Category Archives: TV

Lame Commercials, Boring Game

Ugh. You know it’s a bad sign when you can read through hundreds of RSS feed items during the Super Bowl. And then think it’s a good idea to do some blogging….

Super Bowl commercial rates were $2.7 million per 30 seconds this year, but apparently, the FOX network decided that it was money well “spent” to advertise the Daytona 500 and “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” ad nauseam, two things that a good chunk of the audience doesn’t care about. I haven’t seen a really groundbreaking commercial yet: the Audi parody of the famous “bed” scene from The Godfather was well done, and the parody of Rocky for Budweiser (Anheuser Busch) was enjoyable. Fed Ex also scored with the “Carrier Pigeon” spot. Mediocre first half showing for the Bud Light brand. Miserable commercials for godaddy.com and salesgenie.com (big surprise)

If you missed it, check out the next showing of Puppy Bowl IV: they’re sooooo cute. I want a billion.

Hoping for a better second half both in the game and during the comercials.

Fast Phile 2

From NPR:

Phoenix is the city most at risk for identity fraud, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Their new survey shows writing a check is not safer than banking online because of a scam called “check washing.” The thief erases the ink on a check and fills in whatever he wants.
Fairly obvious, but it doesn’t mean you should never write a check. Only write checks to people and companies you trust (making a photocopy of the check if you can), and for other transactions use credit/debit cards.

If you’re making a deal with another person (say, for items from Craigslist), be sure to use cash.

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Big TVs in Reception

One of the mainstays of a slick reception or waiting area is a television: if those years old People or U.S. News magazines get you down (“Britney: I want to be a young mom!” and “Turning the Corner in Iraq?” headlines just don’t have the appeal they once did), that TV is a godsend. You may get lucky and get to “learn” something if they’ve got CNN or even (shudder) Fox News running, but most times you’re stuck in Judge Judy-land and actually feel your brain ooze out of your ears. I’m no advocate of self-harm, but even just thirty minutes of “Live with Regis and Kelly” waiting for an oil change might be enough to dream up creative ways to end the pain.

Aaanyways, two years before my dad closed his practice, he received an offer to have a bigger TV installed, free of charge. The catch is that it’s hooked up to an ad network that played (at least when I watched it) a mix of local law office firms and national loan refinancing companies: in other words, the people who have money to throw at unproven advertising channels are exactly who you would expect. There was a minimum eyeball count: some paperwork you had to fill out to assert that you had so much foot traffic. Makes sense: the company that installs (and owns) the TVs wants to install them in the right places. There wasn’t any revenue tied back into the practice, so there’s no data on how effective it was. Given the pretty short waiting times my dad prided himself on, I would guess that it wasn’t effective at all.

The company I work for now has one and a half floors: the products division where I work takes up the half floor, and the remainder of the space is for legal, accounting, sales, etc. The rest of the half floor is taken up by a networking company and the MIT Technology Review magazine. TR’s got a pretty swanky looking office: glass entryway, nice reception/waiting area, current copies of TR, and up until yesterday, a smallish (21” or so) TV with CNN on.

I’ve been here for 5 months now, and I’ve never seen anyone visit TR. I’ve shared an elevator with some people who work there, but I’ve never seen anyone sitting in the reception area or coming in for an interview. I don’t have the masthead in front of me, but I would guess it’s not huge: on the order of 20-25 folks here if this is just the editing office, with a few more for ad sales if that’s not part of the publishing house.

Again, up until today, no big deal that there are few visits: like my dad’s office, even if someone has to wait, they probably don’t have to wait long. So it was pretty peculiar to see a HUGE (like 60”) plasma TV replacing their smaller TV. And TWO boxes, meaning another plasma is going elsewhere in their office.

MIT Technology Review is not the local newspaper or Time magazine: those places use TV as a source of information: the breaking news cycle in one medium defines it in another. Unless these giant plasmas fell off a truck, I think the magazine poorly allocated their budget: though the cost of plasmas has decreased in the last few years, we’re talking about at least the cost of a reporter covering a story in Europe or Asia. That story could bring in at least a little additional revenue, which the TVs won’t. In fact, the increased size of the TV corresponds to an increased rate of energy expenditure: it cost more to operate in the long run.

