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    Do they even watch their own shows?

    2012 - 03.05

    One of the recent TV additions which Karin quite likes is Alcatraz, which is fitting since we were both fans of J.J. Abrams first major TV success: Alias (with Jennifer Garner).  Last week Fox which airs the show pre-empted the show because of a very much rain delayed Daytona 500.

    On some level I can understand that, it’s a famous race… and it was supposed to have run on the weekend but was delayed due to weather.  Still it comes as a surprise to people who care nothing at all about the race that the show they thought they were going to have on their PVR was something completely different, and there wasn’t even a courtesy explanation when the regularly scheduled programming would have aired to tell us what was going on or why.

    In the case of Alcatraz, it was supposed to be Episode 8 which aired.  This week they aired (as originally scheduled) a “2 hour event” which was actually Episodes 9 and 10.  So I don’t know when they will air Episode 8.  It’s hard to know at this point (not having seen Episodes 8-10 yet) whether there will be a major continuity issue because of it.  But really who makes these decisions?  Do they actually watch the shows they air?  It doesn’t seem like it.

    Sometimes it feels like TV scheduling is being legislated… who knew that so many locals moonlight as TV executives…

    This is further emphasized with things like weather warnings with annoying audio which are broadcast out of region.  I don’t know if I’d be interested in them if I actually lived in Detroit or Chicago, but I’m definitely not interested in them since I don’t.  Not only that, but they put them in intrusive locations on the screen and interfere with the programming.  They really should work on the technology (which I can only hope somehow doesn’t exist, rather than that they are choosing not to use it) which allows them to remove these things regionally.  Further, they should make it so that the information is not captured by my PVR, I really don’t need a storm warning from thousands of kilometers away and months old interfering with my watching a show.  But I guess for the executives it’s not about the quality of the watching experience… because if they believe it is, they are doing a terrible job.

    It’s not just the weather warnings though, it’s the station promos and other show promos which pop-up and cover significant portions of the screen.  I understand why they do that, and to some degree they are effective, I can’t help but notice them.  But they clearly either do not actually watch the shows, or they don’t care.  Entirely too often do I see a promo overlayed and covering show credits or show content, or the worst: subtitles.  It just really goes to show that they aren’t paying attention.

    There was a time when the live TV experience was the best, but when they continue to add these “features” which realistically are only features in their minds, they continue to degrade the experience, and drive their audience crazy.  So many of these new “innovations” are realistically the equivalent of someone taking a phone call during a movie… very disrespectful and detrimental to your enjoyment.

    So a little advice to the TV executives out there, actually watch the shows from time to time, in the broadcast format, and imagine yourself as someone who actually wants to watch the show… and see how you feel.

    In case you didn’t notice: new HD channels

    2011 - 12.21

    Shaw has recently added a few more HD channels, since as far as I can tell they didn’t do anything to tell us they added them, I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but they are:

    • Space HD [247 for us]
    • BNN: Business News Network HD [248]
    • Discovery HD (this is the Canadian one with Mythbusters and such…) [249]
    • Bravo! HD [250]

    These are mostly worth bringing attention to as they are AFTER Movie Central and Super Channel in the listings, so I imagine lots of people probably don’t scroll up that high.

    Other somewhat recent additions, but I believe earlier additions were:

    • MovieTime HD [240]
    • Family HD [241]
    • Disney XD HD [242]

    Less interested in these ones, but since I’m bothering to talk about channels, figured I may as well.

    Watching TV On-line

    2011 - 11.09

    Unfortunately we find that sometimes our PVR lets us down, although lately I’ve been watching more TV online not because it didn’t tape, but because I’m on the computer already.

    If you happen to need to watch something on-line most of the shows are now available on-line in Canada through one of Global, CTV and CityTV (this definitely did not use to be the case, where they’d be on-line in the US but they’d have filtering software in place to prevent watching it from a Canadian IP address).

    That said Global and CityTV both seem to use the same viewer which is far superior to the one that CTV uses.  The main problem with the CTV viewer is that it doesn’t seem to really buffer the stream at all, which makes it very sensitive to fluctuations in the data rate.  Which leads to choppy video filled with pauses.  Global and CityTV however seem to have an appropriate amount of buffering incorporated into their viewer which results in a smooth feed and a possitive experience comparable to watching it on your TV (although with fewer commercials).

