Saturday, 16 January 2016

Some TV thoughts

Should I be writing? Possibly but Saturday night (unless my wife is playing a gig somewhere I cant go to which is reasonably often) is a non writing night as it's family film night; even if it doesn't always include a film.

If you've read any of my previous blog entries then you'll know we are fans of Nordic noir and have watched the genre beyond the standards like the Killing and the Bridge. Well this week the first episode of a new Norwegian series  called Occupied started. We recorded it and saved it for tonight and we were not disappointed. It's good fright from the off.

The basic premise is a geopolitical one. Move into the near future. The middle east is shut down with civil wars, the US has gone all self sufficient and exited NATO. Norway in the middle of it all announces it is ceasing oil production. As you would probably imagine this isn't gong down well in the rest of Europe. It's a gripping story and I want the next episode now. Unfortunately I'm going to have to wait until the next one airs.

Which leads me onto another issue when it comes to TV watching. There is a revolution going on in TV-dom. It has been underway for years; we've just not noticed or not cared. The first part of it isn't going to be news for anyone. Maybe all of it isn't.

TV shows have been, since the dawn of the television age, broadcast to a schedule. You tune in at 9pm Wednesday, remain glued to the set for the full hour and then have to wait a further six days, twenty three hours to know what happens next.

Video/DVD/Blu-Ray box sets started to destroy this model years ago. Many times since their emergence on the entertainment stage I've bought a box set of a series I've not even seen (or seen maybe one or two episodes of) and then binge-watched it through. It's a method I enjoy and I've viewed many shows this way - including many other Nordic Noirs like the Protectors and Unit One and other European series like Salamander (in French and Dutch).

These Sky+ or TiVo boxes or whatever others are around allow us to turn the still weekly broadcast shows into our own Box Sets. It takes just a little patience - allow the show to build up on the hard drive and start to watch when you have all the episodes.

Believe it or not this is actually what we did with the first two seasons of Game of Thrones. Can you imagine that? We left it for a full ten weeks then blitzed through in a single weekend. By season three though we were so desperate to see the next episode we watched them nearly live. (A favourite tactic to avoid ads is to start watching at twenty past the hour with the remote control on standby to fast forward at hyper speed through people trying to sell me life insurance and diesel powered cars.)

Things have moved more towards this end with the satellite and cable channels as well as the various online streaming sites supplying box sets you can access with the click of a remote control button or mouse. And in recent times these services are now even moving into their own content generation, still all available in one batch without the horrendous week in between each. And I can watch them on my phone in the middle of a field if I have a strong enough signal.

Is this what we want? Everything now, no delay? Well I can't deny that it is.

Over the past couple of weeks we've watched the first two seasons of European crime drama Crossing Lines. The only limit to our watching being the limited amount of free time we had to sit in front of the TV. I do still want to commit a good chunk of my time to my writing after all and my wife has her music.

And tonight we pulled out another of the DVD box sets and began watching from season one. This offering was the US version of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey. We've now seen the first three episodes and all four of us (me, my wife and her parents) are all hooked. It's just a pity that the next time we will be able to make another go at the series will be Wednesday. I would want to start on them tomorrow but there are things to do (and on Monday there's work so that's out - that mortgage doesn't pay itself).

I realised of course I've missed out the whole idea of user generated content - a bit poor for a blogger. I'm doing precisely this at this second (the one in which I'm typing, unfortunately not the one in which you are reading it - unless you are looking over my shoulder and that would just be creepy).

Just go onto YouTube and see how many channels there are on there now. I watch a number of videos, vlogs and other such on YouTube.

Here's some I check out from time to time. Some are a bit serious, some are not and are for entertainment only. You can guess which is which (I hope)

Richard Dawkins Foundation
https://www.youtube.com/user/richarddawkinsdotnet

Emily Hartridge
https://www.youtube.com/user/emilyhart

Screen Junkies
https://www.youtube.com/user/screenjunkies

Neil deGrasse Tyson
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQk5m254knkg4vbneXdMbgQ

Real Time with Bill Maher
https://www.youtube.com/user/RealTime

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
https://www.youtube.com/user/LastWeekTonight

There you go - make of that list what you will. I'm sure you'll think I'm probably mad for that selection. Anyway back to the ramblings.

Life has changed a great deal during my lifetime and although it doesn't compare with my grandfather's life time. He was born during the reign of Queen Victoria at the height of the British Empire. By the time he died in the mid 1980s just think what he would have seen. First powered flight, two world wars, jet aircraft, atomic weaponry, space missions, men on the Moon, probes sent to others planets and so much more.

My example above about how watching TV has become easier and fits around my life more than it used to is rather insignificant in comparison is it not? Never mind, it's what I have so I'm going to go with it.

So what's next? Can TV go any further? Is user generated content or user interaction going to go further? Defiance tried one interesting thing a while back - alongside the show was an online game. Can't say I ever played it but I found the idea interesting. Could we see shows where each user can choose where the action goes next like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books?

For anyone who doesn't know what these are - here's the link to the Wikipedia page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choose_Your_Own_Adventure

Technology is taking entertainment (and all the actually useful things about life like healthcare) in new directions seemingly every day. The next few decades are going to be a ride and a half.

It does leave me with one or two thoughts though. Have a chosen exactly the wrong time to try to make it as a novelist? Are people going to want to read books in the years to come? Depressing thought but it might be that the age of the novel will be passed in the very near future. I hope not but I am not going to claim its place in our hearts is eternal.

And the second relates to vlogs. Should I create one? Would I want to be in front of a camera speaking my mind to anyone inclined to click on a link and listen? Would it reach more people than just a blog, my twitter account and tumblr? And would I want to be seen? I do rather like privacy. Although being honest I can't see this last one being a problem even if I did vlog. I'd be amazed if I ever got more than a dozen views and most of those would probably be accidental with the person quickly realising their error and heading elsewhere. (The other would be me checking the upload had worked.) Who knows?

Anyway I've wasted enough of my life writing this (and yours if you are still reading). I'm going to put us all out of our misery and stop typing now.

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