Oct 26, 2006

I Want My Canadian TV

I've been watching television just as long as I've been reading, which is practically all of my life. What I have learned in my nearly three decades of television viewing are the following:

- Network programmers and executives cater to the lowest common denominator and rarely think of anything original for a period of seven years.

- Networks are explicitly cheap when it comes to programming. The whole point of NBCU 2.0, as NBC Universal are calling their cost-cutting efforts, is to develop cheap, non-scripted programming for the next three seasons.

- Aside from rare occasions, the most popular show isn't always the most watched show and gets cancelled quickly. Or else, Arrested Development wouldn't be rotting on G4 while The War At Home remains on Fox.

- Shows built around diverse, urban audiences are rarely seen on broadcast television (quick, turn to CBS, Fox, or NBC, or The CW on any night but Mondays) and quick to be be cancelled.

- International, non-Spanish programming not from the United Kingdom or Japan are a rarity on American television.

That's a point I'd like to talk about in this article.

Once upon a time, a young cable network actually provided cable systems with a plethora of international programming from Canada, France, and the UK. And that network was Nickelodeon.

Yeah, THAT Nickelodeon.

Nick's biggest show, before they realized that it'd be cheaper to produce their own programming, was You Can't Do That On Television. How big was it? Well, it was highly rated when the cable channelscape was largely 25 - 40 channels, compared to the 150 - 400 that's out there now and even gaining coverage on broadcast television when there were only three broadcast channels. It's still so big, even 15 years after it left the American airwaves, the words "I don't know" still triggers green slime at the annual Kids Choice Awards. And when Family Guy or Robot Chicken referenced the show, a whole generation still laughs. YCDTOTV was so popular, nobody acknowledged nor even cared that it was a Canadian import.

Here's another fact. A lot of Canadians that visited the country didn't even know it was a Canadian show. You could almost say that You Can't Do That on Television's success here inspired Canadians to launch their own kids' network, YTV, which had the show on the lineup at launch.

So, where are today's You Can't Do That on Television? They're mostly stuck at the northern border. While a few shows tend to trickle down like ReBoot, DeGrassi, Atomic Betty, or Zixx, the bulk of Canadian imports are either Can-Am co-productions or Canadian-produced licensed properties. The last time an influx of Canadian shows were seen en masse was in the mid-90s, when ReBoot was on broadcast television, Red Green started appearing on public television, O Canada had a slot on Cartoon Network's late-night Sunday lineup (mature cartoons at late nights, what a concept), The Anti-Gravity Room and Deep Water Black were on Sci-Fi, and Are You Afraid of the Dark was prominent on Nick's SNICK lineup.

There are plenty of fine Canadian shows that don't have an American broadcast home. Aside from Atomic Betty, which has somehow disappeared from the Cartoon Network lineup altogether, there has been 6Teen, which came on and, sadly, went off of Nickelodeon's lineup. There are even shows most American audiences have never heard of yet are very popular up north like Class of the Titans, Being Ian, Yvon of the Yukon, Delilah and Julius, and countless others. Hell, call me crazy, but I kinda want to see 15/Love on The N . . . it'd fit so well along with the other Canadian shows on the block like DeGrassi and Radio Free Roscoe. This Hour Has 22 Minutes would be fitting on the Comedy Central lineup with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

What's the point of this post? It's simple. I want Americans to look beyond Japan and the UK for international fare. There are other countries that produce quality programming worldwide, and we rarely look to our northern neighbors for programming choices. Sure, cheap American producers would go to Vancouver to film projects, but they'd never actually pick up an original show seen only on the networks of Canada. I want my Canadian TV, and I kind of want it now.

Oct 18, 2006

Call Me Crazy . . .

. . . but when exactly did credits become evil and intrusive?

I remember a time when credits didn't get squished down nor sped up to fit in an advertisement for another show. Heck, I remember a time when they did vocal promotions for other shows during the end credits without having to invade the credit space.