Makes me wonder how smart they are in their reporting….

Update: Twisted Misters on WSOPC

It’s not often I do a follow-up for a previous story (and especially so soon), but to those of you not-watching-but-following, those daffy Twisted Misters have advanced to the finals of the 2007 World Series of Pop Culture, easily defeating Chicago based 3 Men and A Little Lazy. *Sigh*.

It’s unfortunate, because I think the TMs are going to walk away with the trophy (and the quarter million payout). They’ll face either Almost Perfect Strangers 2.0 (my pick) or Wocka Wocka. APS2 and WW compete in the second semifinal tonight at 9 on VH1.

Both APS2 and WW are too weak in the common categories to compete against TM, and they’ve missed some easy questions throughout the tournament. But even if it comes down to tie-breakers, TMs still have an advantage. As one opponent said: “Yes, they trash talk, but they can back it up.” I agree.

For those of you obsessed with the Twisted Misters, Victor Lee (the Spinal Tap skeleton shirt wearing one) has got his own blog in Victor Sells Out. Which is sort of how I feel after posting two stories about a team I hate.

Is it possible to break your leg answering trivia questions?

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TRASHy TV on the World Series of Pop Culture

As many of you know, I enjoy pop culture trivia. Immensely. So, of course, I’ve been following this year’s World Series of Pop Culture tournament on VH1. It’s good fun, and like Jeopardy!, I love to play along at home. Who doesn’t love to shout at the TV. St. Elmo’s Fire! The Vapors! Lark Voorhees!

How I would do on a show like WSOPC or Jeopardy? To be honest: I don’t think I’d do really well. These are really intense, high-pressure situations (the likes of which have made me sick in the past), and though I know the answers at home, it’s an entirely different question up on that stage. As one contender said in Monday night’s episode: “They could ask you your name up there, and you’d probably blank.” Too true. It takes serious brass balls to compete in a national TV tournament of any kind, let alone an “intellectual” one.

But while I have nothing but props for most of this year’s contenders, there is one team that I love to hate (and I suspect I’m not alone on this): the Twisted Misters, a group of youngsters from NYU. They’ve advanced to the semifinals of this years tournament and are just two wins away from a quarter-million dollar prize. Crap.

It’s not just their trash talking that gets my goat, it’s the fact that I’ve played (and usually lost to) these guys in some tournaments at Boston University over the last few years. If you’ve watched any of the episodes with the Twisted Misters (tonight, 9PM on VH1), I can confirm: yes, they’re that socially awkward in real life. Just as much trash talking goes on in an untaped BU TRASH (Testing Recall About Strange Happenings) meetup as when the cameras roll for VH1. If anything, it’s a different kind of trash talk in real life: more directed at the writer for coming up with such an easy question (“Honestly, who doesn’t know about the redshirts! God!“) than directed at you for not answering it.

Still stings a bit though.

I will say this though: it’s a really weird feeling to see someone you know (even only casually) on TV, especially for an extended period of time. It’s one thing to be featured in a news clip or the like, but it’s something entirely different to be, in a sense, a recurring character on a TV show as the TMs are. I keep asking myself: were they really this bad when I played them? Do I really know these guys?

Most likely, no, I don’t. A couple of quiz-bowl meets makes for the thinnest of acquaintances. And they certainly don’t know me. I might look familiar, but beyond that, who knows? I’m not a very memorable person, especially on the quiz bowl circuit: I don’t pull answers from thin air more than anyone else, I don’t trash talk, and I don’t blow questions.

Which may be another reason I wouldn’t do well in a TV game show: At the end of the day, I’m closer to trivia mediocrity than amazement. I might be the one holding and showing all the random facts in a cocktail conversation, but against folks like Ken Jennings, or even Nancy Zerg, the woman who famously beat Ken in his 75th episode, I’d probably come up short.

After all, the Twisted Misters are good. And as much as I root against them, there’s a good chance they’ll be holding up that trophy. But not one of them ranks among the top 5 TRASH players I’ve seen, and remember: I’ve only played tournaments here in the Northeast. So even though I’ve beat the Twisted Misters (once, in a fluke game), I’m not holding my breath for an extended shot on one of TVs game shows.