    Food Network in HD

    2011 - 11.03

    It’s actually been at least a few weeks now that we’ve had the Food Network in HD, it’s one of those things that Shaw did a terrible job telling us about, so I don’t know how long we had the channel before we noticed that we had it.

    Needless to say it means that we watch a lot more food network than we have ever since we got our HDTV.  Although you can watch non-HD programming, it just doesn’t occur to us (generally) to check the channels which aren’t in the HD range to see what’s on.

    We haven’t watched anything too exciting, but it’s nice to have that option again, although it would be nice if they had more cooking shows and less competition/reality shows.

    One of the shows that I really used to like was Good Eats with Alton Brown, so I thought I would check and see when it was on.  Scrolling through the 2 weeks of program guide, couldn’t find it.  Did a little searching, and it seems as though it’s not airing in Canada at the moment (as far as I’ve been able to ascertain) and worse than that they aren’t making any more of them.

    Alton decided to call it quits after 249 half hour episodes of Good Eats.  There’s supposed to be 3 new 1 hour episodes, and that’s it.  Bummer.  They probably won’t fill the time with reruns of the Frugal Gourmet* either…

    * If you read the Wikipedia article you may find out some things you didn’t know, but they are also things you may not have wanted to know, even though they are just allegations.

    Castle Abridged

    2011 - 10.04

    Last week everything went fine, no problems, the whole episode was recorded.  This week the last 46 minutes.  In the short term, I think we’ll be watching live instead.  Longer term it’s time to seriously consider switching away from Shaw.

    ABC and Shaw feel our WRATH!

    2011 - 09.19

    Big night tonight, season 4 premiere of Castle.  Made sure we had the PVR setup to tape it.  Got home a little late, so we watched it together, seemed to start somewhat abruptly (just after a book signing?), but it wasn’t until a few commercial breaks later that I noticed that the timeline only went to 37 minutes.  Our concern was that we would miss the end.

    We continued to watch it, and were a little confused as the case was solved, wondering where the episode would go next.  Roll credits.  Turns out that it wasn’t the last 23 minutes that we missed, but the first.

    Ok, that was weird, but things happen sometimes.  That failure was on the ABC Timeshift channel, and it wasn’t 10pm on the west coast yet, so no big deal, we set it up to tape at 10pm as well (ok, 10:01pm as Castle starts late, although lets be honest who wouldn’t rather get an extra minute of Castle instead of something like Dancing with the Stars?!?!?!?!).  It happened AGAIN!  The PVR started to tape mid-episode.  What’s up with that?

    Now we’re going to have to watch the first 23 minutes of the episode streaming online.  Not impressed.  Don’t know whose fault it was: ABC or Shaw, but don’t let it happen again or there will be consequences!

    Showcase: Heads up TV season starts Tuesday

    2011 - 08.27

    Looks like Showcase is getting a jump on the competition, and Shaw really does seem to be trying to turn Showcase into a big player.  Here’s some highlights of things which will be happening over the next could of weeks:

    1. Burn Notice (Season 3) starts Tuesday August 30th (10pm)
    2. Royal Pains (Season 2) starts Wednesday August 31st (10pm)
    3. Warehouse 13 (Season 3) starts Thursday September 1st (10pm)
    4. Lost Girl (Season 2) starts Sunday September 4th (9pm)
    5. Covert Affairs (Season 2) starts Sunday September 4th (10pm)

    They are already airing Haven (Season 2), so they’ve got a lot of stuff going on.  Important things to note, if you’re watching in HD on Shaw at least, those 10pm times above are a lie, as there is no western ShowcaseHD, so all those shows air at 7pm, and Lost Girl airs at 6pm on Sundays.  The shows during the week actually air at 7pm and 9pm (10pm and midnight eastern).  If you’re not watching in HD then then times are correct in their ads, etc…

    If you’re paying attention you’ll notice that it’s Royal Pains season 2, even though Showcase didn’t air season 1 (I think Global did last year), it’s Warehouse 13 season 3 even though other seasons aired on Space or CityTV, so it might be weird to join mid-series if you haven’t otherwise been watching.  Both shows air on US networks which don’t have a Canadian equivalent or broadcast partner.

