The Best Show No Longer on TV: The Newsroom

When we moved to the USA four years ago we didn’t get cable, and instead have relied upon a combination of Netflix, Amazon Video, iTunes, and for a short while Hulu, for our media consumption. Being cord-cutting video streamers means we don’t often watch shows until they’re off the air and we’re usually behind the mainstream in terms of watching hit shows. We’re OK with that. Every so often though, we run across a show we wish we’d watched sooner because it’s just so damn great. The Newsroom is one of those shows. I came across this clip on Facebook and marveled at the lines written for Jeff Daniels (as well as his delivery).

(apologies that you have to click through to watch that video, the “owner” disabled remote embedding for some reason)

Leaving the politics out of it – to call it  a left-leaning show would be an understatement – the writing of Aaron Sorkin on this show was just so intelligent, witty, and…sharp. Every line is clever and cut like a razor blade. I wish I could live in a world where people were that consistently witty! The other aspect I really enjoyed was the way the show talked about real events – it brought a sharp reality to the otherwise normally fictitious world of TV.

Sadly, The Newsroom was cancelled after only three seasons. The reasons why vary, but I’ll forever wish we could have seen more seasons. Imagine what Sorkin would have written for Will McAvoy to say about Trump!

Embracing Digital Storytelling: The Season Recap

We’re in the midst of a massive shift in the way entertainment is consumed; more “cord cutters” are making the switch every day, and the future of TV is changing. What still baffles me though is how so many content producers still confine their thinking to the way things used to be instead of the way they can be.

Case in point: last night season two of Daredevil was launched, and in typical disruptive fashion Netflix released all the episodes at once for binge watching. What was more interesting to me though was the four minute season one recap they started automatically playing when I hit play on episode one of season two. In four minutes I was reminded of all the major plot points of season one, and I can go into season two enjoying that context. It was wonderful! Continue reading Embracing Digital Storytelling: The Season Recap

The Things I Learned from Celebrity Apprentice

As I watch the season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice, I thought it might be fun to make some point-form notes about what I think about the show and the people on the show (without getting mean…well, too mean). And, spoiler alert, you don’t want to look at this post if you haven’t watched the finale yet. Unfortunately I managed to ruin the surprise of who won for myself earlier today, but I’m still interested in how it all plays out. Here goes:

  • Someone needs to call PETA and report Donald Trump’s hair – some animal is being abused on his head, somehow.
  • I find it funny that every person Donald Trump talks about is always “the best” when in reality, a good portion of the celebrities competing this year (and every year) are washed up and teetering on the edge of relevancy – or have fallen over it. I’m looking at you Andrew Dice Clay. OK, in Clay’s case he fell over the edge, died from the fall, rotted for several years, then they employed some black magic juju to re-animated his bloated corpse. And it shows.
  • Ivanka Trump is awfully nice eye-candy for the show (moreso than Brandy Roderick), even if she is mostly a surgically-created woman. She’s smart too – quite the combination.
  • Joan Rivers said her face cost her $150,000. I think she deserves a partial refund. BADA-BOOM! Thank you, I’m here all week.
  • You can tell which celebrities understand technology, and which ones only know how to use their cell phones.
  • Donald Trump really loves Kodak – but has anyone told him they’re not exactly a top 5 consumer electronics brand any more? They have a powerful brand name, but in terms of great products…not so much. It’s great exposure for Kodak to be a part of the show however – that’s quite a coup for them.
  • Dennis Rodman seems to need a father figure – and some AA meetings. Ultimately it seems like most of the celebrities haven’t had many people stand up to them or to hold them accountable for their actions.
  • Celebrities melt down under pressure like everyone else – although celebrities tend to melt down in a more spectacular fashion than mere mortals. I think that’s 70% of the reason why people watch this show.
  • The event planner on Joan River’s team quit? Right in front of the viewers on a very popular TV show? Way to further your career. Oh wait, the same design/event company was used by both teams…and this firm quit on both teams. I don’t think they named the company – they should have. They should be embarassed for being such sissies. Sure, celebrities might be hard to work with, but as event planners they should be able to work with anyone.
  • Seeing a dozen Kodak picture frames in a row, all with talking Clint Black videos, was hilarious! I can’t believe they thought that was going to work OK…
  • At the 1 hour 51 mark, when Donald Trump arrived and they queued the royal trumpet music…I think I threw up in my mouth a little. That was just too much.
  • Initially I rolled my eyes at Tom Green using the Kodak camera to shoot the video from the DVD playing on his computer screen, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a fairly elegant solution to a sticky problem. The DVD was probably encrypted – even though there’s no good reason for it to be – and having to crack the encryption, rip the DVD, and transcode it into a format compatible with the picture frame would have been a time-consuming task.
  • When the issue of the event planner quitting came up, Joan Rivers blew a gasket. They should have shown her video tape of what happened to Annie. Joan was completely in the wrong, and I think she knew it – she opted to eminate so much rage she hoped it would obfuscate the issue. It seems to have worked.
  • Annie’s ability to maintain her cool in front of Trump while she’s being tongue-lashed by Joan Rivers is impressive in the extreme.
  • I’m impressed with how generous poker players are – it seems they’re much more generous than the Hollywood stars that so many of these people know. Good on ya’ poker players!
  • Brandy Roderick is a lot smarter than she looks. Except when she tries to spell (see last episode).
  • It was interesting to see “regular” people like Annie Duke and Jessie James interact with the stars. You can tell they have a grounding in reailty that’s quite different from the others.
  • You can tell the people who can think on their feet from the ones who can’t – take away the talented script/speech writers, and a lot of famous people can’t say anything interesting.
  • If there’s one thing The Celebrity Apprentice tells us, it’s that human beings, even the famous ones, are all deeply flawed. Everyone gets scared, everyone says angry, hurtful things when they feel cornered, and everyone fails to live up to a higher standard.
  • So in the end…Joan Rivers won. Should she have won? Although she pulled off the final event better than Annie Duke, I think Annie played the game better overall and she should have won the whole thing. I wouldn’t want to be on Annie Duke’s team though, I’ll say that much…

UPDATE: I forgot to mention perhaps the most important thing about watching this show…that video editors can put things together to tell whatever story they want. Something to keep in mind when you watch any reality TV show – what you’re seeing is an edited version of what actually happened, often with heavy bias from the editor toward maximizing the drama of the scene.