I hate to be the bearer of bad news (actually not true) but I think I’ve figured out how it works. (I don’t just bitch, either. I’ll also include solutions. I’m proactive that way.)
- Netflix is the only source for Netflix Original programming: House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.
- Hulu is the only source for Hulu Original programming: None come to mind but I do know they’ll have commercials.
- Amazon Prime has mostly the same shit.
- iTunes offers the same content but at premium ala carte prices.
- HBO is the only source for HBO Original programming: The Newsroom and Game Of Thrones.
- CBS is a bunch of greedy dillholes: Survivor and Big Bang Theory.
- MLB is the only source for most MLB Original programming but only if you have enough money. Otherwise they won’t even stream the goddamned World Series. (I was actually surprised by this, but only for a nanosecond.)
I prognosticated to my wife a long time ago that the days of accessing “content” would soon be coming to a close. This week we moved much closer to that reality. You like some shows on Hulu and some on Netflix? You’ll have to buy both even if the remaining majority of their DNA is essentially the same. Exclusivity is the ticket to getting customers to pay more than once. And make no mistake, it is all out global thermonuclear war on your wallet. That is the only thing that matters. They don’t do this for fun.
If you have ever watched commercial programming on television you may already be aware of this, but sometimes the shows repeat plot points. Surprising but true. It generally works something like the instructions on a shampoo bottle:
- Hire a core troupe of actors and put them in a setting, like a meat packing plant or a sewer treatment facility
- Go through the episodic table of plot elements
- After a certain period of time, usually 3-7 years, replace the actors and the setting, like the actuarial tables dept. at an insurance company
- Rinse and repeat
When watching a show with my wife, within the first 30 seconds I’ll shout out the plot variation as soon as it is recognized. Trust me, she really loves this. “Oh, god, no!! It’s plot #42. Wacky birthing episode ending with a touching isn’t-that-thing-cute moment. I’ll be on the computer. Let me know when it’s over.”
Here’s a few excerpts from the episodic table:
- A previously unknown family member of a main character comes to visit for a short time (father, mother, brother, sister, child, etc.)
- A main character is extremely distressed because an extended family member gets engaged, married, divorced, is involved in adultery or illicit love affair and/or dies
- Two main characters are involved in a marriage proposal, wedding, break-up, divorce, adoption, pregnancy and/or birthing
Even with those three limited examples from the table the possibilities are almost endless. I bet they could be used to generate over 500 specific plots. Mother and cousin come to visit. Father and sister die. Brother and niece get engaged. Mother pregnant, father having an affair. Father pregnant, mother having an affair. Yep, the permutations are practically unlimited.
When watching Northern Exposure the other day I noticed one of the rarer elements. “Looks like #138 coming our way,” I shouted. A mute traveling performer had been courting one of the main characters for several episodes. Sagely, I predicted, “I’ll bet the mute guy is moved to speak in a moment that will be especially poignant.” It was so touching, that I nailed it, I mean. My wife couldn’t have been more pleased.
The episodic table easily applies to movies, too. George Lucas, for example, often calls crap like this “notes” that are repeated across films, again and again and again and again and again. Did I mention again? To make this point I’ll now transport you from one galaxy far away to a make-believe land of medieval sex, violence and political intrigue. It won’t require that much suspension of disbelief.
Or, as I like to call it, “A Note Ripped From Star Wars By Game Of Thrones.” Introducing element #78: The Fake Greeting.
Continue reading →
Bullets pinged around me, hitting city buildings in little explosions of concrete. Ping. Ping. Ping, ping, pow. I dodged, then rolled around the corner and landed back on my feet. I adjusted my invisible tie, strolled into the restaurant and headed for the bar.
“Beer, PBR, can, pull tab, unopened. And shake the ever-lovin’ shit out of it.”
My wife looked radiant standing by the quasi-official counter where a disinterested staff person stood bored. Another member of staff had just departed with patrons in tow.
The place was almost completely empty.
“Sheila will seat you when she gets back. Your name, please?” Apparently Sheila was the only one with seating powers and it would likely be a wait of at least 45 seconds so, of course, they needed my name. Dammit, my cover was blown.
I paused, glanced at my wife, then said, awkwardly, “Fleischman. Joel Fleischman.”
I knew all that time invested watching Northern Exposure would pay off someday.
You gotta give my wife credit. She played it cool. Her mouth dropped open, she facepalmed, then moaned, loud enough for the woman at the counter to hear, “Oh, God.”
They never suspected a thing. Smooth. It’s all in a day’s work when you have a license to ill.
Continue reading →
We watched a few episodes of a so-called reality show about people who turn over storage units for a living, like it’s a career or something. It’s like the modern version of treasure hunting. Except it’s not.
One time a friend told me how she had lost a bunch of her possessions. It was mostly junk like furniture and knickknacks that wouldn’t fit at her house but it also included irreplaceable family heirlooms and stuff like family photos.
She stopped paying for the thing and – poof – her stuff was gone. “Why didn’t you tell me,” I cried. “I’d have paid your account so at least you could get the important shit.”
It was too late. The shit was gone. As in forever gone. There had been an auction. They sure didn’t waste any time.
Oh well. Easy come and super easy go.
I decided right then and there that I had to get me one of those shiny storage unit things. But I also had to remain true to myself and my core values. I was going to do this the Tom B. Taker way.
Continue reading →
FADE IN GRAPHIC: PRESENT DAY, 9:37 AM.
FADE IN to reveal two plain, white walls. The wall on the right contains a window with blinds, drawn up, revealing a fence, trees and a grass lawn. The sky is blue and the sun shines. The sound of a lawn mower can be heard in the distance. Birds chirp. In front of the other wall is a computer desk and chair. A computer, Apple, is turned on and displaying the INTERNET.
In the chair in front of the computer sits a man, HERO. A small cell phone is in his hand and held to his ear. His other hand is holding a piece of paper, previously folded, which has now been opened up.
HERO LOOKS AT piece of paper.
Continue reading →