The credits, mind you, are placed to give those fine men and women the credit they deserve (thus, that's why they're called "credits"). Now, credits are squished down to microscopic sizes or with such distortion, barely visible to the naked eye, to make room for commercials and promos for shows they heavily promoted during the duration of the show, you know, in case you missed it during the show. E! scrapped end credits altogether, speeding them up in little-bitty type in a light, barely readable font at the beginning of their original programming. And even though their Friday night lineup is the best collection of shows on a single night on television today, Sci-Fi squishes credits even smaller, barely making out the men and women behind Doctor Who, Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica (which already had small squish-ready credits to begin with).

Once again, network execs are making these the norm throughout the channelscape, and
it makes you long for the days when presenters did just vocal promotions without video commercials obscuring the credits.

But that's just me.

Oct 17, 2006

Save The Cheerleader. Save The World.

The best show on Monday nights is NBC's Heroes.

I could end the post there and have a Coke and a smile, but if you've never seen it (either because you're pumped on RAW or watching bland things like Monday Night Football or the CBS "comedies"), you really owe it to yourself to at least catch the replays on Sci-Fi Friday nights at 7 PM inbetween one of last year's best sci-fi shows Night Stalker and new episodes of the awesome as hell Doctor Who followed by a show I'm really getting into, the new Battlestar Galactica. Seriously, Sci-Fi hasn't had a powerful lineup like this since . . . ever (as much as I'm a Farscape fan, it didn't have any good shows backing it up [sorry Stargate fans, but that show seemed too "Trekky" for me]).

Anyway, the skinny on Heroes is that these random individuals from all points of the globe. A struggling comic book artist paints the future weeks in advance. A younger brother of a politician who has dreams that he can fly. A cheerleader who can heal herself of any injury. A woman who sees a version of herself within mirrors. An office worker in Japan who discovers that he has the ability to manipulate time. Two people on opposite sides find themselves connected to all of these strangers in some kind of way.

As a comic writer/artist, I gotta say that is sounds like a perfect show. It's a weekly comic book story told with living, breathing flesh and blood people. No ink and digital paint. No text bubbles (well, there are subtitles whenever Hiro and his best friend converse since they do speak in Japanese). No costumes. It's pretty much a real world version of superheroics. People who are learning about who they are and what they can do.

If you or I learned that we had a power we couldn't understand nor comprehend, how would we react? If you think you could do something, regardless of how weird it may be to others, would you ignore the impulse to do so? If you learned one morning that you could not get hurt or have body damage, what would be the first thing you do? If you had the power to go forward and go back in time go to any point on the planet, would you be willing to do so? If you could see the future, despite what harm it may do to you, would you be willing to show others? Would you use these powers to help others, help yourself, or hurt those that wronged you? These are some of the questions asked on Heroes, and because they show what these regular folks would do in such a situation, this series has become a story about human nature wrapped in comic book cover.

I gotta tell you, this is one of the best shows on television, broadcast or cable (or in this case, both). I hope NBC keeps this series on the air longer than a year (thank goodness the series has a full season run on the network) because there is so much potential present in this series.

Watch it Mondays at 9 PM EST/PST on NBC or catch the replay Fridays at 7 PM EST/PST on Sci-Fi.

Oct 16, 2006

Reason #86 Why TimeWarner Doesn't Like The Turner Networks

Hey kids, guess what 2005 animated movie from Warner Bros. makes its US television premiere this Thursday?

If you guessed Corpse Bride, then you guessed right.

Now, for the $20,000 question. What network will debut the movie?

If you guessed HBO, oooh, sorry, but thanks for playing.

You guessed Cinemax? Eeeh, bummer, wrong answer.

The correct answer is ABC Family.

Okay, now wipe that soda off your computer monitor and wall. It'll make everything sticky (at least, I hope that's soda). Yes, the big movie attraction for October for ABC Family is the US television premiere of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. This is an ironic point because Touchstone's The Nightmare Before Christmas made its US television premiere on HBO, many years after it came out. The fact that the Oscar-nominated film would come on basic cable a little after a year it made it theatrical debut is kind of a surprise. People knew about the deal that Time Warner made with ABC Family to air some of their movies, but I doubt anybody would expect them to air Corpse Bride so soon. Heck, I wouldn't even be surprised if The Polar Express makes a similar debut this Christmas season on the channel.

