Modern Family take on Noah

Variety reports that the TV sitcom Modern Family is going to film an entire episode featuring the UI of phones, laptops, and tablets as a way to tell a story. The idea came from a short film, Noah, that debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film festival and won many awards for it’s innovative commentary on our device-mediated society.

I’ve embedded Noah below (kinda NSFW, remember Chatroulette?). I look forward to Modern Family’s treatment which will air on ABC February 25th with the title “Connection Lost”

Is Social Media Just Network Television Reborn?

What if we follow the trend of the “app-ificaiton” of media to the next logical step? What if Snapchat’s Discover feature is just the modern version of network television where channels control distribution and readers become passive again, replacing their allotted 5 hours of TV with 5 hours of browsing Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the rest?

If in five years I’m just watching NFL-endorsed ESPN clips through a syndication deal with a messaging app, and Vice is just an age-skewed Viacom with better audience data, and I’m looking up the same trivia on Genius instead of Wikipedia, and “publications” are just content agencies that solve temporary optimization issues for much larger platforms, what will have been point of the last twenty years of creating things for the web?

– The Next Internet is TV

Breaking Baddest

Breaking Bad is over. I watched the final episode a couple of nights ago. I only first got into the series because I saw from our Netflix queue that my son was watching it and figured I should watch a few episodes to see what was it was about. He got bored and moved on but I got sucked in.

As I made my way through the backlog and then finally started making my way to the final shows, I came to realize that this show about an Walter White’s transformation from a high school chemistry teacher to methamphetamine kingpin was also an allegory for humanity’s decent into addiction. As I binge viewed with the rest of the country and stayed up late to watch one more episode, I realized that I was addicted to the story. As Walt, the person we all cheered for in the beginning, became more twisted, I found myself loathing him for his selfishness. Yet I kept watching.

Today I listed to the final episode of the Breaking Bad Insider podcast that has Breaking Bad’s creator, Vince Gilligan, talk about some of the story arcs including several alternative endings he proposed. The entire podcast is fascinating and well worth a listen but the bit below is particularly interesting.

In this 4 minute segment, Vince describes an alternative ending which was so disturbing that the network producers spiked it. Have a listen.

House of Cards

Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

Just finished all 13 hours of the first season of the latest Netflix series, House of Cards. While I didn’t binge view as some of my colleagues did in the name of journalism, I did find myself staying up later than normal to watch “just one more episode” of this dark cousin to West Wing.

Apparently Netflix dropped $100 million to produce two 13 episode seasons. The result is a Season One that plays as a 13 hour movie about the dark, evil underbelly of Washington politics. Given such resources and space the characters are wonderfully developed and, if like most, you watch the series over a short span of time, you come to know them as an extension of your reality. The depth and detail of House of Cards makes the typical 2 hour feature film feel like a rough character sketch.

The series was shot with digital RED cameras which allowed them to shoot takes continually without stopping the camera.

Obviously, shooting digitally helps, [House of Cards was shot using the RED camera] because I never had to cut. I could say, ‘Go back out and come in again,’ and it’s amazing the pace you get. It’s a Frank Capra trick from way back. Because he could only print so many takes, he used to say, ‘Keep it rolling, go out and come in.’ What he found was people were more energized, and it gave this effervescence, and I ended up having to do that.

But the most interesting thing is that Netflix decided to release all 13 hours of the first season in one go. At first I was skeptical. Traditional television leaves you with cliff hangers that bring you back each week for what they used to call appointment television. Netflix knows a thing or two about “binge viewing” and based on their data, felt they could generate more buzz if they released everything at once. I agree. The coverage has been fantastic for Netflix and I’m sure it’s driven a spike in membership. Indeed, they are watching data on viewers to inform their next original series.

Further Reading

House of Cards’ Forth Wall –  Exploring the lead character’s asides to the camera.

Playing with a New Deck – details about how multiple director’s filmed the series and were given freedoms not normally extended to directors of television series.

House of Cards coverage on GigaOM & paidContent


Silicon Valley the Reality Show

Coming in November to Bravo channel.

This has happened before. The bright lights of Hollywood shine their lights into the Valley and all hell breaks loose. Let’s see if we’ve inoculated ourselves this time.

The real question is, do you need cable TV to watch each episode?

Broadcast Television is Broken

Through the eyes of a four year old child who grew up in the on-demand entertainment world of Netflix, traditional “appointment television” is a foreign concept. The interruption of commercials jarring and confusing. The following is from Patrick Rhone who is writing about his daughter and her utter disbelief in how things used to be when you turned on the television.

“I didn’t turn it off, honey. This is just a commercial. I was turning the volume down because it was so loud. Shrek will come back on in a few minutes” I say.

“Did it break?”, she asks. It does sometimes happen at home that Flash or Silverlight implode, interrupt her show, and I have to fix it.

“No. It’s just a commercial.”

“What’s a commercial?”, she asks.

”It is like little shows where they tell you about other shows and toys and snacks.”, I explain.


The movie comes back on for poor, confused Beatrice. She doesn’t understand why someone would program interruptions into the middle of a movie. Just as she gets back into enjoying the movie again, another commercial break descends.

“Why did they stop the movie again?” Beatrix, asks. Thus leading to essentially the same conversation as before. She just does not understand why one would want to watch anything this way. It’s boring and frustrating. She makes it through the end of the movie but has little interest in watching more. She’d rather play. The television is never turned on again during our stay.

And so it goes, the future is already here. If you don’t let them enjoy media without distraction, they’ll make their own.