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.
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.
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.
In a brilliant piece of PR, IBM Research stormed back on the scene matching their artificial intelligence computer, Watson, against top contestants of the popular American game show, Jeopardy. On February 14, 15, and 16 Watson’s competes against two humans on live television.
According a piece on Wired’s Epicenter blog, 25 IBM scientists spent four years building Watson. “Powered by 90 IBM Power 750 servers, Watson uses 15 terabytes of RAM, 2,880 processor cores and can operate at 80 teraflops, or 80 trillion operations per second” The database of content upon which Watson draws its “knowledge” is from over 200 million pages from reference texts, movie scripts, entire encyclopedias, as well as, Wikipedia.
How did Watson do?
After the first day, Watson is tied with Ken Jennings for the lead at $5,000, beating out Brad Rutter who has $2,000. For details on the game and some behind the scenes of what was going on, listen to the interview with Stephen Baker on Arik Hesseldahl’s post on All Things Digital.
Footage from a practice round back in January below.
NBC is milking their investment in broadcasting rights for the Beijing Olympics by making anyone that wants to view their videos jump through a few hoops.
Hoop Number One: Install Silverlight 2.0.
This limits installation to only Windows machines or Intel-based Macs. Oh, and you have to restart your browser so you if you don’t save the URL of the video you wanted to watch – your left to the mercy of NBC’s navigation.
Hoop Number Two: Reveal your local NBC affiliate & zip code info.
This gives NBC data to see just how much traffic they are taking away from their local affilates with online video. When it comes time for re-negotiation, they can hold this data in their hand to show how they don’t really need the affiliates to reach their audience which is why they need to pay more for the rights to re-broadcast NBC programming.
Despite these two hoops, the desire to see a quick reply of something like the incredible 4×100 meter Men’s relay is so strong that people will jump through these hoops. Not enough to jump out of the current habit of hitting up Yahoo’s Olympic coverage (which is doing a stellar job), but still respectable.
Badi hated installing Silverlight and may never use it again but he did install it and I doubt he took the time to remove it after he saw the video. As far as Microsoft is concerned, mission accomplished.
Despite the hassles, I actually like some of the features of Silverlight as it’s featured on the NBC site. It’s really smart is that you’re able to fast forward (or reverse) in low resolution but once the video starts playing, it gradually sharpens the image to higher resolution. The video clips on the NBC site are of exceptional quality to those used to YouTube clips. As with NBC’s other site, Hulu, NBC is leading the way, showing us how a television company can reinvent itself for the internet.
Tivo and Amazon have teamed up in a partnership that anyone following the two could have seen coming. It will soon be possible to click your Tivo remote and order items like the latest album from the musical guest on the David Letterman show.
The concept of using your remote to purchase stuff you see on TV is an old one but it’s never taken off. This time, based on the success of Amazon’s one-click fulfillment platform (including the ingenious mobile version), it might just succeed. They just need to get more than 4 million Tivos into US homes.