One would have expected that Time Warner would keep it in the family, premiering the film on Cartoon Network. However, you have to take into account two things:

Time Warner doesn't like Cartoon Network and the Turner networks, and to paraphrase Kanye West Cartoon Network don't care about cartoons.

Stuff You Didn't Know About Canada #1


Our neighbor to the north. Pretty kickass country from what I heard about it, and I hear a lot. I celebrate Canada Day every July 1. I'm a big supporter of Canadian animation, despite its limited airings here in the States (I miss Eek! The Cat and ReBoot), and live-action fare. And Doctor Who . . . thanks for co-producing it CBC (though I can say with pride we got the new English-language episodes before you guys did!). Sure, they could be a little xenophobic at times (seriously, the whole 70% Canadian programming requirement is a bit limited, isn't it?), but hey, thus is the price for keeping the legacy of Albion, um, Canada alive. And considering I have a significant readership here and the terrordome that is TXB that comes from that great land up there, I thought I'd drop a some Canadian knowledge to share my love for the land from time to time.

Here goes.

MTV Canada doesn't show music videos.

Now, the American crowd looking at me saying "MTV USA doesn't show music videos either, just mostly reality crap like Parental Control, Room Raiders, or Next, which is probably on right now." Yeah, that's pretty much true. But here's the thing.

Canada has these laws that provide exclusive programming licenses to particular channels. There's one kids network (YTV), one animation channel (Teletoon), one family channel (um, Family Channel), and one music channel (MuchMusic . . . on an related note, I miss MuchUSA and my bastard cable company refuses to carry its second coming Fuse TV). Because MuchMusic is the music channel in Canada, MTV Canada can't be called Music Television, which is its original name. The network pretty much is a talk channel with music interview shows, certain MTV-branded reality shows, and no music videos . . . at all. They air Making the Video up there, but they can't actually air the finished video on-air (just on MTV Canada Overdrive).

So, in hindsight, do you know what MTV Canada is? MTV without videos, so American viewers won't be so surprised to see the channel. It'd be just like home.

And that's a slice of Canada for you, my friends.

Oct 15, 2006

The Myths of Animax

The world is ready for a new animation channel.

Okay, scratch that. The world largely has this animation channel. It's just the United States that's missing this channel. Of course, I'm talking about Animax (the title of the post gives the identity away), Sony's animation channel that's spreading throughout the world like ivy at Wrigley.

In 2004, after Sony and Comcast forged an alliance that helped them buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (and such lucrative properties like James Bond, the Pink Panther, and Rocky), they planned to many many cable networks together. Over the decade, Sony has been slowly introducing the Animax brand to the Western hemisphere by sponsoring numerous events, putting Animax-branded programming on certain anime DVDs, and prominently placing the Animax logo in the end credits of Astro Boy, which sadly failed on broadcast and cable (though for the life of me, the cable channel that aired the series no longer exist, with some odd live-action/animation mix in its place). It's almost 2007, and I'm not saying that Sony and Comcast hasn't come up with a plan, because for all I know, they could make the network announcement any day now. Or a few months from now. Or at a socially crippling time in their life right in front of your friends.

It's coming. However, they are facing three distinct myths that has caused them to fear launching Animax in the US. I doubt they're afraid of The Anime Network and the FUNimation Channel, two networks (well, a network and a block) that beat Animax for the title of North America's first all-anime channel (though it should be known that Locomotion, which is now Animax Latin America, predated both of them by years and yet wasn't all anime by any stretch). I think they're only hesitating making any discussion because of three myths:

Myth #1: Animax has to be 100% anime.

Myth #2: Animax won't have access to popular titles.

Myth #3: Animax has to be a basic cable network and limited by those rules.