Though I’m certainly enjoying shouting out these answers. Go Go Gadget!

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Television Commercials

I always get a big kick out of the kind of commercials shown during the time when most people are at work. Apparently, the target audience is people who have crashed their car, are out of work, have menopause, need fast cash now, etc. Which, if you’re at home from 10-3, there’s a good chance you fall into one of those categories.

I guess I should be used to this: when I watch sports in primetime on TV, I’m constantly reminded to drink more beer and take my Viagra. But the quality of those commercials seems just so much better than these. I’m sick of the grainy-no-sound-”I can’t believe we can get paid to make video games!” advertisement.

And, I wouldn’t really have a problem with it. Advertising is advertising. But the number of law commercials during the soap-hours is absurd. Every 3 commercials, John “for the people” Morgan reminds me that if I’ve been injured, I may be entitled to compensation. I guess my beef is this: If you choose your lawyer based on their television advertisement, that’s pretty vile. You should, in my opinion, choose a lawyer because they’re the best. You almost certainly wouldn’t choose a doctor because they’ve got the flashiest ad campaign, would you? (Even for popular outpatient surgeries, you’d maybe have an idea of who to go to, but you’d probably consult with your own primary care physician first.)

Ah, but the best lawyers are the ones who have money to advertise, right? Well, not exactly. The best lawyers are the ones with the most money, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best. That just means they charge the most. And, really, what defines a good lawyer? (Let’s ignore the obvious “a dead one” joke.) Total number of cases? Total number of cases won? Both of those can be bumped up through higher inventory. Percentage? 1 case won out of 1 is an excellent average, but you probably wouldn’t go with them. Years of experience? I’d bet that the track record stays the same, or improves slighty, over time. A ratio of cost and cases won? We could come up with baseball-like statistics for lawyers. (Which, come to think of it, why hasn’t someone done that already? Think of the bar arguments: “Johnny Cochran hit a lifetime .898 with a lifetime ACPC of $120,000. The man’s a legend. It’s why he’s in the hall-of-fame.” Think of the trading cards. Think of the fantasy law teams.)

Odds are, you probably pick your lawyer for the same reasons you pick a doctor, a carpenter, or a plumber: based on word-of-mouth. I honestly wouldn’t know how people pick these things: My doctor’s been set for more-or-less life, and I’ve never needed the other three. (I guess that’s true for anyone: if you’ve got a parent in a service-based business, you’re set.) But if I needed a lawyer, I’d probably ask one of my friends or neighbors before tuning into All My Children or picking one out of the phone book.

In fact, why do we have TV commercials in the first place, and why is advertising so pervasive? I guess, since word-of-mouth is so strong, advertising serves as the initial gateway into understanding a product or service. I’m certainly not going to seek out a Burger King and demolish a Monster Omelete sandwhich unless someone I trust tells me it’s really good, or I can get one for free. I may decide between the ATI or the NVidia graphics card, but I’m going to ask someone I know before making up my mind. I assume most people are the same, waiting for the advice of a trusted person (or, in the case of internet review sites, persons) before seeking out the product and (hopefully) making an opinion for yourself.

This leads us to the ultimtate question: who are the people who try a product first? In many cases, these people are paid to try these things either by the distributor itself, or more commonly, by an independant company, such as movie critics and their affiliated newspapers. In the case of the former, the opinion itself is rarely trusted (unless the link between distributor and reviewer is blurred, such as the current radio payola set-up); in the latter case, the review is trusted by people who are interested in that genre of products.

But I’m digressing. The point is: who’s the first to try a lawyer or doctor? And maybe here, the only way is advertising. But I don’t think so. Usually, unless you’re backed by a large law firm or large medical group, you lack the necessary funds to advertise en masse. (I suppose the cost of an ad in the classified section is small and acceptable, though.) Perhaps your friends and neighbors will direct clients your way, but if you’re a new urologist in town, you’re probably not going to have friends who can help. And I guess this reason is why so many doctors and lawyers are connected with large groups in their field to start.

Interesting. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. So I’ll stop here.