    The others are continuations of series which have aired previously on Showcase.

    One really cool thing worth mentioning is that Lost Girl will have 22 episodes in it’s second season, which is way above the typical specialty channel order of at most 13.

    So if you don’t still have series recordings set up, now is the time to get on that, and BREAK!*

    * “and BREAK!” is a reference to the film Fired Up! definitely not one of the world’s best movies, but funny and if you’ve seen it you’ll know how hard it is to not use that phrase after watching the movie.


    2011 - 03.20

    A new Canadian series (Endgame) on Showcase about a Chess Master who solves crimes without leaving his hotel.  The first episode was interesting, and we’ll have to see if they can continue to build on it to make it compelling.  It’s an interesting combination of Nero Wolfe and Monk.  One of the most interesting things about it though is that it is both filmed and set in Vancouver.  We get a lot of productions made here, but very few of them are actually supposed to be here.  The key difference is those sweeping exterior shots which you see are actually of Vancouver, and not San Fransisco or New York or somewhere else.  It’s worth tuning in just to see some of those shots.

    Clearing out the PVR

    2011 - 01.16

    Thanks to a lack of new TV, some reruns, some pre-empted shows, and failed attempts to record things, we’ve been cleaning out the PVR a little bit.  So far we’ve finished out Boardwalk Empire (HBO) and Rubicon (AMC).

    Boardwalk Empire: set mostly in Atlantic City during prohibition, quite different from your typical show, but it does have an interesting balance of morality, corruption, truth, sexuality, violence and transcendence.  Worth watching, although it does have its weak moments.  It will be returning for a second season, so we’ll see if they can keep it up.

    Rubicon: set in New York with a twisting conspiracy laden storyline, this was a very interesting show, with a good cast.  Unfortunately it was the conspiracies which were epic and sweeping and not so much the show.  I guess that’s the problem when you follow analysts and not agents in a “spy” show.  That said, what really held me (us?) back from loving this show was struggles with the feed, frequent compression (visual) and audio issues on AMC, forcing us to often tape each episode multiple times in order to find a copy which was watchable.  I would really have liked to see where they would have gone with a second season, but this Rubicon has been cancelled.

    Now we are working on Merlin (Space) which leaves a few others: Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Movie Central), Durham County Seasons 2 & 3 (Movie Central).  Speaking of Space, that’s a channel that definitely needs an HD counterpart, so someone get on that now, mkthanks (as Karin says sometimes).

    Say What?!?!???!

    2011 - 01.12

    So last night we tried to watch the episode of Burn Notice that we taped on Showcase HD (Shaw 234). It’s really too bad that there’s a lot of shows we like on that channel, because aside from the content there’s a lot of reasons to hate it.

    This particular time there was no dialogue audio track for the first 15 minutes of the episode, there was full music and sound effects but no speech, it was pretty weird, and amusing.  Ultimately however it was unwatchable, so here’s hoping that they get their act together when they re-air it on Sunday.

    So what are these other reasons to hate Showcase HD you ask?  Well, they often don’t have episode information included in the Shaw Guide, instead it’s a generic show description, which means two things: you can’t determine if you’ve already seen the episode or if it’s new, and secondly the PVR’s series recordings can’t tell either.  This seems not to be a problem with Burn Notice at the moment, although historically it had been.  Current, or recent shows with that problem: Haven, Sherlock, Wallander, Lost Girl, Strike Back, Luther and Covert Affairs.  Other things which are annoying:

    • all times in promos are in eastern time, and Showcase HD does not have a pacific time equivalent, so everything airs 3 hours earlier (which sometimes is nice, but it’s annoying that they fail to ever acknowledge this)
    • they have started doing in show commercials, where something pops up at the bottom of the screen and takes about half of it in width, and a quarter in height, and displays a promo for another one of their shows.  They are large, distracting, opaque, and now they even include sound!  Hello, I’m trying to watch and listen to the show I’m watching, and you’ve covering credits, subtitles, information and dialogue with these promos?!?!?!?  It makes you want to just buy the DVD instead.

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