I think that if they get beyond those myths, perhaps then maybe they'll get on the ball and finally create Animax USA. I know exactly how they can get beyond these fears. They have to look at what they have, know who they can count on, know who their friends are, and look deeper in the channelscape for inspiration. But unlike my European adventure, I can't just explain anything online and publicly. Been burned before and I've learned that I can't trust everybody. But I've actually worked it all out. Took me a little under five hours (an hour to write it out and four hours to fully comprehend it myself), yet, I truly have the master plan written down for Animax. And trust me, it'll have something for everybody.

Oct 13, 2006

G4 in the House of E!

I feel kind of bad for G4.

No, bad's not the word. That's not even the phrasing I'm looking for. I think it's the opposite. Why do I feel this way and why do I feel the need to talk about a channel that has been nothing more than a joke since they absorbed a great channel like TechTV a couple of years ago?

Because of the following newsbyte:

E! and Style chief Ted Harbert, the CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group (a guy who could become a very powerful individual if he made the right decisions), adds G4 to his oversight. He will continue to report to Comcast Programming Group President Jeff Shell. G4 President Neal Tiles, who joined the network in September 2005, will now report to Mr. Harbert.

G4's executive staff will move into E!'s Los Angeles offices. Sources said layoffs among the G4 staff are likely, though Mr. Harbert said it's too soon to tell.

In other words, G4, a channel that was once dedicated to video games that bought TechTV only for X-Play and channel space but now wants to be the second coming of Spike TV, has a new overboss and planning to layoff a lot of people. I'm not a guy who like it when people lose their jobs, but I don't feel sorry for G4, a channel that did just that when they laid off nearly everybody at TechTV, especially the guys and gals who actually knew something about technology.

And in the same article, I noticed this quote from Mr. Harbert:

"I do agree with the vision of going after young men more than just going after gaming. Gaming has been demonstrated as being too narrow."

Okay, that's true. BUT the channel that the G4 virus infected, TechTV, was more than just video games. It was the country's first and only technology/internet/computer culture-themed network, and its absence left a considerable void on the channelscape. Now I look at G4 and say, "Star Trek: The Next Generation again? I can watch this on Spike TV. Wait a minute . . . it IS coming on Spike TV in an hour!" There's a reason G4 places 56th out of 64 networks: there's no demand for it. We have Spike TV. We have Adult Swim. We even have some parts of MTV 2. Young men don't need another Spike TV clone. Like I said, we already have Spike TV higher on the listings. What G4 needs to do is refocus on their roots and the roots of the channel they infected, TechTV.

They should relaunch under a new name, become a true neek-friendly outlet because let's face it, neeks rule the world and are cooler than everybody else (we're trendsetters before it becomes a trend). Why do you think the iPod and You Tube evolved into multibillion dollar brands and Google and Tivo are also verbs? G4 had something with TechTV, but that's a memory. The basement dwellers of San Francisco are millionaires themselves with their own projects in nearly all media. Now, G4 is no longer strong enough to stand on its own two feet.

I want to feel bad for G4, but quite honestly, I can't.

Oct 12, 2006

Scooby-Doo Makes Its Third Basic Cable Premiere

Let me get this straight.

About a year or so ago, Nickelodeon presented the basic cable premiere of the live-action Scooby-Doo movie. It got good ratings because, hey, not all kids have access to HBO. A few months later around the summer of 2006 up until around a couple of weekends ago, the movie was on rotation on the ultralame ABC Family Channel (aside from Kyle XY, which will return sometime this spring, they have nothing). It got so-so ratings because there was already a been-there-done-that atmosphere among the channelscape of kids.

Now, tomorrow, The Network presents the film based on a franchise that they showcased heavily on their channel from 1994 until about 2004 but wouldn't touch today with a 39 and a half-foot pole unless it was a movie version of it. Let it be reminded that the channel no longer wants to connect to the past that actually gave them much love in the animation community and this is a live-action movie on a cartoon network.

You know what? Frak this. I give up.

