold." {See transcript below, 9 Dec 2009}. A K-tel style ad parody featuring songs used in huckstering. So, I heard Mr. Blue Skies {ELO} + was pleasantly surprised by a quirky Jet Blue commercial. I'm not sure why, but I liked the ad, as well as the "Bubble Boy" VW spots a decade ago re-introducing the Beetle, also featuring said ELO song.

There are two Bowie songs being used in ads right now. One is for Rhapsody, using a few bars of "Sound + Vision."

The second is the indie heroine troubled with heroin, Chan Marshall, with a lame-ass cover of "Space Oddity," using that affected throaty jazzy schtick she does. WtF! Plus, the ultra-slick über-corporate commercial is for the gas-guzzling Lincoln MKS that costs $38K and gets 19 MPG. Selling out and f*cking the planet to boot. Some tool commented on an article that "people got to make a living." well, if you're a pop artist, sure. katy perry can {for example} slither on the ground selling {H/h}ummers to SUV afficionados and the bicurious all she wants, in my book. it bugs me when "indie" artists that pull this shit but still want the indie street cred, as Chan still mugs for.

Sellout? Flameout? Dark end of the street? Dead end of the street!

What are your thoughts on bands that you felt stood for something, who just went after the big brass ring?

Update 9 December 2009.  I've noticed that this post gets a fair amount of traffic, so I decided to post a transcript to the SNL parody ad I referred to above.

SNL "Sold Out Gold" Transcript
Airdate 18 April 1987, NBC

Sold-Out Gold

Daughter.....Victoria Jackson
Father.....Kevin Nealon
David Crosby.....Jon Lovitz

[ open on Father and Daughter dancing to "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys ]

Daughter: Wow, Dad, that's the Sunkist Song!

Father: No, Jennifer, it's the Beach Boys. I grew up listening to this music!

Daughter: Wow, Dad! You're cooler than I thought!

Father: You mean now, there's music we both can enjoy?

[ cut to David Crosby in a recording studio ]

David Crosby: There sure is, man! Hi, I'm David Crosby. Hey, did you know that many of today's best-loved commercial jingles are actually based on classics from the sixties? Cause they are, man. Now all this great music is available on one collection... [ holds up record SOLD OUT GOLD ] Sold Out Gold! You'll get great hits like Orange Vibrations.

[ SUPER: "SUNKIST VIBRATIONS - The Beach Boys", to the tune of "GoodVibrations" ]

"I'm picking up orange vibrations,
Sunkist Orange Soda taste sensations..

David Crosby: Or the Nike Song!

[ SUPER: "THE NIKE SONG - The Beatles", to the tune of "Revolution" ]

"There's got to be a revolution
Well, you know...

David Crosby: And if you order now, man, we'll sell you this additional album.. [ holds up record SOLD OUT BRONZE ] ..Sold Out Bronze! 20 never-before-aired commercials, including this one from Time Magazine.

[ SUPER: "IN-A-TIME-MAGAZINE - Iron Butterfly", to the tune of"In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" ]

"In a Time magazine, now baby
It's got all the news, if you care.

David Crosby: Or this Doors tune for General Electric!
[ SUPER: "GENERAL ELECTRIC - The Doors", to the tune of "People Are Strange" ]

"Self-cleaning oven,
Digital timer,
Chicken is tasty
When broiled in my range
G.E. range,
Pastries come out all the same,
G.E. range..

David Crosby: And White Shirt!

[ SUPER: "WHITE SHIRT - Jefferson Airplane", to the tune of "White Rabbit" ]

"One shirt makes you formal,
And one shirt has short sleeves,
Ask Arrow
For your shirt needs.

[ Shown: a picture of the Rolling Stones and a box of Eggo Waffles ]

"Hey you, leggo my eggo!
Hey you, leggo my eggo!
Hey you, leggo my eggo!

David Crosby: Plus, these other Sold-Out Bronze classics!

[ Titles scroll:

"(HEY YOU) LEGGO MY EGGO - The Rolling Stones"
"INCENSE AND FEENA-MINTS - Strawberry Alarm Clock"
"JEEP CHEROKEE PEOPLE - Paul Revere and the Raiders"

David Crosby: [ holding both albums] I've listened to these albums over 300 times, man! Now you can too by ordering today. Here's how, man:

(bugs his eyes)

Send $19.69 to:
P.O. Box 1965
Silver Springs, IN, 01965

Or call 1-800-SIX-TIES, yeah.

[ cut back to father and daughter dancing to the tune of "We Gotta GetOut of This Place" ]

"We gotta get out of this place
And take a trip to the Poconos.
We gotta get out of this place..

[ fade to black ]

Happy Jetting...

I've been a fan of JetBlue for a while, flying from Long Beach and now Burbank to JFK.  I saw this ad (above-60 sec) aired on Comedy Central.  The 30sec version is here.  ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" ( caught my ear, which made me take notice of the ad.  Even though it's been used to sell (VW & the Arnold ad agency used it brilliantly to reintroduce the Beetle a decade ago-below), I like the song and hear the influence of ELO in bands like Wilco and Air.

The quirky JetBlue ad is campy and the imagery is hard to place in time.  I think it does a decent job of trying to humorously frame the JetBlue experience in terms of...features that are benefits to travelers and reminding business clients that they're welcome.  Ah, if they could only have the "cone of silence" for crying babies.  If I were in charge of the campaign, I would have done several versions with slightly different "pseudo-retro" imagery in each one.

So, cool or not?  Comments welcome.

So, you like blogging?

Clearly, some of my students enjoy blogging and have taken to it.  Others haven't really started, but I haven't asked why.  I think a lot of times it's that ago-old dilemma...what to say.  That, and time.

As early as 2003, there have people making money off of blogging (Wired).  How much filthy lucre are we talking here?  A recent Slate article noted:
"Blogs with 100,000 or more unique visitors a month earn an average of $75,000 annually—though that figure is skewed by the small percentage of blogs that make more than $200,000 a year." 
I'm pretty sure I don't have the right stuff to have a Rose Bowl-sized monthly audience, but maybe some of my students do.  I blogged about the social aspects of the Lolcat empire back in May and that site bring in over $5000 per month (as of 2007).  Seeing how Perez Hilton rakes in $111,000 per month (as of 2007) makes me think about how those covering the celebrities become celebrities themselves and will how long will the "celebrity spectacle" bubble last.  Fad or trend?  I have some ideas there, but that's for another day.

Anyway, the Slate article has links to ad rates, such as those for "Blogs for Dudes," but I have to admit what caught my eye was the micropatronage idea.  In 2005, Jason Kottke quit his job and asked his audience to sponsor him:  "at a suggested rate of $30 (per annum). He received $39,900 from 1,450 people."  Paypal tipjar anyone?

The key is how to build a big audience.  Compelling content for the masses.  What are your thoughts on this?  If you're interested, you can add Google Analytics to your blogs to track hits.  You have to add code to your template, but it's not that hard.  I think I'll offer a prize to the student blogger with the most unique hits.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Voter Abstinence...

This is from Colbert's 10/1 show. Those wondering why he had John McCain approving this message, click here.
"This year, those young people are of great interest. Allegedly they will be mobilized in huge numbers, and allegedly they will vote strongly for Barack Obama. The latest available Gallup weekly estimate (July 28-Aug 3) shows Obama leading 56%-35% among 18-29 year olds, while McCain leads 46%-37% among those 65 and older.

Why do you think younger voters tend to vote Democratic? Is it an effect of age or generation?