Screw The Network. I already can't defend anything they do anymore and to tell you the truth, The Network could further rot in hell for all I care. Primetime's a joke, Miguzi has an identity crisis, Toonami only has one truly watchable show, daytime's a joke, Tickle U bombed, Adult Swim's going to lose their old reliable in a couple of years and going to be exposed as a one-trick pony by the end of next year, and the management is so hellbent on transforming themselves into Nickelodeon 1998 and Disney Channel, a souless entity that is more interested in your pocketbooks and wallets than providing a truly watchable network. More power to them.

I can buy Naruto DVDs. There are other things worth my time because they don't want viewers like me around anymore.

I'm through talking about Cartoon Network. They're not going to change. They don't WANT to change. I can't force them to change. So screw them.

I'm going to Canada. Okay, I wish I could go to Canada, but if I got an offer to go there, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Oct 11, 2006

The Cartoon Network Way

I read something on Cartoon Brew that kind of irked me a bit. No, it wasn't another slam on 3D productions not made by the almighty Pixar, but rather the comment made by Michael Ouweleen about that idiotic live-action movie they just finished producing at The Network:

"[E]ven though we are featuring live-action characters, it still had to be done the Cartoon Network way."

Now, I know Mr. Ouweelen by what he does and who he is. He seems like he has some sense and some of the things he does are, to put it mildly, is okay. Naturally, he wouldn't bite the hand that feeds him and wouldn't condemn what The Network is doing. Afterall, he has a job and has to tow the corporate line. Afterall, for a year (remember, we first got wind of the live-action movie airings about a year ago), The Network has been under heavy criticism from people who feel that they're deviating from their original purpose of airing 24 hours of cartoons every day until the end of time. So, guys like me have to pick up on certain codewords to crack the system . . . or at least crack some heads.

And that whole "the Cartoon Network way" comment was just the bait to get me riled up.

Ah yes, the Cartoon Network way. There was a time when that actually meant something. But now, there are two sides to the Cartoon Network way:

- The Cartoon Network way BC (the Betty Cohen era)
- The Cartoon Network way JS (the Jim Samples era)

The BC way was different, truly revolutionary, rebellious, fun, and surprisingly (and ironicly) anti-corporate. They made fun of themselves because they knew who they were, a channel built up on fond memories of the shows they used to watch when they were growing up but can now show to a new generation of viewers simply because they can. They didn't even TRY to be like their competitors because, well, they felt that their competitors sucked, a sentiment felt by many of the viewers back then. They aired cartoons for the young and the young at heart. Primetime was filled with great programming and familiar characters. Sure, they developed brands to showcase their wares like Super Chunk, 70s Super Explosion, Super Adventures, Toonapalooza, Hootnanny, Boomerang, and Toonami, but there was a sense of unity and fun on a channel they proudly called Cartoon Network.

The JS way is the total antithesis of the BC way. It's more or less a lemming, the equivalent of a high-school wallflower trying to be like the other guys down to wearing similar clothing. The JS way keeps it safe and corporate. They try to pretend to mock themselves, but by looking at how they promote themselves, it's tamer than in years' past. The JS way believes that cartoons are just for kids and tries to separate anything that may remotely attract older audiences from the rest of the lineup, which is why Toonami is now on Saturday nights at 8 PM (the 7 PM hour is dead to me), why Adult Swim is now considered a separate network, and why cartoons with huge teen and adult followings like Sheep in the Big City, the original Cartoon Cartoons, Looney Tunes, Tex Avery shorts, Popeye, and Sunday Pants are not on the lineup anymore. Primetime is filled with cartoons that basically rely on gross-out gags and kids creating chaos. Adults are rarely seen on the network these days because they don't want kids to know what they'll eventually become.

But the most disturbing part about the JS way is that they have a very loose definition of what defines a cartoon. They think that "cartoon" is a fluid concept that could be used for any medium when in reality, cartoons are cartoons. Whether it's called anime or if it was drawn, modeled, rendered, or cut out, cartoons are cartoons. There's a reason why Dude, Where's My Car? or Austin Powers can't be considered for a Best Animated Picture nomination. There's a difference between "cartoony" (aka camp) and "cartoon." It's not the same as "flammable" and "inflammable," and yet, Cartoon Network the JS way feels embarrassed by the fact that they have to actually show animation on their network, so much so that they wish they they weren't called Cartoon Network.

The JS way is, sadly, the Cartoon Network way that Mr. Ouweleen is referring to. The BC way is gone and will never come back. Wish that it did because CN had fun back then and wouldn't be caught dead showing live-action anything.

Yet More Channel Deviations

While trying to avoid the Pokemon virus that has infected every corner of Cartoon Network (including Toonami Jetstream, which means that Sean and Jason don't have control of what goes on there, sad to say), I noticed this other deviation.

You know, I used to like TV Land. I did. I mean, back in the day, it was like old-school Nick At Nite (when they actually spelled out "At" instead of using a damn @ sign), and they do tend to show some good retro favorites like The Jeffersons, Good Times, Benson, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Three's Company, I Love Lucy, and perhaps one of the most perfect sitcoms ever produced, The Dick Van Dyke Show (a title that could get censored in this overtly sensitive world of ours). Like nearly every channel on the dial, TV Land has deviated from its initial concept by airing more "popnost" and "celebreality" programming over the years (what's next? Schindler's List on Comedy Central? The Man Show on Lifetime? An original live-action movie on Cartoon Network - - oh, frak, that's already happening)

But one new show announcement, as I scooped on Sitcoms Online (a great sitcom news and info site if ever there was one), kind of shocked me more than seeing Fatal Attraction on the channel a few weeks ago. TV Land has picked up episodes of High School Reunion, a reality program that aired on The WB a few years ago that basically looked through an old yearbook and put labels on people that weren't what they were. Not only did they pick up the three-year old episodes, but they're also planning to produce new episodes exclusively for TV Land. Alas, like Boomerang, TV Land is also slowly forgetting their classic TV roots, which is damn shame.

Now, excuse me for a moment, I gotta watch this tractor pull tournament on C-SPAN in a few minutes.

Oct 2, 2006

I Like This New Scooby-Doo

I like Scooby-Doo.

Anybody that knows me either from my frantic postings at the "gated community" known as Toon Zone or the angry, yet somewhat comical updates at The X Bridge knows that I'm not a fan of Scooby-Doo, and yet, for my 100th posting here at Thoughtnami, I never thought I'd utter those words at the beginning of a post.

Let's rewind to the point of my original disdain. Afterall, from the time the show premiered on Cartoon Network in 1994 (yes, it's a little-known fact, but Scooby-Doo wasn't always on CN since it was basically licensed to USA in what would be the last hurrah for the late, great Cartoon Express) until late 2004, Scooby-Doo has been a boil on nearly every CN fan with its almost total dominance on the lineup. Of course in 2006, I would actually kill to see something other than Camp Lazlo, Foster's, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, or Billy and Mandy on the lineup whenever they have an open slot, even welcoming Scooby-Doo with open arms.

Scooby-Doo isn't the best cartoon in the world. I know that statement pisses off a significant group of fans, but the series is very formulaic. And every show looked the same, from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? to Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was a variation (a terribly-animated variation at that) that buffered between the original incarnation to the revamp of the late-90s from many of the animators and writers behind SWAT Kats and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest and the creation of What's New, Scooby-Doo? which not only harkened back to its original incarnation, but also returned the franchise to Saturday mornings, albeit on a network that preferred glorified monster-fighting cartoons and overrated card battles than American-made fare (but dang it, Kids' WB was so much better than what else is out there).

And now, after a season and a half-long break, Scooby-Doo has returned to the airwaves in a new series, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get A Clue. However, there's something . . . different about this show. The character designs are stylized and a little hipper than we're used to seeing them. The show seems like it's trying to be more of a cohesive story than just a bunch of teens (as well as concrete proof that the kids are graduates from high-school) galavanting around the world searching for mysteries. It just seems fresh. And as strange at it may seem, I like this new Scooby-Doo. Seems like something I wrote back a couple of years ago on the site. Granted, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get A Clue is hardly a teen-oriented show, but it's probably a shakeup that the franchise needed for some years now, and I for one am looking forward to see what else this show has to offer.